After the downturn in the third wave of COVID 19, activities in the metropolitan of Karachi have started to resume with following all guidelines and SOPs due for global pandemic.
One of it was the three-day Pakistan International Film Festival 2021 Women’s Edition, organized under the banner of the Karachi Film Society from June 11 to June 13 at Frere Hall, the heritage site situated at the heart of the city.
This year, keeping in mind the social distancing and time constraints, the festival was restricted to the workshops and seminars with limited audience comprising of showbiz and media fraternity as well as the founding members of KFS and the media fraternity.
The seminar on Day 1 was on the issue of ‘What is Stopping Our Films from Growing Internationally’ which attended by Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting, Senator Faisal Javed Khan. The session was moderated by Kamran Jawaid, a senior film critic while the panel was comprised of Sheikh Amjad Rasheed, Chairman IMGC Group, one of the leading film production and distribution groups in Pakistan; Selina Rashid, CEO of public relations firm, Lotus PR; Irfan Malik, Senior Vice President ARY Group and the current head of ARY Films; and Omer H. Paracha, founder of street-wear luxury brand PARAVAL and an executive producer of film Echo Boomers.
The panel discussed the lack of growth of Pakistani films in the international market and the reasons and challenges behind this slow growth. They also discussed the low return of investment, quality of films, government facilitation, the need to experiment with various genres of film-making and upgrading filmmaking technology and equipment.
Following the panel discussion, Senator Faisal Javed Khan in his keynote speech, stressed on the need to concentrate on the local side of the film industry before discussing the international aspect of it. He said that Pakistan’s film industry needs a minimum of 1,000 screens and at least 100 films a year just to sustain it. He also warned the film-makers not to copy the neighbouring country if they wanted to go global and advised them to present their own ideas to the world. While addressing the government’s incentives and facilitation for the film industry, he informed the audience that Prime Minister Imran Khan has approved an entertainment, film policy which will soon be launched.
The Day 2 of the festival began with a workshop on Fighting Harassment at the Workplace, followed by a panel discussion on Covid-19: Challenges & Opportunities, Understanding the ‘New Normal’.
The workshop on Fighting Harassment at the Workplace was conducted by Xenab Ansari, giving her experience to spread awareness about harassment and teaching attendees how to protect themselves. She also shared her skill-set and knowledge on the subject. Dr. Fouzia Saeed, Director General PNCA and member of the board of governors KFS was the chief guest at the workshop, who also shared her experience on the topic.
The key note speaker on Day 2 of PIFF was Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry, while it was also attended by Governor Sindh, Imran Ismail as guest of honour.
The panel discussion on Covid-19: Challenges & Opportunities, Understanding the ‘New Normal’ was moderated by Sidra Iqbal, a celebrated broadcast journalist, and the participant for the discussion included Senator (r) Javed Jabbar, Filmmaker and Intellectual known in the field of media and literature; Dr Fouzia Saeed, a social activist, gender expert, trainer/facilitator, folk culture promoter and author; Ameena Saiyid, Head of publishing company Lightstone, former MD of OUP and founder of Adab Festival; Amin Hashwani, the founder of Charter for Compassion Pakistan, a businessman and a social activist; Dr. Farah Essa Zaidi, Director Radiology at Dr Essa Laboratory & Diagnostic Center ; Duraid Qureshi, Co-Founder and CEO of HUM Network Ltd and Fizza Ali Meerza CEO FilmWala Pictures and an active member of the Executive Body of Pakistan Film Producers Association.
The panel discussed issues and challenges related to Pakistani films and entertainment industry post covid-19, the portrayal of women in Pakistani media, access of the lower and middle class to cinema, the need to establish a digital entertainment platform and challenges in adapting to the new normal since Covid-19.
The Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Fawad Chaudhry, in his speech, commenting on the title of this year’s PIFF, the minister said that men had the upper hand over women for thousands of years but with the advent of technology and public awareness, the gender disparity is gradually lessening. Giving example of his own daughter who wants to be a fighter pilot, the minister said that women now are opting for roles which were once considered unconventional. While expressing his views on the decline of Pakistan Film Industry after the 80s’, the Federal Minister said that the biggest factor was the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. On government facilitation for the film industry, the Federal Minister announced that they were coming up with a film policy which focusses on lessening the electricity charges for cinemas, zero taxes on the film industry and government loan of up to 50 million for film-makers among other amenities. The minister also spoke about the government’s intention of establishing the most advanced and state-of-the-art Pakistan University which will offer courses on journalism, animation, music and other media related fields. The Federal Minister also urged film-makers to focus on Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the Middle East as an alternative to counter lobbies that don’t allow Pakistani content to run on international streaming platforms.
The Pakistan International Film Festival, Women’s Edition 2021, was concluded with a workshop on ‘Women Entrepreneurship in a Creative Economy’, followed by a panel discussion on ‘Gender Stereotypes in Media and What are Women Doing About It?’
The workshop on Women Entrepreneurship in a Creative Economy was conducted by Ashifa Paracha, CEO Brand Advertising, WCCI member and founder of the Pakistan Digital Awards & Corporate Lounge and Sadaf Mahmood, CEO Xiphios Innovations and COO Nutshell Communications. Organized under the umbrella of Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the workshop detailed how women can learn, start and promote businesses in the digital world.
The seminar/webinar on ‘Gender Stereotypes in Media and What are Women Doing About It’ was moderated by Tazeen Hussain, an associate professor and head of the Department of Communication Design at Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture. The panelists present were Sultana Siddiqui, President KFS & HUM Network Ltd; Atiqa Odho, Chairperson of FocusPK, an entrepreneur, social activist and artist; Sangeeta, film director and actor and Tasneem Ahmar, head of UKS Research Centre and executive producer for Meri Awaz Sunno. The chief guest for the panel discussion on Day 3 was Provincial Minister of Sindh for Culture, Tourism, and Antiquities, Syed Sardar Ali Shah.
The panel discussed and addressed the discrimination persisting against women in the media industry. Atiqa Odho said that although these issues do exist in our industry one has to be strong, persistent and vocal about all kinds of discrimination. She also said it was her co-actors (men) who helped her in the field in the beginning of her career. Sultana Siddiqui added that women in the field of media are judged differently than men. It is the need of the time to change the lens through which women are viewed and judged and men and women should learn to co-exist if they want to succeed, she added. The panel also discussed the need to change the mindset of the masses through realistic portrayals of strong and successful women characters, changes required in PEMRA laws and the need to establish strong, independent association to protect the rights of women in media.
The keynote speaker Provincial Minister Syed Sardar Ali Shah began his speech with a tribute to Shaheed Benazir Bhutto who inspired millions of women across the globe. He appreciated the efforts of KFS board members in organizing such meaningful dialogues and assured his government’s support for the film industry. “We can start an initiative to support the film industry within a year if all the stakeholders can come on one page,” he added.
President of KFS, Sultana Siddiqui while addressing the stressed on the need to engage women, especially young blood in the film-making process to learn the finer points of film-making and shed light on the festival’s objectives of providing the aspiring young people with a platform to showcase their talent to the world. Siddiqui also spoke about the portrayal of Muslims and Islam in foreign movies and the need to counter islamophobia in our productions.
The three day event was well conducted by Festival Director Misbah Khalid.
PIFF Women’s Edition 2021 is supported by KMC, WCCI, PNCA, PFPA, Azat Films, Mjafferjees, Image, Active Media, Bookitnow.pk, Rinstra, Ladies Fund and Dice Foundation.
Filmwala Pictures Is Back With a Historic Drama Masterpiece Khel Khel Mein
The dynamic duo of Pakistani film industry, Nabeel Qureshi & Fizza Ali Meerza, is all set to hit Pakistani Cinemas, yet again with their upcoming film ‘Khel Khel Mein’.
The multi starrer Feature Film will have Sajal Ali and Bilal Abbas in lead roles, along with veterans Javed Sheikh, Samina Ahmed, Marina Khan & Manzar Sehbai. The music of the film is composed by the maestros including Shani Arshad, Shuja Haider & Asrar Shah. This heart-warming drama depicting a youthful take on historic events, will be releasing in cinemas very soon.
The motion poster of the KKM looks promising and fans are eagerly waiting to witness another brilliant piece from the enthusiastic and talented pair, who always tries to give something new in their projects. The lead cast, Sajal Ali and Bilal Abbas Khan has worked together before in television drama serial ‘O Rangreza’. This is their first feature film together.
Fizza Ali Meerza, CEO Filmwala Pictures says about her new venture, “Khel Khel Mein is our take on telling history in a fresh and engaging way to the youth so that it can be learned from and remembered. We hope the viewers will resonate with the story and come out of the theaters feeling more entertained & informed.”
The director of Khel Khel Mein Nabeel Qureshi expressed his delight as, “We are very excited to bring Khel Khel Mein to the screens; the entire team has worked immensely hard to create the film and, we hope that people will love it and learn from it.”
About Filmwala Pictures
Filmwala Pictures is a Pakistani Film Production Company based in Karachi founded by Fizza Ali Meerza. The production house has some of the biggest Pakistani hits under its banner including; Na Maloom Afraad, Actor in Law, Na Maloom Afraad 2 & Load Wedding along with the upcoming film Quaid e Azam Zindabad.
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Junaid Khan Highlights A Grave Issue Of Society In His Latest Video
When it comes to Pakistani performers, who can both act and sing, Junaid Khan comes into mind so quickly. We have witnessed his acting skills recently in dramas like Kashf, Muhabbatein Chahtien and Khuda Aur Muhabbat but his first love music, with which he stared his career as Call band, recurs so often.
Junaid Khan has released a single Taqdeer this eid, which unlike a usual happy song comes out on eids, highlights the grave issue of violence, especially domestic violence which is taking place in almost every household, every class in one way or another. According to singer this video is dedicated to all the victims that have gone through and keep going through all forms of abuse.
About the song and video, Khan pours his heart out, “What I am presenting to the world is not just a song but an ocean of immense emotions. A very grave issue that I lose sleep over.”
The Nishaan singer further says, “When I see and hear abuse, suffering and pain; it takes me into a very dark space. The evil that is spreading so fast in our own society and all over the world, has suffered humanity in the hands of murderers, rapists, abusers and the list just goes on.”
How someone has to suffer in the hands of an oppressor who only knows how to control and torture another human being, he adds.
The Taqdeer is written and composed by Junaid Khan while the video is directed by As-haar Azmat featuring Talat Mahfooz Butt, Shahreen Iftikhar, As-haar Azmat along with Junaid Khan as lead. The track has a grunge-rock feel in it as the video is shot in a dark background to depict the gloom and pain of the theme. Junaid has proved both his singing and acting skills in this five and half minute’s video which carries a powerful message through a conceptual art.
According to the singer, the video emphasizes how the Power, control, money and greed can destroy generations but the message that he wants to send across to the world through this song is with bad comes good and with suffering comes ease and that karma will come around.
Elaborating more about the video, Khan says, “The oppressors are so strong and blinded by their own motives that are larger than other human lives. And there comes a point when the oppressed knows nothing better than accepting this painful life as fate. Taqdeer! And on this very notion my song, my voice and my emotions came to life in the form of this song.”
It is true that cases of domestic violence take place every day. Some get swept under the carpet while some come out in the open. The authorities must need to give importance to every violent act taking place anywhere in the country.
According to a report published by Sustainable Social Development Organization (SSDO) in March 20201, The cases of violence against women and rape in Pakistan were doubled in the last six months of 2020 as compared to the first six months of the year. According to official data analysis, domestic violence (1,422 cases) and violence against women (9,401 cases), had high occurrence throughout country.
I Am Here to Act Not To Be A Star: Bilal Ashraf
Bilal Ashraf is one of a few actors of Pakistan who claimed their fame from films. Unlike his fellow artists, who first established them from television and then came into films when film industry started to revive again after a long hiatus, Ashraf is the only one who enjoys the status of a film star at the moment.
Apart from his acting skills, he also possesses a distinct style whether they are his dimples appears with his full smile or his physique for which he is always very concerned about. Recently he got the Hum Style award for ‘Most Stylish Actor film –Male’ award.
Before coming into acting, Bilal Ashraf worked as visual effects director. He pursued his career in acting with a brief appearance in the 2014 thriller O21. He then starred in the commercially successful romantic drama Janaan (2016), the acclaimed war eulogy Yalghaar (2017) and the blockbuster musical romance Superstar (2019).
This star with pleasant personality and amicable gestures talked to Daily Paperazzi and opened his heart out about many things which are dear to him professionally and personally.
What do you think you get this style award for; the charming dimples or your proper physique?
I think dimples are natural. My parents should be credited for them more. As far as my physique is concerned, I was a fitness freak from my childhood which I always try to maintain.
Did you have any idea of getting this award?
No. I didn’t have any idea of this. In fact I was curious and doubtful about what if I don’t get the award. I am truly thankful and humbled for all those who voted for me and made it possible.
What is style for you?
To me style is one’s personal statement. It is whatever one is comfortable with or in. Some people like dressing up a lot while some wants to look very casual to seem natural. I think whatever you have and carry it off makes your complete style statement.
A lot of controversy has been created after the event of Hum Style Awards 2021. What do you say?
I think the social media has created a lot of controversy around the event. Before this people didn’t have any platform to give their opinion (good or bad) on certain things. I believe that everyone keeps a right to comment (like or dislike) on anything but it should always be thoughtful enough that a comment (positive or negative) have an impact on others. Some people are very strong mentally while others we don’t know are going through a lot of problems. They get adverse effects from these comments which can lead to the mental disorders. Everyone has a journey and struggle with them and have a family and loved ones behind. So please next time criticize constructively like on their work and professional being, and do positive comments as well not always negative.
The clothing of female actors and models participated in the show were also criticized negatively. How would you defy it?
They were style awards where everyone had their own style statements. The same people who are criticizing our celebrities’ clothing, when watch a Hollywood or Bollywood stars as same, in a movie or show, appreciate them. They accept their own stars in desi attires but if any of star has worn something with her will and any designer has given his/her style statement, out-rightly reject them. Don’t take anything personally and if someone is wearing something by his/her will, then please have some courage to accept it. We shouldn’t have double standards and need to be a little careful about that.
Your couple with Maya Ali has become very popular among fans though you both have done a very little work together. Is this a teaser for any big thing happening in future?
Oh. The reality is that Maya and I are very good friends. I have a great respect for her. We discuss a lot about work together. It is true that we have done a very little work together like just a music video and fashion shoot but I wish to do a big project with Maya and learn from her. She is a very hardworking individual and a powerful performer. Whatever project she comes in, it shines.
You have come a bit late in films. Why?
I never wanted to be an actor. I have said it before that I have not come in this field to become a typical hero and to compete with others. Actually film making was a dream of my late sister Sadia but film industry was very limited at that time in Pakistan. Unfortunately she lost her life battling with cancer. So I am here to fulfil the dream of my sister; the film making. Whenever I am acting, I feel her around me.
So now you have joined the field of acting; where do you find yourself standing?
I think we have already very fantastic actors as heroes in our industry. If I have been successful to make some name and fame among them, I feel humble. Now, I will constantly remain standing here till the end to accomplish the dream of my sister.
Cinemas are closed because of Covid and film making is also at standard still. So what alternates you find for acting?
I think it’s time to move towards television dramas. Finally! I think I am the only actor in Pakistan who has just worked in films. When I go abroad, people came for selfies not with Bilal Ashraf but Pakistani cinema. That was a great feeling. But I believe that television is a great platform to learn. You continue to learn in acting as it is a very vast field. So I would love to work in dramas and television and improve my skills by learning more about the trait from the bests in the business. So yes television is next.
How is the journey from Janaan to Superstar, after which when you are literally called the super star of Pakistan?
Honestly speaking, I still don’t consider myself a star. I am an actor who is doing his job and stardom is part of that job. I believe one should accept this fame gracefully as it is a whole baggage where positive and negative comments from people come at the same time.
As far as my journey is concerned, I did Janaan as a fun experience. I had never thought it would be a hit. The second one Rangreza though was a flop but it actually was an eye opener, as you learn more from a failure than success in life. I think a good film is team work which comprised of its producers, director, and actors.
After Rangreza, I revisited the acting. I went to UK and inducted myself in some acting courses there. I became more careful in choosing scripts then. Finally I was lucky to have found the ideal producer Momina Duraid, best director Muhammad Ehteshamuddin and wonderful co-star Mahira Khan for Superstar. Moreover, Momina Bhabi and Ehtesham Bhai also asked me to have some acting courses in NAPA where I really learned a lot. I was the same Bilal but the difference was that I had a very professional team with me. I actually enjoyed this journey.
You have worked with almost all female film actors of Pakistan. Who you wish to work with in Hollywood or Bollywood?
I really admire Sophia Lauren, though she is much senior and not working in films anymore. I also have a dream to work with Maryl Streep.
What are your plans now exactly?
I think films, television and Web series all are in pipeline. Moreover, I am producing many things as well. I would like to mention here that I have launched a production company/production house ‘Beehive Transmedia’ with my mentor (and captain as I call him) Muhammad Ehteshamuddin, for which I am really thankful to him. We work on commercials and feature films, concepts and scripts. It is a one stop creative shop.
Do you believe in dreams?
One thing I would must mention here that believe in your dreams because if you hold it in your head, you can hold it in your hands. Don’t lose believing in you even if something seems impossible because nothing is impossible. Keep on striving for the best.
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