LIVE WIRE; A HIT AND MISSES AFFAIR

Published May 19, 2024
Khaqan Shahnawaz, Mamya Shajaffer and Zarrar Khan
Khaqan Shahnawaz, Mamya Shajaffer and Zarrar Khan

Love them or hate them, awards events always give you plenty to talk about. They inevitably trigger a deluge of social media commentaries dissecting the red carpet looks, the awards results and anything else that may have occurred during the three-odd-hours-long ceremony.

Videos and images from the event filter out on to the internet in real time and, then, they get reshared alongside reviews and clickbait captions. YouTube critics, Instagram and X influencers, TikTokers and print media — everyone quickly latches on to the awards bandwagon and starts commenting.

The 6th Kashmir Hum Style Awards (HSAs), which recently took place in Karachi, certainly delivered when it came to content. But you can’t please everybody and not all the social media buzz was positive.

There was the usual debate on who should and shouldn’t have won. The celebrities who came were discussed quite as much as those who very evidently did not. The red carpet looks were zoomed into, the ghastly ones — there were many — particularly becoming focal points.

This year’s Hum Style Awards were indicative of the times that we live in and the fissures that run deep in Pakistani fashion and entertainment

A question that surfaces every awards season was asked again: where was the ‘style’ if these were style awards?

The fact is, the event organisers — the Hum TV Network in this case — can pull out the stops planning out an awards ceremony. They can make an effort collating the nominations, sending out invites and booking a venue that can hold a considerable crowd. They can plan out rehearsals with a bonanza of stars who then provide the ‘entertainment’ in between the awards announcements.

What the organisers, however, cannot do is wave a magic wand and make sure that the guests are stylishly dressed. This year’s HSAs had their highs and lows but what people wore on the red carpet has to be attributed to their own bad taste and not be blamed on the event.

At a time when sponsors and audiences gravitate particularly towards celebrities, the Hum TV Network’s efforts to invest into an event that is more focused on fashion and style has to be appreciated. However, the current landscape is not an easy one for hosting an entertainment and fashion-centric awards ceremony.

It entails battling with disproportionately bloated egos, with many of the nominees only wanting to attend if they are going to win. There is the gargantuan task of coming up with performances that aren’t too repetitive of those seen in previous awards ceremonies. And there is always the pressure of a social media controversy unfurling at any given time, possibly putting a spanner in the works by scaring off sponsors.

The current landscape is not an easy one for hosting an entertainment and fashion-centric awards ceremony. It entails battling with disproportionately bloated egos with many of the nominees only wanting to attend if they are winning. There is the gargantuan task of coming up with performances that aren’t too repetitive of those seen in pervious awards ceremonies. There is always the pressure of a social media controversy unfurling at any given time, possibly putting a spanner in the works by scaring off sponsors.

In the case of the HSAs, it also involved planning out an event during a particularly hot May in Karachi — there, the planning certainly failed, with the ACs only offering negligible respite throughout the event in the packed hall.

 Hosts Zahid Ahmed and Kiran Malik
Hosts Zahid Ahmed and Kiran Malik

It isn’t easy, yes, but the HSAs stayed afloat — somewhat — on the strength of certain key factors.

HERE’S WHAT WORKED

A small smattering of celebrities oozed glamour. Eschewing the ubiquitous lacy saris and badly-fitted multi-coloured suits, there were some who slipped effortlessly into perfectly-fitted gowns or a layered suit, accessorised with statement jewellery. They were the event’s saving grace, allowing the possibility of a Best Dressed List to be collated, while the Worst Dressed one went on and on!

There were also moments that entertained. Aima Baig, Faris Shafi and Adnan Dhool kicked off the night on a high note with a performance that was great fun. Bilal Saeed lip-synced and danced to some of his hit songs — all memorable Punjabi bhangra numbers that you’ve heard at countless shaadis before — and the energy that he brought on stage was infectious. Asim Azhar sang songs from his new, just-released album, Beymatlab,and while he has great vocals and moved and grooved like a rockstar, his act should have been cut short by at least a few minutes.

 Asim Azhar on the HSA stage
Asim Azhar on the HSA stage

The best act of the night, however, has to be credited to TV’s Gen-Z, actors Khaqan Shahnawaz, Zarrar Khan and Mamya Shajaffer. Dressed in bright pops of colour, the three danced to a medley of fast-paced numbers, never missing a beat, truly looking like they were having fun.

It was definitely one of the show’s highlights — and also, a sign that perhaps, finally — finally — awards shows will be freed from renowned celebrities fumbling and bumbling through performances that masquerade as dances. TV’s new generation is far more light-footed and they’re a treat to watch.

SHADOWS OF A GENOCIDE

But while peppy song and dance routines may be the order of the day in an awards show, we live in times when all celebrations feel half-hearted, mired in the shadow of a genocide that doesn’t show any signs of stopping. As Faris Shafi — winner of Most Stylish Performer — pointed out in his winning speech, “This is a tough time, but we’re making the best of it. Free Palestine!”

Singer Bilal Saeed wore a jacket on the red carpet by Vestido by Ubair Naeem which said, ‘Free Palestine!’ and Most Stylish Male Model winner Sauban Umais and Rising Talent winner Saboor Akram both wrapped up their on-stage speeches also with references to Palestine.

 Bilal Saeed performs to his popular hits
Bilal Saeed performs to his popular hits

The most well-conceived winner’s speech of the night was by Hania Aamir, winner of the Most Stylish TV Actress accolade. “… I’d like to take a minute to remember all of the people in Gaza,” she said, adding, “All of us here have a platform … you [can] use it to amplify our voice … I would want you to use that platform to ask for a ceasefire… #ceasefirenow should never stop trending …”

It was a heartfelt speech and much needed. Awards and events may seem like celebratory events when viewed through the lens of social media, and they are, ultimately, essential for oiling the wheels of fashion and entertainment. But even while life goes on, the atrocities in Palestine are heart-breaking and every possible platform should be utilised to agitate against them.

There were many other award winners who simply delivered the usual monologues — thanking God, their families, their friends — and as always, the reactions to the awards results were mixed. There were some deserving names that took home the trophy. And there were others that left one surprised — and stirred up a hornet’s nest on social media.

WHAT DIDN’T WORK

There was plenty of conjecture, particularly regarding the results in the entertainment categories that were largely dependent on popular votes. Many of the nominees hadn’t turned up and, stuck in this scenario, had the event been left with no choice but to award the ones who had come? Or did the jury vote outbalance the popular vote? The inner workings are not known and the debate can go on and on.

There were other glitches as well. Most awards ceremonies get a seasoned celebrity on board as a host, someone who is able to banter easily with the crowd and has a ready wit — Ahmed Ali Butt, Yasir Hussain and Tabish Hashmi have been popular choices in the past.

The HSAs, however, opted for HSY, Kiran Malik and Zahid Ahmed as hosts for the event and stuck them with a humdrum script. To their credit, all three spoke well, but there were no impromptu witticisms thrown in, no tongue-in-cheek humour, nothing that had the audience laughing and cellphone cameras recording it for views on social media.

Furthermore, one couldn’t fathom why the entire script relied predominantly on English. These are awards that will be televised on a major TV channel after all, seen by a mostly Urdu-speaking audience. Why were the hosts — and also, the stars that came on stage — constantly speaking and even making a few odd jokes in English? Why alienate your audience? And why not throw in a few pointed, hilarious Urdu jokes?

It was unfortunate. We have certainly seen better awards ceremonies before and, in the case of the HSAs particularly, the very first awards ceremony comes to mind. But those were better times.

This year’s HSAs were indicative of the times that we live in and the fissures that run deep in Pakistani fashion and entertainment. Egos and insecurities run rampant, with many refusing to turn up unless they are guaranteed of winning. There is very little industry camaraderie and not much interest in a platform that is highlighting talent.

It is true that an awards ceremony hosted by a TV channel inevitably becomes a show that the channel can televise repetitively but, at the same time, the Hum TV Network could have chosen to invest elsewhere. A concert or a special talk show could have served just as well for their weekend programme schedules.

An awards ceremony dedicated to fashion and style acknowledges efforts that often go unrecognised, particularly in the case of fashion, which has lately been relegated to the background while celebrity culture takes over. There were many who did turn up but those nominees who opted out are doing themselves a disservice. Do they want that there be no awards nights where the industry gathers together, no red carpet pageantry, no nominations to be dissected before the awards ceremony, no social media mileage following the ceremony?

Do Pakistani celebrities and members of the fashion fraternity want awards to die down altogether? This year’s HSA’s were hit and miss — much like Pakistani entertainment and fashion currently.

Published in Dawn, ICON, May 19th, 2024

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