A well known T.V personality, PR practitioner, brand activist, and youth development advocate; we had a pensive conversation with Sidra Iqbal about the importance of education, the current situation, and her pivotal role in this sector.
As both a successful journalist and host, how would you describe the nature of your work in Pakistan?
In Pakistan, it is exciting and adventurous as a lot of these things are fairly new. I remember being a fresh undergraduate and the private media only opening up in Pakistan; so fast forward 10 years, I feel a lot of the values are still sort of evolving and there is a lot of work that happens on an ad-hoc basis. We are pressed for resources, we are pressed for sensitivity and ideas but that’s where the challenge and excitement is, and what really gets me going is that you can really make a difference in society with the avalanche of social media and this newfound freedom and power. It really is worthy to be behind the right cause, so I find it very exciting and adventurous.
Hosting a show, we see significant subjects regarding the future of Pakistan being addressed, do you feel that this representation brings light to serious matters adequately?
I feel they bring a lot of eyeballs and they bring a lot of attention to the problems. I’m not very keen and not very happy with the focus it brings on the solutions. I feel as a society they have become very pessimistic and we tend to just breathe and groove and sort of just allow ourselves to be mellow, but what we really need to do is be forward-looking, be optimistic and see we really don’t need the same kind of linear timeline mentality that a lot of people did. Even in our region, if we look at a number of South Asian countries, what they have done is they have actually made a complete turn-around change in their environment and society in one generation so I feel the same is possible for Pakistan but we are too focused on thinking, ‘Oh these problems will take a hundred years and perfect resources and a lot of political will to resolve’, I think that’s where the problem is.
Being an Ambassador for “IHope”, how was the response received regarding the discussion, which provided serious insights into the experiences of our youth in society?
I think as an ambassador of “IHope”, it was a fantastic opportunity for me to launch the initiative on International Youth Day. I think young people should realize that every crisis that they are presented with presents a hidden gift of compassion and of purpose, so I was very happy to learn that so many young people are motivated to actually give back and help people. In this pandemic they don’t feel that necessarily it’s a bad thing that they are stuck at home, they are devoted to compassion and to service to society; and IHope was a perfect opportunity for them. It was a call out to young people, whether they are in Pakistan or anywhere in the world to come and be a part of the community that would like to help people provide quality healthcare facilities to all.
Would community initiatives help create an environment where education and enlightenment can be accepted and therefore implemented for our children?
I think children all over the world are dreaming of a new world and it’s our responsibility as a society, as grownups, to provide them with those excellent opportunities. Personally, for me, I think two great pillars I really advocate for are Education and Healthcare. Once you educate a child and once you provide a household with quality health care, with hygiene, and you know the right to live, then there is no stopping there, because then you’re out of the survival mode. I feel that when children are told and they are demonstrated that all that they enjoy is not something that they are entitled to, in fact, what they need to do is be grateful for the benefits that they have. It does evoke a sense of compassion and service in them. So it’s a great initiative and it will go a long way in inculcating these values in children.
When in conversation with Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood, a change in the education itself was emphasized. What manner of change do you feel would have a significant impact on the system itself?
I think to begin with technology, ICT is going to be very important, the curriculum all over the world is being upgraded. I’ll give you an example, that they say that the children who are in grade school right now, studies point out that 65% of these children are going to go into jobs and professions that have not been invented so that is a huge responsibility on the education system to actually prepare a child for a future that is unseen, unheard and probably unimaginable as well. When we were in school, there was no internet, there were no social media but somehow our education prepared us for it, now the same challenge lies before us and in much greater intensity. So, I feel what we need to change is first and foremost give a child the right to question. You can no longer just dictate a child, you should give a child in the Pakistani school system the right to question, the right to understand, and the right to sometimes even prove you wrong, so until and unless the teachers have the ability to unlearn and relearn, we can’t really update our education system.
Do intermediate students have an advantage over A-level students when applying for universities, with their average plus predicted grade as well as an additional 3% grace marks given?
Well to begin with, as an answer, I think no students in Pakistan had any advantage. Our education system is deeply fragmented, there are too many factions, there are too many things happening and I really congratulate the Government to have a serious intent behind making it a singular hybrid national curriculum. Of course, it comes with its own challenges. I can’t really pick sides because these are students who are all Pakistanis whether you are in A-Level schools, I can’t hold that against you, or whether you are a parent for matriculation or an intermediate exam that should not be your disadvantage. But yes, what I am calling for is that the Education Ministry has to make a decision, make policy measures and take strategic moves that benefit and ensure a level playing field for all. This grace mark issue is putting the A-level students at a disadvantage and I would appeal and strongly urge and petition to the Ministry of Education to look into its decision and how it’s having an impact on all.
Would a change in the implementation and execution of educational policies pave the way for a promising change in Pakistan regarding the future of our children who are still out of schools?
Of course, I mean if you look at numbers, it’s astonishing. 20 million children of school-going age in Pakistan are not going to school. Even if you look at provinces like KP, one out of every 4 girls of school-going age is not going to school and that is a glaring 25% of girls out of school. How do you expect her to bring a knowledgeable, aware, opinionated, informed, and civilized generation if she herself does not have the ability to read and write, If she does not have literacy, does not have education, does not have open-mindedness? So, I feel if you really want to turn the future of Pakistan around, education has to be the cornerstone for it.
How can we do our bit in helping bring about a positive change for our young children in terms of opening the doors of opportunity?
I think it is about getting them to be trained in design thinking; presenting the problems as a creativity challenge and not as a dead end. A lot of times the kind of discourse that we are exposing our children to in social media on mainstream television is robbing them of their hope. We are telling them that nothing in Pakistan can be fixed and we are going down the dungeons, which is the furthest from reality. Even if you look around the region just during the COVID 19, India in the last 3 months has lost about 25% of their GDP, I mean that is a grave loss, job losses. Something is happening right in Pakistan whether you want to give the present Government the credit for it or not is entirely your call, but something is right and there is a lot to be hopeful about if we really want to give our children and the young people something it is that hope, that believes that you matter and better things are possible!
- And lastly, do you feel we are doing enough as a country, for our future in education?
Well, it’s 70 years of not doing enough, you can’t take a snapshot and say are we doing enough or not, there’s been a lot of water under the bridge, there’s a lot of things we haven’t done right for the years to come. Yes, we can take a corrective course but in order for that corrective course to fully bear fruit I think it will need about 7-10 years and I’m hopeful that if we make use of this window of opportunity, that would be a big turnaround for Pakistan
Azaan Sami Khan’s new anthem is a vocal powerhouse of hope!
While pop-infused, energetic dance numbers might leave one totally high-spirited, we sometimes need soulful anthems to do the same trick. And music composer Azaan Sami Khan, known for his diverse soundtracks for films like Parey Hut Love, Superstar, and Parwaaz Hai Junoon, is now giving us something fresh but just as intense in the form of ‘Tu Hai Mera’.
Written and composed by Khan, the song features some truly iconic collaborations in the form of the fierce Hadiqa Kiani, nine-year-old sweetheart Hadiya Hashmi, Sufi superstars Fareed Ayaz & Abu Muhammad, and Ali Tariq’s romantic touch. You might need a moment or two to fully bask in the power of their heavenly vocals merged together, accompanied by S.K. Khalish’s momentous lyrics.
Unveiled at the 2021 LUX Style Awards and termed as the Hope Song of the Year, ‘Tu Hai Mera’s video showcases memorable performances by all the vocalists, along with a stellar dance performance by a fresh face. The video encompasses Khan’s vision for the song, which was “to make something that holds value,’ he stated. While most of the production was carried out locally, Khan also partnered with Eric Pillai across the border for the mixing and mastering, nailing that multicultural feel.
With this promising anthem, Khan surely has brought out the best in all the artists he has collaborated with, and has given us hope to look forward to. The song is now available on all streaming platforms, including Khan’s YouTube channel.
Touching Upon Ahmad Ali Butt’s Personal Transformation
It is always a delight talking to Ahmad Ali butt, but this time, the topic is not “comedy” that has always been associated with the star. We will be talking about his personal growth, the spiritual side of him, the 90s, some old and new projects, social media, mental health, and a lot more.
The actor reveals some untold stories in conversation with Daily Paperazzi.
Q) Initially when you started, how hard was it for you to survive in the industry?
I started from the theater in the mid-90s. Yes, it was hard in the beginning because nobody was casting anyone at that time and everyone was doing their own thing so, I had my own productions. In the 2000s, my luck started to change; I got into TV for our play Jutt and Bond. Zain Ahmad cast Fawad Khan, Vasay Chaudhry, and me. You can call it our humble beginning. There were no social media back then however saying that, we got lucky because the sitcom and battle of the bands happened at the same time. We did some excellent work in the TV and Music Industry. So, yes the popularity came in a way, and that gave us a boost among the youth.
Q) Can you share some mean comments that you heard from people around you in the industry, any particular incident?
In the corporate world, it does happen because I have hosted a lot of corporate shows. Like, what car you drive, what watch you are wearing etc., people notice such things. But no one has ever said anything mean to my face.
Q) When did you realize that Comedy is your genre?
I guess I never realized it. It was inherent. My parents had a great sense of humour. My father was known to be the man with the best sense of humour among his friends and he had a way of telling stories and he had a way with humour. So, I think I picked it up from them. The art of delivering jokes came from my father. I have always been overweight. So, when you see an overweight person, you will say “Oh he is the token comedy guy”. The same was the case with me. Comedy came to me naturally. It was a way of making fun of my own self before somebody else could. A lot of comedians do that. If you see any famous comedian, you will find him odd. They are not your typical “tall, dark and handsome” heroes. Comedy gave me sort of a shield and it also became one of my superpowers to make people laugh. The more I learned, the more I started to realize how much power it has. It made me comfortable in my own skin and it made me extremely aware of how to transform my flaws into my advantages.
Q) People have always seen you performing comedy, is there any other side to Ahmad Ali Butt?
In Pakistan, there is minimal film production. For the longest time, I have struggled with this image that he is overweight; he will be a great comedy guy. I think Jhooti gave me a very different platform to showcase my acting capabilities as a method actor. It gave me a completely different environment to work in. Yes, in theatre, I have done serious roles in different Urdu and English plays but on television, I didn’t get such a chance.
Q) Anything that you want people to know about this profession highlighting the mental grind an actor\comedian goes through according to your point of view especially?
Yes, acting is a very odd profession to be in. You will struggle in every field, no matter what you choose. But this is the field that puts you into the limelight especially when you get famous instantly and it goes to your head. There are incidents where people achieve so much and suddenly, they feel the ground slipping under their feet, which is a worse scenario. Acting demands a lot. It has odd hours. It has odd locations. It is not a fixed job. You are roaming around in different cities and you are only as good as your last project. You have to constantly prove yourself. This is the profession of vanity and it’s tougher for women because we judge on looks a lot. We need a fresh, beautiful face every time. For men, it is tough because there is an age when you are in demand, and then comes an age where you shift from lead to supporting roles. This is something that challenges your vanity, social life, and personal life. But I think people who are in the longer game focus on maintaining the quality because they know it’s not about the quantity but the quality of work they produce. And, I think only such people succeed.
Q) Your advice on accepting your mistakes/negligence and flaws and working on it
When you start, you make a lot of mistakes. Your failure is your biggest teacher. Don’t be afraid of mistakes and failures. You will have all kinds of projects but take this as a learning curve and only then you will survive. This will challenge you mentally, physically, and financially. But the biggest thing is to accept your mistake and learn from them.
Q) What has been your thought process about a healthy lifestyle and self-acceptance?
It has been a long journey because I have always struggled with that. It never really bothered me too much but obviously, there comes a time when your body stops favoring you and you have to make some changes in your lifestyle. This has been a tough journey but my wife was extremely helpful. You have to strengthen your thought process. These things will bring depression but you have to keep thinking positive. I pray. My wife and I have a very strong spiritual side that has helped me a lot. Set a routine and keep your priorities right. I cannot say for everyone but these things work for me.
Q) On one side, we all talk about “Self-love” and on the other hand, many brands (almost all brands) prefer fair skin, perfect sized-actors. What is your take on that and what is your advice/guide for someone who wants to start from scratch?
“Jo dikhta hai, wo bikta hai” – This is showbiz. I don’t have any issue with people improving their looks, this is self-grooming. But yes, in our industry, there is pressure. In films, we have stereotyped the looks, and this way, we promote many beauty brands because they are selling what is required in today’s time. So, I don’t have a say but at the end of the day, this is entirely your choice where you want to indulge yourself.
Q) People think “Ahmad Ali Butt is always laughing and cracking jokes. He is not a serious person” – Let’s break this myth about you.
People see you and smile they know he will crack a joke. But there is a serious side to me as well. I am very serious about my work. There should be a serious attitude because if you don’t take acting seriously, people are not going to take you seriously. Obviously, people register the image that they have seen of you but during work, you should be serious. In life, you shouldn’t be very somber. Already, there is a lot to worry about so take things lightly.
Q) How hard\easy was it to switch your humorous persona into a serious one that you played in “Jhooti”?
Jhooti came at the time when I just got done with the films. So, Abdullah told me about this role and I really liked that- a husband who loves his wife so much but she is a compulsive liar. I did my homework for this role and I studied Humayun Saeed. I took some time to work on this role, on dialogue delivery, on the look and it was a slow process to develop that character. But, it was an extremely important character for me.
Q) Social Media plays a major role in affecting someone’s mental health, your take?
When we started, there was no social media game. But for today’s generation, it is important. The brands need to understand that it is not just about the number of followers, it is about the work that someone has done. If you give more importance to your work, you will get what you aim for because such things as social media are just like a trend. Today, they have a presence, tomorrow they won’t. People, who take their work professionally and seriously, will have followers automatically. Social media is for those who are here for the quick stardom. Remember, today you are famous and tomorrow someone else will have that glare of publicity.
Q) We heard that you were initially a part of Maula Jutt and was removed from the cast after 3 months of shooting, would you like to comment on that?
While I was shooting for “Punjab Nahi Jaungi”, the prep work for Maula Jutt was going on. We just came to a point where we could not make it work anymore. Things would have been worse for me had I been a part of that project. It happens that some projects are not viable for you. But, Maula Jutt is an amazing production, Bilal has done a great job and you will see once the film is out.
Q) Supporting roles are as important as the main lead but in Pakistan, they are not given the limelight they deserve. Is this true or have you faced this yourself?
This is the issue of the whole world. Supporting roles are the backbone of the story. In some movies, supporting roles are more important than the lead role, and in some, the lead role is the only important role. In our industry, we don’t give much heed to the supporting role because we think it’s the “side” role. Sometimes supporting roles make a film hit. Alhamdulilah, I have worked with people who give importance to the supporting roles. I think directors, producers, and writers need to understand that team effort is everything. So, you are lucky if you get a good producer who understands the importance of each role.
Q) So, you are totally fine with the title “Fatman” of your upcoming movie, but there are people who get fat-shamed and it can trigger their insecurities, what would you say to them?
When it was introduced to me, I loved it. I do accept that obesity is a disease. The movie is actually about a father and a son where the situation of obesity is being discussed. It discusses the mental health and the problems like body-shaming a fat person goes through in his life. It is a very honest and brave movie if we make it because this discusses very delicate and important issues.
Zubab Rana is the Standout performer of the Drama Fitrat!
It is reasonable to call Zubab Rana, a newcomer in the entertainment industry because the youthful entertainer is finding her space in the business; however, notwithstanding that, she has prevailed with regards to winning the hearts of crowds with her splendid performances. Directly from her absolute first drama Naseebon Jali that aired on Hum TV, Zubab Rana has figured out how to harden her presence in the business as a marvel with the ability to take on any job that comes to her direction. She has constructed a collection for herself for taking the more unfamiliar way, treading new waters, and always surprising us with her charm. Today her name is incorporated among the rundown of entertainers who can stand their ground before the camera and convey what is anticipated from them.
In Fitrat, she assumes a somewhat unglamorized part of Rafia, one of the drama’s leading characters. There is no scene where Zubab Rana doesn’t look pretty, but in Rafia, there is an innocence that is a part of Rana’s charm that just can’t go unnoticed. Especially if you see her in her other ongoing drama ‘Bharaas’ where she has taken upon a completely different role and can’t help but think how can someone pull off both negative and positive characters so well.
Though, this isn’t just about pulling off a negative or positive role. Rafia is a multi-dimensional character – and Rana knows just what to do with the character to convey her special story to the audiences in the most heartwarming manner. She perfectly balances the scales between neither being too forceful nor too timid, which makes her the standout performer of the whole drama.
Rana has set up an enormous fan following over the past few years. She has gotten known for her incredible acting chops and a stunning hard-working attitude that has given her a distinct edge over her peers. With every last one of her undertakings, she has figured out how to convey what is anticipated from her and has gathered commendation from the audience.