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Spotlight: The Hum Network eyes style

November 06, 2016

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The trippy Broadway-ish opening act with Meesha Shafi, Umair Jaswal and Ahmed Ali singing Welcome to the First Hum Style Awards
The trippy Broadway-ish opening act with Meesha Shafi, Umair Jaswal and Ahmed Ali singing Welcome to the First Hum Style Awards

Awards ceremonies follow a familiar terrain; a grand stage ablaze with lights, celebrities galore, song, dance, designer-wear and the giving out of golden statuettes. More than anything else, awards are formulaic variety shows of sorts, calculated to enamour the TV audience for whom they are ultimately filmed. A whole lot of razzle dazzle but not something that hasn’t been seen before.

And so, when the Hum Network decided to set its eyes on style by launching the QMobile Hum Style Awards (QHSA), one wondered if yet another awards show was even necessary, especially another one that purports to celebrate ‘style’ over substance.

Sultana Siddiqui, President of Hum Network, explained, “Having more awards ceremonies will only increase competition and improve standards. We want to set a precedent by presenting fair results, encouraging new talent and raising the bar for stage performances.”

Obviously, the network also hopes that the show will raise viewership for them when aired over weekends and festive occasions. This obviously led to the commentary prior to the show that the QHSA were going to be just another TV ‘special’, organised by a powerful network, where their particular favourites would be recognised. After all, Sultana Siddiqui had always referred to her long-established drama-centric Hum Awards as ‘morale-building’ exercises where most of the accolades were given to her own productions.


Is yet another awards show really necessary, especially one that purports to celebrate ‘style’ over substance?


The QHSA were aware of this critique, it seems, for the nominees — and winners — were varied, extending beyond the ‘Hum family.’ They also probably knew that, in order to get attention, they needed to play a newer tune. Perhaps for this reason, one saw them visibly making an effort to bring forward newer talent.

Rahat Fateh Ali Khan: a humdrum performance
Rahat Fateh Ali Khan: a humdrum performance

Nida Butt, hitherto music director of some very funky stage musicals, took on the mantle of Creative Director of such a show for the first time. Actor Ahmed Ali tried his hand at hosting and the usual milieu of ‘funny’ hosts — Ahmed Ali Butt and the Four Man Show come to mind — were replaced by internet comedian ZaidAliT. Flown in expressly from Canada for the show, Zaid built hype, represented QHSA digitally and featured in a short on-stage parody act. There were some very interesting nominations, a new category — Best Fashion Jewellery — and contenders actually didn’t know whether they were going to win. In an industry where results inevitably get ‘leaked’, this was a rarity. The on-stage efforts worked sometimes but at other times, they didn’t.

Red carpet glam … and then some

The red carpet, thankfully, was more or less devoid of blingy variations of shaadi-wear. Designer Fahad Hussayn was enlisted as stylist and it worked. Yes, the guests mostly wore anglicized gowns but at least they looked stylish and the designer-wear was diverse. There was, though, a predilection amongst the ladies for slicked back beachy hair and the ones that went heavy on the gel ended up with hair that looked plain oily.

Internet comedian ZaidAliT
Internet comedian ZaidAliT

More significantly, as is the case at most of Hum’s events, celebrity attendance was at a high. The network’s worked with possibly every star in the country and they all came. So did the design fraternity with even generally reclusive veterans such as Bunto Kazmi and Rizwan Beyg making an appearance.

The performances that worked and didn’t

The performances were fewer than at the average awards show and therefore, were slicker and kept the audience interested: the trippy Broadway-ish opening act with Meesha Shafi, Umair Jaswal and Ahmed Ali singing Welcome to the First Hum Style Awards; HSY, Anoushey Ashraf, Sonya Hussain and Zhalay Sarhadi dancing to film hits of yore; Ali Zafar characteristically nailing the finale alongside Sohai Ali Abro; and Zahid Ahmed dancing with Saba Qamar.

Mahira Khan delivered an emotional acceptance speech where she thanked her country
Mahira Khan delivered an emotional acceptance speech where she thanked her country

Saba may not be the best dancer but she was a trooper nonetheless, continuing even when her lehnga came off due to a wardrobe malfunction (for the curious, she was wearing pants underneath). Snappy musical numbers were chosen for the performances and understandably — given the current atmosphere — there was a complete absence of Indian film music.

The one relatively humdrum performance was by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. The singer came on stage and proceeded to stand alone and lip-sync to some of his latest non-Bollywood hits — including his song for Hum Films’ Bin Roye, of course.

Falling flat

HSY and Anoushey Ashraf dancing to film hits of yore
HSY and Anoushey Ashraf dancing to film hits of yore

On the positive side, nobody forgot lines. But while the hosts may not have deviated from the script, some of the jokes fell absolutely flat. A good awards show requires frequent doses of wit and efforts were certainly made: jibes at India and Humayun Saeed’s age, for instance. But a certain tongue-in-cheek repartee is needed to deliver jokes — one remembers Yasir Hussain’s seemingly impromptu repartee at the last Lux Style Awards.

Sadly, the four QHSA hosts — Ahmed Ali, Ayesha Omar, Adnan Malik and Aaminah Sheikh — floundered through the one-liners. Even the infamous ZaidAliT presented a skit that was school room humour at best. And another blunder was delivered by Ayesha Omar, who, while looking at a selfie taken with Hamza Ali Abbasi, quipped that she looked ‘skinny enough to be an Ethiopian.’ We sense the producers editing away!

Patriotic passion

Shahid Afridi being presented the Most Stylish Sportsman award by Wasim and Shaniera Akram
Shahid Afridi being presented the Most Stylish Sportsman award by Wasim and Shaniera Akram

The acceptance speeches and general commentaries demonstrated a post-Uri patriotic verve. Ali Zafar spoke about his always being proud of being a Pakistani and Mahira Khan delivered an emotional acceptance speech where she thanked her country. But the one actor who one would have liked to see speaking on the topic — Fawad Khan — was visibly missing. Meanwhile, a not-very-savvy Shahid Afridi — unfathomably awarded Most Stylish Sportsman — was asked his opinion of the show to which he said, “It doesn’t feel like I am in Pakistan.” Obviously, he meant that the show had an international feel but it didn’t sound quite right. One wonders if Lala’s answers will get cut out in the televised show.

And what about the awards?

Ali Zafar characteristically nailed the finale act
Ali Zafar characteristically nailed the finale act

Were the awards fair? There were certainly some unconventional wins, hinting at a lack of bias: the low-profile Amber Sami winning the award for Best Fashion Jewellery and Shahbaz Shazi walking away with the Best Fashion Photographer statuette instead of the strong contender Abdullah Haris. But Humayun Saeed hardly qualifies as Most Stylish Actor — Film, and Wasim Akram is hardly our biggest Style Icon. Slick public relationing was probably at work here.

One hopes that, over time, the credibility of the accolades takes precedence over ephemeral style. For a first try, good enough though.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, November 6th, 2016