The time is about to come when Pakistani women will be taking the world by storm. This time, a Pakistani entrepreneur and tech star Eesha Sheikh has made it to the prestigious ‘Forbes Next 1000 2021’ list. Sheikh’s health tech app Playpal helps people to pursue their healthcare goals by gamifying them.
According to Forbes, “Playpal uses machine learning to help personalize health recommendations for its users, then offers rewards for hitting certain goals. The company has raised around $ 2 million so far.”
The Playpal Inc. that was established in 2017, aims to make health capital both accessible and entertaining to all.
Eesha Sheikh talked exclusively to Daily Paperazzi about her journey, which ended up in this wonderful success.
What enticed/were the reasons behind you to start this health tech business?
At the age of eight, I was diagnosed with clinical obesity, a term I couldn’t even pronounce at the time. My doctor’s words echoed in my mind as my parents tried to come up with an action plan to battle my obesity. My father decided to incentivize and offered me a deal. If I could lose 30 lbs he would buy me my favourite toys. The months passed and I did everything I could to lose that fat, from milkshake diets to lemonade fasts, almost as if I was in a form of weight loss hypnosis.
It was very disturbing for me socially. My class fellows had done everything in their power to bring me down, from throwing my food to the floor to coining and calling me the meanest of names; my least favourite name was “The Human Jelly Donut” – a name I repeated to myself daily – a word that didn’t even make me feel human. I was an object, with no friends and a diagnosis I didn’t fully understand.
So, how much weight loss you ended up with?
I ended up losing a total of 65 lbs by the time I was 10 years old. From the outside I was a tinnier, healthy, young girl, who was stopped getting bullied and suddenly had friends too but from the inside, only I knew how I had lost that weight. The patterns were unhealthy, the method was painful. Actually, I was cruel to my body mentally and physically.
When did you get the idea of developing this health tech app?
The young 10 year old in me vowed to never let any other child feel that way, even my young mind knew what I had done and what I had physically gone through to “transform” myself was incorrect. As I grew older I decided to back my passion and emotions with scientific knowledge and research. My education in chemistry helped me solidify my stance and my ultimate goal. I quickly realised after graduation I wanted to find a way to use my experiences and education to touch the lives of as many people as possible, thus leading me to choose Digital and health as tools to unlock my dreams.
How did you develop Playpal?
I took part in a study on gamified health with John Hopkins, Underarmour & Aetna from 2015 to 2017. This study focused on the effect of incentives and gamified health on behavior change. This study gave me the insight to put the puzzle together and Keeko was born. In 2017 I pitched the concept of Keeko to the Innovation Pavilion, at Denver, Colorado. The concept was approved and Playpal’s on-ground journey really began – hand in hand with Keekos.
What/Who is Keeko?
Keeko is a 2D combat shooter, the main character of our gaming app, who is trying to save the world from her arch nemesis, The Human Jelly Donut. Keeko’s journey to ward off the junk food army is very much reminiscent of my own. The journey of how far I’ve come to the concept of gamified health in retrospect to Keeko and Playpal.
How does Playpal work and what it offers to the users?
Playpal is a Digital Web and Mobile Platform that offers users an advanced health profile and preventative analysis by tracking, consolidating and analyzing Physical and Cognitive Data from mhealth apps, games, devices, IoTs and other third Party Integrations. We combine this analysis with our patented Health Score to guide users towards better health and to incentivise them with real-world rewards using the Digital Currency. Playpal aims to become the largest Health Profiling and Connected Health System with the most diverse and secure Central Health DATA Repository.
Just imagine having a Smart Health Analyst constantly telling you what you need to eat, how you need to sleep, when your vitals are going down, when they are coming back up and how you need to be leading a day to day life to prevent yourself from becoming susceptible to disease, helping you be the best version of yourself. The incentive model draws from my father’s words, how he managed to encourage a stubborn eight years old to try to be healthy.
How is the business of Playpal going?
Today Playpal Games and ES games have received 100,000 and 1.0 million downloads respectively. As we reeled in from the success of the above we had a thought – how do we keep this going? How do we continue to ensure that individuals are living a healthy well balanced life? How does Keeko continue to help people? How do we create something that lives on forever? And that is how the world altering idea for Playpal came into being.
What Playpal means to you?
Playpal is a part of the very fibers that make me; it is a literal representation of my struggle and what I’ve had to overcome. It was born from the desire to do better, to do better by my eight year old self and to all those individuals that need the actual support in order to be their best versions. I imagine a world in which the incidence of disease becomes SO small because individuals can control their susceptibility to it.
REHBRA: Tale Of Two Soulmates
REHBRA, the Pakistani rom-com action packed film, directed by Amin Iqbal and produced by Saira Afzal has been released in cinemas on June 24 across Pakistan.
The film stars Ayesha Omar, Ahsan Khan as lead and Saba Faisal, Sohail Sameer, Sarish Khan, Adnan Hyder and Ghulam Mohiuddin in pivotal roles. It also includes a special dance number by Rimmal. The trailer of Rehbara promises romance, action, drama, and comedy, in one pack.
The title song of the film is sung by Asim Azhar, and composed by Simab Sen, was picturised across select locales of Pakistan.
Rehbara’s director, the veteran Amin Iqbal terms his film a rom-com action flick with a social message that is bound to be appreciated by audiences. He said that Rehbra had been a labour of love and as much a journey of self-discovery for the protagonists.
Iqbal further explained his film, a story that revolves around a journey of love, hatred, adventure and discovery of a soul mate where least expected, “Rehbra highlights that love is not a destination but a journey.”
Talking about the social message in the film, he elaborated, “In the film we see how when situations change in life, so does our thinking, but when we act on our thoughts and perceptions, life does not change accordingly. Like the antagonist in the film says, ‘When a situation is as bad as this, one wishes more for death than life!’.”
The film is film is backed by the debutant US-based Pakistani producer, Saira Afzal, who has done courses in production management from NYC. She has also worked with various theatres including Lambs, WPA and American Theatre. She is hopeful about the project as her team have invested a lot of time, money and hard work in the movie, “My passion for film-making led me to this unique journey, a first for any Pakistani woman settled abroad with no prior connection to the film industry. It is a gamble that I am hopeful will bear fruits for us all.”
Afzal believes that her experience will also be enjoyed by the audience when it would come on silver screens.
The leads of Rehbara, Ahsan Khan and Ayesha Omar, are acting together for the first time in this film. They have hosted shows earlier.
Khan was excited yet hopeful about his pairing up with Ayesha Omar and admitted that he enjoyed the whole experience if working with her and regarded her as a great friend.
He also recalls the experience, he and Omar had while shooting the film but specially the title song which was shot in some beautiful lands but difficult weather conditions.
Ayesha Omar shared the poster of the film on her social media and called Ahsan Khan her “Rehbra”. Omar stated, “This baby of ours is a labour of extreme hard work, patience, perseverance and love.”
Ahsan Khan also expressed his emotions via social media where he shared the trailer of the film stating: “Expect the unexpected; life is full of wonderful things just waiting to surprise you!”
An SA Entertainment film, Rehbara has been distributed by Mandviwalla Entertainment.
Quaid-e-Azam Zindabad Brings A New Hope For Cinema
After a hiatus of two and half years, Pakistani cinemas are now screening the Pakistani content, which remained pending in those years due to the pandemic of COViD 19. We saw the big banners release of four Pakistani feature films on eif-ul-fitr which made quite a stir among cinema goers. The Eid-ul-Azha this year will also be filled with two heavy duty films with big makers and giant stars. They are London Nahin Jaonga and Quaid-e-Azam Zindabad, Both films started before a year when the COVID took over the world and closed it. Now they are ready to hit the screens on coming eid in July.
Here we are talking about the most anticipated movie of the year Quaid-e-Azam Zindabad starring Mahira Khan and Fahad Mustafa as lead and produced under the banner of Filmwala Pictures owned by the creative duo Fizza Ali Meerza and Nabeel Qureshi as Producer and director respectively. The story is also conceptualized by the duo. This is first time that Fahad Mustafa and Mahira would be seen on screen together for the first time. This Khan’s first project with Meerza and Qureshi and this is Mustafa’s first film in which he shows some action.
The trailer of the film has been launched, where the star cast and the director/producer talked to the media about their hard work behind and expectations behind the film.
The Paperazzi got the opportunity to talk exclusively to the cast about the films and their roles.
Mahira Khan, while replying to what she has been missing in all those years when she had to refuse Fizza Ali Meerza films for any reason, she said great content.
“The content that Fizza and Nabeel produce is always different and comes with an interesting story. Whenever they put their script before me I was ‘wow what a play’.”
The reason why she excused those scripts from Filmwala Pictures was her adjustment of time, “I had just started doing films and found myself locked on so many projects one after another. Moreover, because of my lazy nature, I gave myself a break after one wrap up. So in between, I missed many offers. When I heard the storyline of QAZ, I just decided to do that. I wanted to be a part of it because of the story. Working with Fizza, Nabeel and Fahad Mustafa, was enough to say yes.”
Sharing the experience of working with Fahad Mustafa, Khan acknowledged that she was actually riding on his muscles throughout the film. “Fahad is going to carry me through this film,” she added.
Khan revealed when she entered QAZ, there was already a team of four; Fizza, Nabeel, Fahad Mustafa and Javed Sheikh. They had done many projects together before. Obviously I was nervous in the beginning yet tried to adjust but they were amazing and took care of me really well. Nabeel is one of the finest directors and Fizza is the best producer around. Fahad Mustafa was so amazing.
She summed up her team as; Fahad Mustafa, rock star, Nabeel Qureshi, disco dancer and Fizza Ali Meerza cool.
What are her hopes for QAZ, when it is going to be screened in cinemas exactly after three years on Eid-ul-Azha. “I believe if there is a good and entertaining movie in the cinema, people would come to watch it. There is no substitute for cinema as watching romance, dance and action on the big screen is an experience, one cannot acknowledge on any other medium. So I want people to come and watch QAZ, LNJ as well. I hope that these two films will help in awakening and reliving the cinema in Pakistan.”
She confessed that it was thrilled to be on screen again after three years and the excitement was really like the one which she felt on her first film.
Fahad Mustafa, whose doing his fifth film Fizza and Nabeel duo, said, “QAZ was made with our hearts and a lot of hard work. I won’t say it is a big budget but a big scale film. One will agree after watching the film that the budget is put wisely and with utmost care.”
Fahad assured that QAZ was a paisa vasool film, a complete entertainer with an interesting story and catchy music. “It is very relatable to every Pakistani, irrespective of which part of the world they are living in. I think this is the biggest USP of QAZ.”
About Khan as his pair in lead, Mustafa said that he was happy that finally they were working together as before they both kept on missing this opportunity for some and other reasons despite being offered many projects together. “I think QAZ I was the right time. I believe everything happens on its time.”
Mustafa admitted that he considered QAZ the biggest film of his career, “I consider it big yet different as I have done a lot of action in it. Moreover, my previous roles were very character driven, even in Actor In Law, there were a lot of other characters who played crucial parts in the film. In QAZ everything revolves around my character of Gulab. Every actor wants to do such a central role which makes movies iconic.”
He was hopeful that with an additional bonus of a big name of our industry like Mahira Khan and his central character, QAZ would do something substantial on screen.
About the business of film, Mustafa believes that cinema is not as same as it was four years back when his last film ‘Load Wedding’ was released in 2018. “At that time the business for three films collectively was about 125 hundred crores. It was a good growth for a relatively new industry. Then COVID came, which disturbed everything in our lives for which we were not prepared.”
MY Genre Of Work Is Comedy: Danish Nawaz
Danish Nawaz needs no introduction when it comes to acting and direction. Hailing from a family of artists, Nawaz entered into showbiz industry after completing his bachelors in mechanical engineering. Since then, he has established a career in Pakistani television and films mostly in comedy roles. His comic role on sitcom Nadaniya is still remembered by viewers. Another forte of Nawaz is his direction skills. He has many successful television plays on his credit as a director like Kashf, Chupke Chupke, Dobara and Hum Tum.
The talented star took out some time to talk to The Daily Paparazzi from the sets of his recently aired Ramazan Special serial Hum Tum. Here it is.
What was special for the audience in your Ramzan Special drama serial Hum Tum?
It is just a family entertainment to make people happy and bring laughter to their faces. Our lives have already become very chaotic, vanishing every fun element from it. We have become intolerant as well and people get offended by little jokes. Therefore, I wanted to make a little change in every household in Pakistan through this light comedy television drama.
You had an ensemble cast in Hum Tum. How was the experience with them?
It was wonderful. All actors are experienced. Luckily they have worked under the banner of Hum TV, so know the style of production there. Everyone enjoyed the sets as they were already aware about the genre of the play. Moreover, yes! Most of them knew me as well
Did you face any problem during shoot like timings, availability of actors and locations as the cast was big, and time was very limited to record the play?
Not at all. Instead, it adds to my enjoyment and excitement when I have a big cast to work with. Beside the leading cast, I have seniors like Muhammad Ahmed, Arjumand Rahim, Adnan Jaffer and Farhan Ali Agha, Uzma Baig and Munazzah Arif, and two child stars Aina and Anoushay as well. I was lucky enough to work with this talented team. Everything was managed quite well. Moreover, we had a wonderful script of Hum Tum written by Saima Akram Chaudhry. She has an expertise of writing family stories.
What when gets a weak playwright, and has to put more effort as a director to make it ready to run with directions and choice of actors
It has not happened with me yet but yes whenever I am doubtful about anything in the story, I sit with the writer and try to solve the confusion. We have a special content department in MD Productions at Hum TV, where we discuss these things. I try my best to get the script up to mark before going on set. I believe that strong content is very necessary for any director. Without a proper plot, we can never erect a strong building.
Besides comedy and light stories, you have also directed plays on very serious issues, which have been very successful as well. What do you enjoy most?
I think the genre of comedy is quite difficult though I enjoy it a lot. Actually, everyone has his or her sense of humour when it comes to comedy and jokes but as far as serious stories are concerned, people somehow accept it especially when it is on a social issue. Yes, I am comfortable directing serious plays but there should be a message in that. In many plays, I try to convey the serious issue in a comic way.
Now come to your acting. You opt mostly in comedy roles. When are your fans going to see you in a serious role?
To be honest, it would be a bit difficult for me. I think comedy is my own style, and find it more comfortable and easy doing comic roles. You need to make an extra effort especially when putting glycerine for tears in crying scenes. I have an idea that even directors and producers would not suggest me for the serious role nor would people accept me in a crying scene. I have a trademark image of a comedy actor. Yes, I might work in a very tragic play or film but my role would be of comic relief in that.
Don’t you think doing the same kind of roles hinders actors’ versatility?
Honestly speaking it is not my genre of acting. I sometimes find serious roles very funny. Again yes, if I get something, which really attracts me, I would try but really not the public would accept it or not.
After a successful career as a drama director, when are you going to direct a film?
Oh, yes. It is in the pipeline. For film, I am looking for a good script, which is an integral part of the whole product. For dramas, I get too many scripts and always have options to select one. Films are expensive, need heavy investment. That is why one should work on ideas, which can appeal to the public so they are ready to spend on cinema tickets to watch them. Our budget is not very ample like Hollywood and Bollywood. We make films on any script of our choice.
Unfortunately, we are still confused about what our masses actually want to watch. When we make a film with a strong storyline, critics rate it a television drama and if we incorporate more action, it is called a copy of Tamil films. Therefore, it is very tricky to make a film in Pakistan. I hope I will soon get a clicking story soon and will definitely direct a film.
Do you have any idea or story in your mind on which you want to make a film?
No. Not at this moment.
In the end, any message for your fans
Keep watching and appreciating our dramas and films. We try our best to give you the best entertainment, which at the same time sends little messages, which can improve your current and future life and vanquish the regret of past life.
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