We’ve witnessed a series of unfortunate events these past 10 days. It all started with the Coke Studio version of ‘Ko Ko Korina,’ performed by Ahad Raza Mir and Momina Mustehsan and the hell that broke loose on social media in its aftermath. Hira Mani gave a two-part interview to Samina Peerzada, which offended the moralist in everyone, but then her husband Mani decided that he needed to make headlines too and posted the unthinkable on his Instagram page. Nida Yasir’s morning show exposed the worst possible kind of programming by exploiting a little boy and his misbehavior. Mansha Pasha took it upon herself to instruct women in the entertainment industry to learn how to talk better and Sadaf Kanwal – one of the three people Mansha appeared to have addressed (she didn’t name anyone) – bit back. Khalil ur Rehman Qamar made headlines when he said that working with Urwa Hocane was “a scary experience” and Urwa eventually responded, albeit graciously. All that was a lot to digest.
This entire scenario confirmed the fact that more than managers and publicists, our celebrities need media training. In London earlier this month, I met up with BBC Asia Network journalist Haroon Rashid and having interviewed stars on both sides of the border, he spoke about the one difference that he’d noticed in every interview. Most public figures around the world knew what to say and when to stop, how to respond and how to refrain from commenting; that skill still hadn’t been introduced to Pakistan’s upcoming stars yet.
When judged on the spectrum of bad songs, the Coke Studio cover of ‘Ko Ko Korina’ wasn’t even the worst one has heard on the program. It was bad but one can come up with several songs (on CS alone) that can be categorized as worse. But we are a nation of over emotional people; we loved and appreciated Ahad Raza Mir (perhaps more than merited) in Yaqeen Ka Safar, and then we hated him with the same passion when he disappointed with his singing skills. If he was okay with the praise he should have been more accepting to the criticism too; public opinion in neither situation was balanced. The same applies to Momina. But the hysteria would have died down in 48 hours had Momina and Ahad both refrained from responding and engaging on social media, something they did. It just went on to show how two young stars – with very little work to their credit – had become so big in their heads that they couldn’t tolerate criticism of any kind. Their reaction was perhaps worse than their song.
Hira Mani’s interview with Samina Peerzada is an issue that requires an entire column to evaluate independently, so I’ll move on to her husband Mani’s Instagram post, which frankly shocked the human (let alone feminist) in us all. Putting up a picture of Tarana Burke, founder of the global Me Too movement, Mani wrote: ‘Don’t know who touched her and why.’ I’m actually at a loss of words to express how offensive this post is; not only does it reveal Mani as a complete misogynist but it also shows how stupid he is because even a misogynist would not be reckless enough to shout it out from a rooftop. Mani eventually removed the post and in an apology blamed it on his ‘PR guy’. Even if we believe him, which we don’t, I would like to know who handles Mani’s PR so that someone can be taken to task for flaunting this despicable mentality.
Morning shows and their lack of ethics, again, is a subject that merits its own column.
What caught my eye and attention was Mansha Pasha’s tweet. She wasn’t wrong when she said that the women of this industry need to learn to speak better.
“From stole my husband from ‘my best friend and cheated on my fiancee, to jab Me Too hota hai ussi waqt kiyon nahi boltein’, to quotes from Uncle Ben and your friendly neighbourhood spider-man,” she tweeted on October 22. “The women of this industry need to step up and learn to speak better.” Mansha didn’t name anyone but she was obviously referring to Hira Mani, Sadaf Kanwal and Momina Mustehsan for everything they have been saying.
Sadaf Kanwal unnecessarily decided to react and respond and it all became publicity fodder.
Mansha wasn’t wrong, but it wasn’t very wise or dignified of her to speak of her own fraternity in a derogatory manner. It’s just not something you do. Case in point is Kangana Ranaut in India; she may be right about many things she says – especially when it comes to sexual harassment and gender equalities (these are issues that must be discussed so that working conditions can improve for women) but did she really need to make personal statements about working with Shahid Kapoor; she said he had mood swings on set, treated her like she was a suicide bomber and that it was unpleasant to kiss him because of his thick moustache. All this information – revealed on an episode of Koffee with Karan – grabbed headlines.
“With all due respect, I had a good time doing the film. I’ve been working for 14 years and I’ve had no problems with anyone. I choose not to discuss my problems in print. Some discretion is welcome,” the 36-year-old actor responded in an interview with Filmfare. “When actors start engaging in this table-tennis match through interviews, which the media feeds off, the focus is then on the actors and not the film. I don’t believe in publicizing a film or myself through this kind of activity.”
I have to agree with Shahid and don’t even think it was mature of Mansha Pasha, or in another case, Khalil ur Rehman Qamar to make personal comments on co-stars. Anything said that has no purpose then ends up as gossip and media fodder.
Back to the issue at hand, it’s obvious that most celebrities with international exposure – Mahira Khan and Fawad Khan especially – know what to say, what not to say and when not to say anything, especially on social media or to the press. Most of the rest of the industry, it seems, is all too eager to be in the news, disregarding any damage they may do while putting themselves there. They are like the nouveau riche, flaunting their new found fame (often on social media) as the latter would their fortune, and not exactly sure how to handle it with dignity.
– Photography by Coke Studio photography team
‘Ko Ko Korina’ featuring Ahad Raza Mir and Momina Mustehsan