LIVEWIRE: LET THE GOOD VIBES ROLL

February 02, 2020

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Abrar ul Haq performs at the HSAs
Abrar ul Haq performs at the HSAs

It was a glitzy night. But then, it is imperative for an awards ceremony to deliver on the glitz in order to prove its mettle. The Hum Style Awards (HSAs), in its fourth edition, managed to do so, swirling together the usual staple ingredients — but also added in something ‘extra’ to make the experience unique.

A fair sprinkling of star power on the red carpet led to a ceremony held together by sharp hosting, energetic performances and intriguing awards announcements. Helping the show along was the fact that it ended shortly after midnight — that’s very early by local standards. Dance and song numbers and awards results are always so much more enjoyable when you’re still wide awake enough to clap to them.

But moving beyond logistics, the HSAs were lifted up by a well-planned show. The organisers, thankfully, opted for veterans to host the show rather than giving the stage over to the ‘new’ and the ‘young’. While I have nothing against entertainment’s fledgling stars, they have in the past proven to bumble many an awards ceremony, with dud jokes, awkward pauses and their inability to speak fluently in a single language, frequently interrupting the flow of conversation by mixing English with Urdu.

While the entertainment was both on and off the stage at the Hum Style Awards, the comic moments were not always the most memorable

This year, however, the very glib Adnan Siddiqui took to the stage as host, bantering effortlessly, making quips — sometimes badly chosen double-meaning ones — about the government, the film industry, fashion — you know, the usual. But Adnan’s a smooth talker and he knows how to deliver one-liners. Co-hosting with him was Aamina Sheikh, who has always been very eloquent and was a great choice for the stage, and Usman Mukhtar who held his own quite well. The only time when I felt that Usman faltered was when he roamed the audience and poked fun at the celebrity guests — now a regular awards show trope. He cracked the jokes but he couldn’t draw the rollicking laughs that, for instance, other awards show hosts — Ahmed Ali Butt and Yasir Hussain come to mind — manage to do with ease.

Comic moments, certainly, were not the most memorable at the HSAs. If I had to highlight a single performance where the evening skyrocketed to a high, it was the performance by Abrar-ul-Haq. Singing some of his most popular bhangrra hits with a dance troupe whirling behind him, Abrar had the audience singing and dancing with him. I could see Sajal Aly clapping along and Asad Siddiqui breaking into dance moves even while in his seat. Actor Mikaal Zulfiqar joined Abrar on stage on an impulse, dancing to Sanu tere naal pyar ho gaya, the song which was memorable for him because it was the first music video in which he had acted. Abrar’s charm lies in his lack of airs and graces, his undeniable talent and how he is so irrevocably a son of the soil — it was great that the HSAs celebrated him.

Tariq Amin, Zara Abid and Ayesha Omer
Tariq Amin, Zara Abid and Ayesha Omer

The other performances in the show were also very well-presented: Ahsan Khan danced up a storm, as he is fond of doing, with Sara Loren to old Pakistani hit songs; Zara Noor Abbas twirled gracefully and real-life celeb-couple Urwa Hocane and Farhan Saeed were seen in a very well-choreographed dance routine to hit film songs from 2019. There was also a rap opening act by the Young Stunners which may have been lively but was forgettable perhaps because far too many awards shows have started out with rap performances in the recent past.

Usman Mukhtar, Adnan Siddiqui and Aamina Sheikh
Usman Mukhtar, Adnan Siddiqui and Aamina Sheikh

Even the awards results were interesting, particularly because it seemed as if the winners were really not aware of the results. Often, at awards shows, it is very evident that the winners already know the results simply because they show up while the other nominees don’t. It is also a well-known fact that stars insist that they will only turn up if they know that they’ll be winning, because they don’t want to feel publicly embarrassed if they don’t. But at the HSAs, most of the nominees showed up, particularly in the fashion category, but even in the entertainment category.

Ahad Raza Mir and Bushra Ansari
Ahad Raza Mir and Bushra Ansari

Many of the results were unexpected, highlighting entertainers and fashion professionals who had hitherto never won, and leading to plenty of miffed egos. A certain performer did walk out when he didn’t win and there was plenty of grumbling going about — the entertainment isn’t always only on stage!

But here’s one question that always tends to be asked when a ceremony coins itself as being a ‘style award’: were the HSAs stylish? The stage certainly was, lit up with animation and graphics that changed with every performance. The guest list was adequately grand. Some celebrity ‘favourites’ were missing but making up for them was a diverse crew that ranged from former diplomat Dr Maleeha Lodhi and stylist Nabila to actors Farhan Tahir, Meera, Reema, Bushra Ansari, Ayesha Omar, Sonya Hussyn, Nausheen Shah, Mahnoor Baloch, Mikaal Zulfiqar, Mira Sethi and Adeel Hussain, among others. The ‘it’ celeb-couples were also there: Asim Azhar and Hania Aamir, Urwa and Farhan, Asad Siddiqui and Zara Noor Abbas, and Sajal Aly and Ahad Raza Mir — who arrived with the entire Raza Mir clan.

A considerable contingent from the fashion fraternity was present and they, particularly, did put out some great style statements. Some of the celebs dressed well too — others couldn’t resist the draw of bling and voluminous layers of tulle fashioned into desi ‘goans’. This is not the HSAs’ fault. As the common saying goes (or does it?), you can bring the star to the style awards but you can’t bring the style to the star. It sounds funny, yes, but it’s true particularly when it comes to Pakistani awards ceremonies and its fashionably ignorant celebrity set.

I’d like to add that no one proposed to anyone on air. After Yasir Hussain and Iqra Aziz’s live proposal last year, I had wondered if it was going to become an ‘awards show trend’. Thankfully not.

And yet, it was an entertaining night, a suitably glitzy one and one that didn’t drag as it moved back and forth between well-paced performances and awards announcements. Timing, may I repeat, is just so important when you’re aiming to entertain. The good times did come rolling in at the HSAs, both figuratively and literally.

Published in Dawn, ICON, February 2nd, 2020