Isn’t it a bit too early for big-budget, self-congratulatory award shows? I know the Lux Style Awards have been around for more than a decade, so this column is more than slightly late. I most humbly apologise for that, but I think in the middle of the 00s it was just Frieha Altaf watching her own award show. I don’t remember seeing the kind of news coverage it’s getting now.

To illustrate where the film industry was in that era: in 2006, the Lux Style Award for best film went to Kyun Tum Se Itna Pyar Hai, directed by Pashto stalwart Ajab Gul and starring the Pakistani Arbaz Khan, his double chin and Veena Malik.

In 2007, the best film winner Pehla Pehla Pyar was directed by, wait for it, Mubasher Luqman. It was a huge box office flop, and threatened to shut down our fledgling film industry once and for all. The fact that it couldn’t, is probably why Luqman was given the award, out of sheer relief.

To be fair, among its competition were the likes of Godfather, a film produced by the legendary Aslam Bhatti — once married to my old crush and model Zainab Qayyum. He wanted a film made on his own life as a self-styled don in Dubai, was disappointed with the result and then went on to write, direct and star in his own attempt, an amazingly bad film called Sultanat.


####To illustrate where the film industry was in that era: in 2006, the Lux Style Award for best film went to Kyun Tum Se Itna Pyar Hai, directed by Pashto stalwart Ajab Gul and starring the Pakistani Arbaz Khan, his double chin and Veena Malik.In 2007, the best film winner Pehla Pehla Pyar was directed by, wait for it, Mubasher Luqman. It was a huge box office flop, and threatened to shut down our fledgling film industry once and for all. The fact that it couldn’t, is probably why Luqman was given the award, out of sheer relief.

Godfather had the real Arbaaz Khan — Salman Khan’s brother — and Vinod Khanna opposite Meera and Ajab Gul again. It reads like a cast list of famous actors who had probably racked up gambling debts or something. Oh, and this award ceremony was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

No idea why.

Of course, Pakistani cinema has come a long way from those dark days. Shoaib Mansoor started a mini-revival with Khuda Ke Liye and Bol but the bigger revival came when Bollywood started screening in newly made multiplexes and brought crowds back to the cinema. But there is a long way to go still.

The nominees listed in the just concluded 16th Lux Style Awards were basically all the films released in the one-year period. Sanam Saeed, fine actress as she is, was nominated for both best actress and best supporting actress. Actor In Law and Ho Mann Jahaan were nominated in practically every category.

Again, this is not to say that these were bad films, but the glitz and glamour of the awards seemed to outweigh the artistic talent on display. Surely Unilever could serve the film industry of Pakistan better by diverting some of this gigantic red carpet budget to actual film production. Something like the Academy for African Filmmakers that they fund.

On the television side, by all accounts the 5th HUM Awards were a dour affair. Firstly, the entire concept of a television channel decorating its own drama serials with laurels is, well, like Nawaz Sharif giving Shahbaz Sharif a ‘Chief Minister of the Year’ award. Sure, HUM TV has a monopoly on drama serials primarily through the quality of them, but I don’t see the point in a self-congratulatory red carpet.

These industries need to grow. They need money pouring in from all directions, to regularly start producing indie films, period films, art-house movies, and not just commercial paisa vasool. There is nothing wrong with paisa vasool, indeed one ought to get one’s money’s worth for sure. But what I’m saying is that for an award show to become credible, and be taken seriously, it needs to have all sorts of movies to choose from. Similarly HUM TV needs competition not coronation.

The hosts are also the nominees and winners and losers. It’s too small and incestuous a circle. Which is probably why actor-writer Yasir Hussain didn’t think of putting a filter on his mouth; it’s the same people he knows and has worked with inside and out, so he doesn’t really feel the conscientiousness to be politically correct, or at least not outright offensive.

These things will change with time of course, if the industry keeps growing at the promising rate it has been. But maybe the glitz and the glamour could have been reserved for that future time as well. Because it all feels unwarranted for now. With Saba Qamar boycotting this year’s Lux Style Awards that was virtually a quarter of the ladies’ nominations gone. And I still don’t understand why Ali Zafar was dressed like the Ainak Wala Jin and repeatedly pretend-killing Maya Ali.

But I guess that’s what happens when you have more money than talent on display.

Published in Dawn, EOS, May 7th, 2017

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