Recently released dubai-based Pakistan film Pinky Memsaab has got its critical acclaim because of its story and good work by actors. One of its characters was Kulsoom, which though remained onscreen for very short time but left a strong impact on audience. The talented actress who played Kulsoom is Hajra Khan, who has proved in her debut film that what the character adoption is. Hajra started her acting career in 2009 with Go TV paly Buri Aurat. Keen to carry on with her education, she took a break of two years to complete her studies in Business Management from Dublin Business School. Born in Quetta to a Pashtun family, Hajra moved to Karachi at very early age. The family went back to Quetta, where she completed her secondary school before coming back to Karachi and since then the city is her base, from where she is giving full focus to her acting career.
How you were approached for the role of Kulsoom in Pinky Memesaab?
I was approached by Shazia Khan, the director and producer of the film. She had taken many auditions before but many perspective choices were very apprehensive as firstly, the character had very minimal screen time and secondly, they were concerned about how they would be portrayed as bar dancer when the film is directed by a first timer. Then Shazia called me in desperation and asked me to do the role of Kulsoom.
Why did you accept the role despite the reservations by their earlier options?
I also showed my reservation about the length of character but Shazia assured me that despite having a shorter screen time, it has a strong impact on the whole story. I also liked it, so even with my reservation, I accepted it. I even visited some bars in Bur Dubai and met with a few bar dancers there to get the feel of the character. I also insisted on adding a dance number as it was supporting the character and whole story of the film.
So, do you think that you did justice to your role?
I did, but at the premier, when I watched the film, my role was badly chopped off. It had lost its strength and soul at the editing table. I recorded the whole song, but in film it was less than a minute. I was really disappointed to see my role ruin like that.
But it is also a truth that many of our new directors shoot almost double of the actual length and then edit it hastily. Don’t you think that was the case with this film too?
I agree. People find an only two-hour long film a drag because it had many unnecessary and irrelevant scenes but was short of many important ones. The camera work was not even satisfactory, as there were very long scenes in extreme close ups. Lighting was poor that it showed all the actors in bad shape. It was not fair with the actors. An art film doesn’t mean that you figure people badly.
So, you will be more careful in choosing your next project?
Of course! But despite all my reservations, I am grateful to people, who are praising my acting in Pinky Memsaab. I also loved the story and my character, I had a great experience of shooting in Dubai but what I have seen on screen has really shocked me.
Do you wish to do any particular role to play in a drama or film?
I think an action role is the most challenging role for a female actor. I wish to do one.
Who is your inspiration?
I am a big fan of Sri Devi. She is my ideal. Her Chaalbaaz is my all-time favourite. I have watched this movie more than 100 times and still love it. Sri Devi gave two block buster films when she was over 50. The woman has made the history in changing the status of women in subcontinent cinema.
What else you want to pursue in this field besides acting?
I am also writing a story of a film and have been in touch with Sabiha Soomar to direct it. I will also act in it. It is a women centric film as I think we have to come out from the stereotype and regressive representation of women on screen. Even our female writers are compelled to write these types of roles for women. We have to change this perception and this change can only be initiated by writers. The film will be available on digital platforms like Netflix or Amazon.
Face to face with International Chef and Co-Founder of SHOLA Karachi Kitchen – Aida Khan
Aida Khan, the entrepreneur and chef behind Islamabad’s traditional cuisine destination, Karachi Kitchen, proudly extended her culinary prowess by introducing her establishment: SHOLA Karachi Kitchen, in the heart of West London, White City, positioned where the BBC used to be.
Aida Khan has already been serving her Karachi offerings in Supper Clubs in London and in March 2019, opened her first restaurant SHOLA Karachi Kitchen in West London. With her first restaurant in London, Khan aims to explore the real flavours of Pakistan laden in tradition. Aida Khan’s nostalgia for Karachi’s bustling food markets with authentic flavorful food was an inspiration for SHOLA’s first permanent residence in White City. Aida also hopes to shed light on how Pakistani food can be clean and healthy – appealing to vegans, vegetarians and meat eaters. With the menu comprising of 50% grilled food, SHOLA takes one back to the foundations of Pakistani cooking.
With SHOLA Karachi Kitchen, Aida Khan aims to bring back the era of simple, clean cooking, the way it has been done in the sub-continent’s family kitchens for centuries. At SHOLA Karachi Kitchen, Khan and her team of expert chefs use only the highest quality ingredients and traditional cooking techniques.
In Pakistan, currently offering takeaway home-deliveries primarily in Islamabad, SHOLA embraces hearty, artisanal traditional soul food combining the traditional flavours, aromas and authentic spices of Karachi.
Aida comes from a family with a deep passion for food. From an early age, she learnt how to cook traditional family food from her mother, and inherited her love for food through her father’s passion to eat. Her fondest childhood memories are of early morning drives to Karachi markets with her father, in search of the fluffiest poori or the sweetest halwa for breakfast. Since moving to London, traditional Pakistani family recipes play an integral part at home, whether its cooking with her boys, or feeding the tribes of friends and extended family who turn up to feast on her delicious meals. Bringing Pakistani food back into people’s lives, and through SHOLA, putting Pakistani cuisine on the London food map, Khan hopes to open more branches of SHOLA across the globe and more specifically, in Pakistan.
SHOLA Karachi Kitchen is located at Shop 9-12, Trade Centre, F-7, Jinnah Super in Islamabad for takeaway and delivery. In London, the restaurant is located at Unit 6, West Works, White City Place, Wood Lane.
Aida Khan speaks exclusively to Daily Paperazzi about her passion project.
How did your journey begin to eventually become a seasoned chef?
I moved to London about 9 years ago to do my MSc. at SOAS. My son was 2 years old then and I couldn’t help but notice a lack of authentic Pakistani restaurants we could eat at or order in from, when that desi food craving hit. I inevitably ended up cooking a lot more at home and hosting many evenings for friends looking for a taste of home and finally decided to take it on as full on task to bring our food to London. I started out by hosting supper clubs and eventually expanded to catering events and then the opportunity came up to open Shola so I finally took the plunge!
What was your first big break?
I had done various caterings and private events but my first big break was when I hosted a Gourmet Karachi Supper Club at a private members’ club in London. It was sold out instantly with 60 people attending, I definitely had a lot of nerves that day but also realized that this is absolutely something I want to pursue.
Did you go to culinary school? What credentials did you earn through your culinary studies?
I did an Essential Cookery Certification at Leith’s School of Food and Wine, which is a professional course aimed towards people who want to develop their cooking skills and learn the techniques and science behind how ingredients work. Each class was very hands-on and you had to produce a selection of dishes. Apart from cooking skills, the course also helped with time management and being able to plan and execute a well-rounded menu. We also learnt menu costing/pricing and essentially how to make the best of your budget and ingredients. It was a spectacular experience and despite my many years of cooking it has given me the right tools to feel more confident cooking in a professional environment. It also taught me how to handle large orders and get service right.
SHOLA Karachi Kitchen has greatly added to the culinary map of London. Why did you choose to serve Pakistani cuisine over others?
Because that’s what I feel I know best. I can bring authenticity to the food offering based on personal experiences. It’s also one of my favorite cuisines and I felt it was under represented in London.
Currently, the Karachi Kitchen’s chapter in Islamabad is take-away & delivery only. Can we expect a dine-in restaurant in future?
For now, this works but never say never is something I learnt early on.
What’s your biggest nightmare to date?
Sending food out that is below standard just because it was not tasted.
What do you do to stay current on new trends? Describe two or three of the most interesting industry trends?
I follow various blogs and read up a lot on Chefs. I am fascinated with the science behind cooking and love looking at different techniques to ensure consistent flavors. As our food is really traditional I have actually found myself going back to using methods the way they were down in our grandparents’ kitchens. A pestle and mortar are incredibly essential in my kitchen just because there is an unparalleled depth of flavor that can be achieved with the masalas ground in one. I am also a huge advocate of low and slow cooking for even flavors.
What inspires you in the kitchen?
Creating delicious food that is reminiscent of flavors from my childhood. When you get that nostalgic feeling as soon as you taste a dish – that to me is winning.
What is your favorite meal to cook?
It really depends on the day. At the restaurant I love creating a Karahi or Biryani. Both have such interesting techniques. At home, I love trying out different marinades with grilled fish. Tahini and Harissa are a firm favorite in my repertoire these days.
Do you have a favorite ingredient?
I love using curry leaves. Maybe it’s my mother’s Hyderabadi influence but the scent of curry leaves frying literally takes me back home every time.
If you could cook for anyone, who would it be?
My father – sadly he passed away many years ago, before I had ever even thought of taking this on as a career. He would be my toughest critic yet strongest advocate. He was a huge foodie so the feedback would have been genuine ☺
In your opinion, what are the biggest misconceptions about chefs in Pakistani context?
That it’s all one pot cooking and we have some sort of mother sauce that we throw everything in. Pakistani cooking is incredibly complex and we have so many steps and flavors involved, when done right.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Happy. Doing what I love to do with just a little more time for holidays.
Any advice you would give to someone wanting to become a chef?
You really need to want to do this to make it work. It’s not something you can go into halfhearted. You also need to believe in yourself, there will always be criticism and there will always be praise. Learn how to filter both in such a way that it’s always productive. Trust yourself and your palate.
His Dark Materials
With Game of Thrones coming to an end, all of us will need a new addiction to invest our time in, but in this saturated age where almost every network is churning out a mediocre show with half baked plot-lines, who should we turn towards? Not to worry, BBC HBO has us covered once again, with their new enigmatic and captivating show; His Dark Materials.
Based on the novel series of the same name by Phillip Pullman, we should have high expectations for how this turns out, the novels are known to focus on deep intellectual themes and contain subtext relating to politics, physics, philosophy and theology. The main attraction of the show is its focus on fantasy and adventure, while maintaining a serious undertone that talks about issues we can all relate to; the loss of innocence as one grows old.
The Series takes place in a multiverse, worlds parallel to ours, revolving around two children embarking on a journey that transcends all planes. The rest of the story is being kept under wraps, but people that want to test the waters before watching the series can check out the novels or watch the 2007 adaptation of one of them, called The Golden Compass.
Featuring a stellar cast headlined by James McAvoy, alongside the talented Dafne Keen of Logan’s fame. BBC HBO has cast other well known actors and actresses such as James Cosmo, who we all remember as Lord Commander Jeor Mormont from Game of Thrones, Ruth Wilson and many more. The show has been green-lit for episodes set to premiere in late 2019, it has also been renewed for a second season.
So for those of us wanting to fill the void in our hearts courtesy of Game of Thrones, taking this on seems to be the best course of action. A series that has conspiracy, action, drama and suspense, it seems to be a perfect blend that we can all get behind. So without further adieu, mark your calendars and add His Dark Materials to your watchlist, this seems like one TV Show you might not want to miss out on.
A quick & fun natter with the gorgeous Naimal Khawar
What acting style would explain you the best? Is it just one? Or you are open to negative roles as well in future?
I really don’t know which style would suit me the best because I have only done two characters so far. I am still exploring myself. But, as an actor, I will be open to all kind of roles which have substance in them.
What would you like to be known for; being a painter or an actor?
Painting is something that I worked hard on all my life. I have strived for it. Acting is something that just came my way. It was very unexpected. So, hands down, it’s painting.
What drama (especially) from the past you would have loved doing?
One drama that I would really like to be in is Sheher-e-Zaat. I would love to play Mahira’s character there. I think it was a beautiful script and I loved it.
We have seen Izza in Anna (a sensitive girl who loves her family who likes to keep things simple and who thinks money can make a person rude and proud) so, what Naimal is like in real life?
Naimal is pretty much like Izza because we share same morals and values in life. Dignity and respect is very important for me. That’s how I have been brought up in my family as well. So, yes I am a very simple girl. I like my life not so complicated and I also feel money cant buy happiness.
Your weirdest fan moment?
I don’t think I have a lot of fans but let me think… Yes, one time, I received this box and it had 10 sketches of me. I thought it would be random but they kept coming in every week. So, that was pretty creepy.
What do you do when you are not working? (other than painting)
So, when i am not working, i love spending time with my family and nature. Most of my time is with my horses at the stable and you will see me there.
What have you learned about yourself since you became a celebrity?
I really don’t think I can answer this question because I still feel I am not a celebrity as yet.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
One advice that I would like to give to my younger self is “ Don’t worry too much about things in life. Just be patient and hang in there.”
What’s your take on feminism?
To me, feminism is equality.
Has your life changed after being an actor?
Honestly, my life hasn’t really changed after being an actor.
What do you enjoy the most? The limelight or the ordinary life you had before getting into this career?
If I had to choose, I would definitely take the ordinary life.
Would you like to comment on “Harassment at Workplace”? Have you ever encountered such a thing or has it made you uncomfortable at any point since you have started your career?
So far, in the acting business, I have not experienced any case of harassment. It has been very professional and to the point.
In the season FRIENDS, who can you relate to the most?
A lot of people are going to hate me for this but I am one of those who have actually not seen FRIENDS. But my family and friends tell me that I remind them of Rachel and I am pretty much like her. So, it would be Rachel then.
Features5 days ago
A quick & fun natter with the gorgeous Naimal Khawar
News3 months ago
7th Sky Entertainment’s “Mera Rab Waris” To Air this March
Entertainment4 weeks ago
These Powerpuff girls from a renowned university are making us proud by redefining humanity
Events5 months ago
Highlights from Grand Launch of CHIKPAT Restaurant in Islamabad