A star-studded event taking a place a year-and-a-half into a pandemic is bound to be talked about. By electing to stage a live ceremony, the Hum Style Awards (HSAs) broke through the dark clouds that the coronavirus had cast upon the entertainment and fashion industries, and dusted out the erstwhile red carpet that had long been sulking away in the shadows.
The guest list featured a heavy smattering of famous names and social media buzzed with coverage from the show. This, of course, proved to be a burden as well as a blessing for the HSAs.
As I write this review, a day following the HSAs, the show is trending on Twitter. People are talking about it incessantly and, as is the general case with social media, having a field day bashing it. The red carpet fashion faux pas are being pointed out at length, clips from the performances are being dissected, the choice of Ali Zafar as host is being criticised, and a hardcore brigade is agitating against vulgarity and calling for the awards to be banned.
The wise know, though, that all that is said on Twitter cannot be believed. The HSAs had their hit and miss moments but they were hardly the cataclysmic car crash that social media would have you believe they were.
The Hum Style Awards had their hit and miss moments but they were hardly the cataclysmic car crash that social media would have you believe they were
In retrospect, perhaps the awards’ single-most unbearable aspect was how hot it was at the venue. Lahore in the summer is a sweltering hothouse, and making things worse was the air-conditioning that was perpetually malfunctioning through the awards ceremony. Some of the worst red carpet pictures being pinpointed on social media simply look the way they do because the fashionable guests, trussed up in evening-wear, were sweating quite unfashionably.
Of course, this wasn’t the only reason why the red carpet fashion was at a low. But then again, when has the red carpet truly been very fashionable at any Pakistani event?
Woes of the Desi Red Carpet
The core issue bringing down the red carpet glamour was the obsession local celebrities have with ‘goans’, i.e., dresses stitched up by local designers meant to look like gowns a la the Oscars, but which usually just look like a shimmery desi kameez gone wrong.
In the annals of local red carpet history, multitudes of ‘worst dressed’ lists are slotted with celebrities who spend their days in a basic shalwar kameez but, when it comes to a major event, choose to dabble with an Anglicised dress that they are unable to carry. The fact that these lists — often replete with snide, mean comments — have done nothing to erode the celebrity romance with ‘goans’ hints at the depressing notion that the desi red carpet will always nosedive, burdened by the cumbersome weight of bling-infested, puffed up, ghastly dresses.
There is nothing that any event organiser can do about this — they can’t exactly shake celebrities by the shoulders and point them in the direction of a savvy statement coat or a fusion sari that would suit them better. The HSAs, therefore, featured a deluge of bad sartorial choices and a very small selection of standout statements.
Model Mehreen Syed, for one, was the best dressed in a lacy pearl white sari by Faraz Manan which dove towards a risqué backless blouse worked with thread and cutwork. Models Mushk Kaleem and Maha Tahirani, with their petite frames, looked glamorous in gowns by Shamsha Hashwani and Sana Safinaz respectively. Actresses Amar Khan and Urwa Hocane looked Hollywood-esque in gowns by Zaheer Abbas, one of the very few designers who knows how to turn his hand to a Western silhouette.
Most of the men opted for sedate suits, with the exception of designer Hussain Rehar in his black and gold blazer and Sana Safinaz’s Mohsin Ali, working wonders with all-white and lace. Ali Xeeshan, with his love for theatrics, came dressed as a king — “I always wear a crown but this time it’s just visible,” he quipped — while Fahad Hussayn wore a huge face mask embellished with bones.
Adnan Siddiqui and Aijazz Aslam were hilarious on stage when they announced Emraan Rajput as Best Menswear Designer, and proceeded to guide him with his thank you speech. Bilal Ashraf thanked his parents for his ‘dimples’ when he won the award for Most Stylish Actor in Film. Famous faces, thronged by their fans, took selfies and joked about. Many in the audience stayed on till the very end of the show, despite the heat — for one, the show wrapped up before midnight, so the audience hadn’t been entirely drained out.
The awards’ many social media critics posted images of the two of them and wrote captions along the lines of ‘Is this style?’ It was a strange crib — and a forced one — considering that both designers are well known for their crazy, ostentatious statements. They are, essentially, creatures of fashion who enjoy playing up to the spotlight with their eccentricities. They can hardly be considered the benchmarks for style on a red carpet — but they do make it fun.
Stage Style and Those Performances
What did bring down the style quotient, though, were the costumes on stage. The background dancers’ clothes were often uninspiring. It is a well-known fact that on-stage dancing troupes wear flamboyant colors which add to the festivity on TV but, this time, it seemed as if the costumes were a mundane mish-mash. Aima Baig’s drab, ill-fitted clothes were also glaringly obvious. Her performance too was humdrum with her just occasionally breaking out into a few moves. Aima looked bored, and that just made the audience — perspiring profusely by now — just as bored. The clothes simply made it worse.
There were other performances that made the show worth its while, however. The opening act, featuring wunderkind singer/ composer Abdullah Siddiqui and Risham Faiz Bhutta was youthful and very catchy; dancers somersaulting in the air and neon lights flashing on SMD screens made for a great backdrop. Resham and HSY, two very theatrical individuals even in real life, were filmy to the hilt in their dances to the tune of Punjabi film numbers. Ali Zafar, who was also the host for the ceremony, was in his element, dancing to some of his recent hit songs. Lithe and high on energy, Ali is a star on stage, moving and grooving to the music and even making up for the fumbles of his left-footed co-dancer Alizeh Shah.
Ali Zafar and the Hosting Tryst
Even as a host, Ali Zafar was a highlight. He quipped, he bantered with the audience and he covered up glitches smoothly. Ali has hosted awards shows many times before, but this was his first time as the frontman to a ceremony following his legal battle with singer Meesha Shafi. You could tell that he’d missed the stage with the way he beamed constantly and broke into unplugged singing now and again.
In one particular segment, Ali and his co-host Urwa Hocane stepped into the audience, purposefully seeking out actors who would sing a song for them. They were unable to find anyone — an error that they could have avoided had they selected people from the audience from before, preparing them for a singalong. Nevertheless, Ali covered up for it well, barely batting an eyelid as he moved the show along.
The times that Ali did err was when he made small references to the court case in which he has been battling it out with Meesha Shafi. He did so in the form of self-deprecating jokes: “It’s been a long time since I have gotten a show,” he said at one instance. At another point, Urwa wisecracked that he had been the ‘talk of the town’ often enough.
These jokes should have been avoided. The Ali Zafar-Meesha Shafi battle is a legal matter that has to be sorted out by the courts and hinges on serious issues. Hum Network opted to take Ali on board probably because he has sung some of their most popular recent OSTs and his experience on stage acts as an advantage. But Ali himself certainly needs to stop hinting at the court case, even in vague ways. It’s no joking matter.
Awards – And Then Some
Beyond the performances, the awards results brought some major surprises as well. Some very unusual suspects were recognised and it’s led to online debates and rants, an indication that the HSAs are growing in clout.
Some awards, however, that should have been avoided were two categories especially devised to appease a sponsor. The ‘Super Mom’ award, given to actress Momal Sheikh, and the ‘Super Parents’ trophy, set aside for Fahad Mirza and Sarwat Gillani, seemed completely unnecessary.
It is understandable that sponsors are hard to find in these Covid-struck economically difficult times, but the HSAs need to figure out how to orchestrate brand placement in more subtle ways. Promotional awards that have nothing to do with the ceremony’s ‘style’ mandate simply bring down the HSAs’ overall credibility.
A Case of Sour Grapes?
There was much more to the ceremony. Adnan Siddiqui and Aijazz Aslam were hilarious on stage when they announced Emraan Rajput as Best Menswear Designer, and proceeded to guide him with his thank you speech. Bilal Ashraf thanked his parents for his ‘dimples’ when he won the award for Most Stylish Actor in Film. Famous faces, thronged by their fans, took selfies and joked about. Many in the audience stayed on till the very end of the show, despite the heat — for one, the show wrapped up before midnight, so the audience hadn’t been entirely drained out.
But more than anything else, the HSAs were a reminder of the events that would take place so frequently in pre-Covid times. Fused with laughter, wins and losses and a bit of controversy, events like these had always brought the country’s entertainment and fashion industries together, in a single hall, for a single night. This audience had missed it and so they sat on and cheered.
And while it may have had its share of hits and misses, the event was not all bad. It certainly doesn’t deserve the all-out bashing that it has been getting on social media. In many cases, the Twitter backlash seems to be a case of sour grapes, triggered off by industry players and media that wasn’t invited and then snowballing with the masses joining in, raising hell against ‘vulgarity’, ‘lack of entertainment’, the host, anything, everything.
It wasn’t exactly the best awards show but there have been red carpets before that have been just as slipshod and, also, risque. Performances in past shows have also been lacklustre. But all this — the good, the bad, the ugly — had been missing for more than a year now. The HSAs brought it all back.
With cinemas reopening and more people getting vaccinated, the industry may soon be able to return to its grandiose launches, shows and ceremonies. The HSAs offered this hope. How can that not be appreciated?
Published in Dawn, ICON, July 11th, 2021