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With Awards, Comes More Responsibility: Mehwish Hayat

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Mehwish Hayat is the one, who we can say is ruling our recent film industry. She has given five hit films to Pakistani cinema as well as many super hit television dramas. Be it her films like Namaloom Afrad, Pujanb Nahin Jaungi and Load Wedding or her dramas like Man Jali and Dil Lagi, she has mesmerized the audience with her perfect looks and acting skills. Recently, she has been awarded a civil award, tamgha-e-imtiaz by the state of Pakistan for her contribution to Pakistani entertainment industry. Amidst this success and excitement, Hayat is facing too much trolling and bullying on her achievement from a section of society. We talked to this talented lady who openly expresses her feelings about getting this award and the negative propaganda that surrounds it. But here, we must clear a misunderstanding of confusing the civil decorations of Pakistan with other awards. The civil decorations and awards are given by the state of Pakistan mostly to citizen (civilians) of Pakistan for their notable work for the country in different fields, like arts, literature, sports, journalism, science, medical, social work etc. Mehwish Hayat is one of many who have been awarded in the category of arts.

How much this award has boosted your morale?
I am very excited and honoured to get this award. I have 10 years of career. I never thought I would be recognized and awarded this medal so soon. It is for my contribution to drama, theatre, music and the revival of cinema in Pakistan. When your services are recognised at State level, it is beyond explanation. Those were most memorable moments of my life and this is just the beginning. I have a long way to go. I must say that with this award comes more responsibility to do better and bring pride for my nation

With this celebration and success, a section of society is very critical and against this award given to you. What would you say on this?
Being a public figure, we are always exposed to the criticism. It is not necessary that everyone, praise you every time. But when it comes to your private life, where people start attacking on your personality and character, I think, there we have to draw the line. You can’t bash and troll someone on social media; it comes into the cyber bullying. That is why I use my Twitter to tell that one can criticize my work but not my character.

Who has given you this right when you don’t even know me?
Artists are the assets of a society. They represent their country in whole world. They entertain you; make you smile and all this need a hard work behind. We have a very small community with limited resources and we are working very hard to establish it as an industry. All we need is acceptance and respect.

What do you think should be done to stop this?
I think from here we can start this debate that what we can and should do next to protect the sanctity of our community. If social media give you access to reach to others, it doesn’t mean that you have got the right to malign anybody on these forums. People are committing suicides due to this cyber bullying. This has become a serious issue now on which we have to take measures accordingly on government level as well. I am not the first one, who is facing all this bullying. Many other prominent personalities also have been facing this baseless criticism. The only reason of all this is trolling is to put a certain person in negative light.

How so far you have got the strength during all this negative propaganda?
Despite all this negativity from certain section, the positive thing is that that my family, my friends, my fans, my colleagues and overall industry is by my side and supporting me. It makes me relief and happy and I am thankful to them for this.

You have worked in almost every genre of performing art like film, drama, theatre and even music. What do you think you have been awarded this medal on?
My work is everything for me. It is my passion. I love to perform all kind of art form, be it film, drama, theatre music or any other performance. I enjoy doing all. Every medium has its own charm. But I would rate theatre first because you have to perform everything live before audience and get their reaction instantly. That first hand response is amazing. Films? Of course! Every actor loves to be on big screen. It has its own magic. Singing has its own magic. So I can’t rate any single field. State has not given me this award just on my acting. It is my overall body of work of my 10 years career that includes my contribution to the Pakistani cinema, the drama industry.

What this achievement has a place in your career?
This medal is reward of my hard work and contribution to my country and how I have represented my country in the world. I have worked throughout my career in Pakistan. My films have generated revenue of 160 crores rupees overall at box office. No Pakistan actress has ever garnered his amount in films till now. So this is a milestone in itself for the industry as well. Similarly, my five blockbuster films have contributed a lot in the revival of Pakistani cinema. I am proud to be a part of this revival. It is wonderful that in return my work has been appreciated. Today, when there is a tamgha-e-imtiaz is with my name, it’s an honour for me and my fans. I am not the only and last one to get this award. I wish others will also get this for their hard work and performance.

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Raaz-e-Ulfat Very Well Relates to a Pakistani Girl Living in a Strict Household

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Raaz-e-Ulfat is one of the latest dramas that has instantly struck a chord with masses owing to its relatable story-line and amazing performances by the remarkable cast. For the uninitiated, what exactly is the plot?

Putting it briefly, Mushk Iftikhar dreams of exploring the world outside her conservative house. She accomplishes her dream life to some extent when she comes across a friend in her university who introduces her to the colours of life. Though, little does Mushk know that Sehba secretly envies her simplicity and innocence and wishes to ruin her life.

Mushk’s life is somewhat a true depiction of most Pakistani girls belonging to strict households, and hence the show has become more interesting and connecting for the younger lot in Pakistan.

You can’t move a bone without your parent’s permission

Yes! Parent’s approval is mandatory in everything you do. You can’t study, sleep, eat, choose a career, go out, come late, etc. as per your own will. You can only breathe on your own… rest will depend on your parents’ will. Poor Mushk is in the same boat.

Privacy is a luxury you can never afford.

Mushk has got no private space in her house. She shares a room with her sister, like how it is usually in most households. Even when she is on a call with a friend, someone comes to inquire about the whereabouts of the caller. Privacy is indeed an out of the world thing for Mushk and others like her.

You have to be responsible like a grown-up, but you can never act like one.

Like Mushk, most Pakistani youth, particularly girls, are expected to grow up and take responsibilities but are not allowed to think that they have grown up in a literal way. Hence, you are always a bachi/ bacha who is bound to live by what your parents say.

Marriage is your ultimate goal in life

You dream about marriage and your khuwabon ka shehzada because that’s what your parents aim for you on completing your studies.

 

Modern Friends Are A Big No!

You cannot stay in touch with rich and modern friends as they are supposedly some spoilt kids who will definitely leave a bad influence on you.

 

 Dating someone is a big struggle!

Going out on a date is a real struggle yet you want to experience it despite knowing that if your parents find out, you are gone for life.

 

Since the very first episode, Raaz e Ulfat has turned every local TV drama trope on its head to offer a refreshingly new insight by subverting all the typical clichéd plot-lines of most local dramas, bringing forth such nuances that make the entire watching experience oh so relatable and befitting for people around us.

 

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Bunyad Foundation: Countering cerebral health issues with Mindcamp

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Mental health, despite holding paramount significance, is largely ignored in third world countries. With societal progression, the rise of the middle class, and a certain ‘tilt’ or ‘shift’ towards westernization, issues associated with mental health have started to exacerbate. According to recent studies, one of the biggest reasons behind suicidal tendencies or suicide itself is mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD and other traumas, different phobias, bipolar disorder, personality disorder and other related disorders.

If we travel a few years back in time, mental health issues were unheard of in Pakistan, in fact, someone found complaining or discussing a mental health issue was either given a particular look or called out for being ‘overly-sensitive’. But over the past few years, things have changed drastically. Now, there are more and more people suffering from mental disorders and psychiatric consultations have increased considerably over time, but even now, a certain amount of people hesitate to seek psychiatric consultation.

The onslaught of Covid-19 has further aggravated the situation throughout the country, with people reporting severe cases of depression and anxiety amid continued lockdowns. It is pertinent to mention here that, although, the issues mentioned are usually associated with urban areas, but the situation in rural areas of Pakistan isn’t much different. Alarmingly, unlike popular opinion, that villages are happy-go-lucky people, even the village dwellers are unknowingly harnessing several mental disorders in this modern age.

In order to facilitate the underprivileged living in less developed, far-flung areas, the Bunyad Foundation in collaboration with Mind organization, has started organizing bi-monthly mind-camps in Hafizabad. The purpose of these camps is to provide free-of-cost facilities to underserved communities. Under these free camps, patients are provided free consultation, medicine and an intervention plan; that too free of cost.

Shaheen Attiq-ur-Rahman, Project Lead and founder of Mind Camp Bunyad, told us that, ‘rural folk suffers from the same mental disorders as more privileged people but often the intensity is greater. Most of the people do not have access to basic medication for relief. Since a lot of unhealed psychiatric disorders can lead to physical ill-health, rural folk face a double burden. At Mindcamp Bunyad, our mission is to give suffering villagers a chance at peace and to ease their task in life’.

It took some time, the involvement of Key Opinion leaders and sustained efforts to convince people to seek help for mental disorders and now there’s better awareness about these issues. In addition, the organization has been carrying out these activities for the past 9 years, by engaging experienced and trained mental health professionals, even in extreme weather, just for the betterment of the society. However, now, the number of mental health professionals offering services has dwindled, in fact, the patient-to-doctor/mental health professional ratio is discouraging.

In order for the unabated and unrestricted continuation of these services, and in order for better, sustained facility provision to the patients; financial backing is imminent, without which such a great initiative gradually might have to retreat. To facilitate the imperative service, Bunyad Foundation is playing a major role.

Get in touch with them to see how you can help.

For donations, please donate here.

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Quiet Women: on Surrealism, Beauty and the Female Voice

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Lahore based poet, editor and columnist, Afshan Shafi launched her first full-length poetry collection, ‘Quiet Women’ last month. Stocked at Readings, the collection is a unique all-female collaboration featuring the illustrations of acclaimed artists, Samya Arif (Pakistan), Marjan Baniasadi (Iran) and Ishita Basu Mallik (India).

TS Eliot award nominee and winner of the Forward Prize for Poetry, Vahni Capildeo termed ‘Quiet Women’ as one of the ‘new poetries emerging in the twenty-first century which are characterized by a ferocity that spans yet exceeds love and outrage, involvement and observation’.

 

 

‘Quiet Women’ is an exploration of form and linguistic artistry, propelled by a sense of creative freedom espoused by the surrealists and abstract artists. Inspired by the creations of both Eastern and Western female artists and writers this book is a tribute to women and the power of their collective voices. Afshan Shafi has studied English Literature and International Relations at The University of Buckingham and Webster Graduate School London. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Blackbox Manifold, Poetry Wales, Flag + Void, Luna Luna, Clinic, 3 am magazine, Ala Champ Magazine, and others. Her poems have also appeared in the anthologies, Smear (edited by Greta Bellamacina), The New River Press Yearbook and Halal if you hear me ( edited by Fatima Asghar and Salma Elhilo). Her debut chapbook of poems ‘Odd Circles’ was published by Readings (Pakistan) in 2014. For her work as a poet, she has been interviewed by Arte Tv (France) and Words Without Borders. As part of the Jane Austen Society of Pakistan she has appeared on BBC (World), The Times (UK), and in The Economist’s culture magazine. She has also served as a poetry editor for “The Missing Slate” and is currently a senior contributing editor at Pakistan’s leading literary journal “The Aleph Review”. She also serves as an editor-in-chief for the online Pandemonium Journal, which is a platform for emerging creatives from Pakistan and abroad.

 

Inspiration to write this book: 

This is my first full-length collection and is a tribute to the panoply of female artists that continue to inspire me. From the creations of Iranian artist Farideh Lashai to the work of lesser-known poets like Veronica Forrest, there is a rich engagement with the work of these female trailblazers in ‘Quiet Women’. What makes the book different is its collaborative nature. Each artist I have collaborated with in ‘Quiet Women’ possesses something unique to their perspective. Samya Arif’s illustrations are defined by their bold and stylized detail. She thinks in an opulent manner. Marjan Baniasadi, hails from Iran and has studied at the NCA and her paintings are elegant, deeply intelligent and beautiful. Ishita Basu who lives in Calcutta, India, is a poet as well as an artist and there is such a yearning and melancholy to her creations. Their art complements my writing seamlessly in the book.

 

 

On how ‘Quiet Women’ came together

 

‘Quiet Women came together over a period of two years, where my poems were being frequently accepted by European magazines for publication. I decided to put together a collection of these poems with some newer verses with the intention to collaborate with artists for the final product. The titular poem of the collection ‘Quiet Women’ deals with the notion of female silence and the policing of a women’s language and her personal choices. For one reason or the other, this notion of ‘quietude’ had been drilled into me from an early age, and as I grew as a writer I started questioning all kinds of enforced silences, which in turn led me to critically examining all kinds of oppressive practices aimed at ‘containing’ the very agency of a woman. ‘Quiet Women’ as a book, functions for me as a bridge across a myriad number of fears; these verses are bridges across patriarchal structures, restrictive artistic ideologies, and perhaps purely existential concerns

 

On the collaboration with artists for ‘Quiet Women’

 

I would say that I have been a student of the Surrealists my whole life, as I have often been drawn to the interplay of artist mediums, in which they reveled. Surreal output has always been concerned with juxtapositions and techniques like ‘collage’ and ‘frottage’, and indulgence in hybridity. For example, Surrealist collaborations include films based on poems, in the way that the filmmaker Man Ray adapted poems by Robert Desnos to his medium. Since my poems are often initiated by visual ephemera, and my imaginative focus is on delineating these visuals (triggered of course by emotion or artistic curiosity), I found collaboration with these artists to be a natural progression. Each artist was sent the poem to illustrate without any instructions, the idea was for there to be a fluidity of connection, one derived purely by imaginative means, and for the artworks to be instinctual and primal.

 

Creative influences and the impact of Surrealism on my work

 

Each poem in ‘Quiet Women’ is a tribute to the marginalised, whether that figure be that of a woman or an artist or poet. Each poem aims to counter reality with the dream and to re-engineer the accepted image of the creative as ‘outlier’. Whether in terms of stylistic experimentation, influence or tribute, this book aims to upset normative modes of thought and glorify one’s creative faculty. The founder of Surrealism, Andre Breton, spoke much of how the imagination is seen as a threat to all dimensions of order, similarly, much of my work is concerned with consistently upending language, mass-perspective and received ideas.

 

On why I enjoy poetry as a genre and as my chosen form

 

A poet often writes a poem as a postscript to an emotion. ‘High tragedy’ or ‘wondrous joy’ need not compel the writing of verse, it could be a retained sense of childlike wonder for say an owl or the precise engineering of a pistol. I feel that I write primarily to escape a powerful inborn reticence. In that vein these words by the great James Joyce encapsulate perfectly the retaliatory bent of my mind as it stitches a sentence together; ‘poetry even when apparently most fantastic is always a revolt against artifice, a revolt, in a sense, against actuality’.

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