In a country where no one feels safe, a place where children are blown up to pieces in their schools, where mothers are forced to kill children because they can’t watch their own babies starve to death, it is rare, if not impossible, to find an inclusive moment where we celebrate our cultural landscape without remorse and guilt for not doing enough.
This is where the grandiose Lux Style Awards come in and makes us remember that the future can still be bold, bright and beautiful. For one night and one night only, we are able to surpass the grief that marks our daily lives as the stage is set and the stars align and we bask in the glory of our rich, cultural heritage.
It is a show made in Pakistan, by Pakistan and is for Pakistan. In a fourteen-year run, this has been and continues to be the greatest USP of the LSAs.
They say the multicultural Lux Style Awards, now in its 14th year, is Pakistan’s own version of the Oscars and the Filmfares. And every year, when the Lux Style Awards juggernaut begins – first with jury meetings and nominations, followed by controversies, conspiracy theories and severe criticism for not being cohesive enough – it makes us come together in its own unique manner.
To take music, cinema, fashion and television together and pack it all up in one action-packed show is certainly a worthy effort. And given the fact that award ceremonies continue to appear and disappear in abysmal fashion, or are restrictive because of their association to one media entity or another, it is the consistency of staying alive, year after year, that makes the show still relevant and irreverent.
The past few years have seen the show go through a transition but this year the show was as grand and brought to mind the flair that was seen years ago when LSAs flew off to Malaysia.
In an interview with Instep just days before the actual award ceremony, Lux Style Awards producer Frieha Altaf revealed that the show would step out of the past and look towards the future. Luckily for all of us on the ground, Frieha Altaf, Fareshteh Aslam and their entire team lived up to that promise. You have to love it yourself in order to pull it off and this team certainly does.
“Baby, in our wildest moments, we could be the greatest”
The show, after being reduced to a Downton Abbey style tea-party last year, was resurrected this year with wit, courage, and a vision that balanced the past, the present and the future with grace and spectacular style.
Amjad Sabri’s opened the show with the enduring ‘Tajdar-e-Haram’ and fed our depleted souls with spiritual solace. Imagine the 600-year-old tradition that is a qawwali on a stage that also features the likes of the country’s most popular artists like Ali Zafar, the King of moralism Hamza Ali Abbasi, Humayun Saeed and so many others. It was the recognition that classical music needed and was rightly given. The sad part, of course, was that there were a handful of people who continued to stand and mingle instead of sitting on their seats. When an artist is onstage, we have to learn to respect them and the only way to do it is by listening to them, not fighting over better seating arrangements.
Amjad Sabri set the mood for a night but that was just the beginning. The two actors who have been splattered across billboards, Fawad Khan and the gorgeous Mahira Khan, arrived onstage in a red convertible and, in that moment, the certainty that the show will recognize the young blood was achieved.
It was Fawad Khan’s first time as a host while Mahira was hosting the show for the second time. Together, they looked smashing. Fawad is a good-looking guy and Mahira is stunning and their collective beauty will pull viewers whenever this show airs. That said, their hosting was a mixed bag. In fact, just minutes after the two came onto the podium, some awkward silence followed as Fawad walked towards the backstage area, muttering quite audibly, “what the f.”
No, he didn’t actually use abusive language and returned but his attitude throughout the show bordered on rudeness. Perhaps he was feeling too self-conscious. It certainly isn’t easy to host a ceremony that features industry giants in the front row, watching you but in an eerie reminder of the past, the singer-turned-actor channeled a combination of arrogance and faux pas that resembled Pakistan’s greatest patriot, Shaan Shahid, circa 2008. Humility, it seems, is not Fawad’s strong suit… yet.
On the other hand, his co-host for the night, Mahira Khan, who looked equally beautiful, just didn’t look at ease. However, for the people of Pakistan, both Fawad and Mahira are cultural icons and in their presence, the show found stars of the present and the future.
“Rain on, a thunder sky”
Outside of the awkward hosting, there were those who had the audience cheering and completely surprised so many of us. Yasir Hussain tops the list. He not only made jokes that were on-point but managed to do so without being offensive. It was his self-deprecating deliverance that made the magic.
Under the guise of reading film headlines, Yasir went on a spin that didn’t spare anyone.
“The director of the relatively new film, Karachi Se Lahore, Wajahat Rauf, by including Balochistan in the midst of Karachi Se Lahore stunned the world’s geography. A job offer from Google Maps is coming.”
“Oscar director, sorry ad filmmaker Jami’s film (Moor) is nominated for the Oscar. Before getting a nomination, Jami refused to take the award. He says give an Oscar to 021, then will take on for Moor. After all, Moor is Ma. In this, he has full support from Shaan.”
“Sania Saeed has refused to work in projects after Manto. She says when my Manto died, what is the need to work. Naya kapray pehan ka jao kahan or baal banao kis kay liye.”
From Adnan Malik’s acting stint to 021 to Jailabee’s appearance and disappearance from cinema screens to Dekh Magar Pyaar Se’s excessive product placement and rickshaws to Wrong No and Danish Taimoor, he was on a roll and the audience, which comprised several personalities who were the crux of his jokes, also took his humour in stride. Well done.
“We come together every time”
A huge part of an award ceremony is the performances. Think of the Grammys and the Bob Marley tribute starring Bruno Mars, Sting and Rihanna still comes to mind. Amy Winehouse, Adele, and The Wallflowers – the great performances always stay with you long after the night is over.
This year’s show was as much about celebrating the new as it was about honoring the past. In the same vein was the medley of film songs from our current crops of films. Ayesha Omar from Karachi Se Lahore danced as did Urwa Hocane from Na Maloom Afraad, Amna Ilyas on her Dekh Magar Pyaar Se tune, ‘Kala Doriya’ and finally, Ahmed Ali Butt rapped and danced on the thumping title track of Jawani Phir Nahi Ani.
Of the four, it was Amna Ilyas followed by Ahmed Ali Butt who got the moves and the groove just right. Watching their performance, it became clear that these are the stars of tomorrow. And all of them deserve applause for having the courage to take on such a daunting challenge. Dancing in a film on a closed set is not the same as dancing in front of the whole entertainment, fashion and cinematic world.
Ali Zafar’s ‘Rockstar Romeo’ avatar on stage was the performance of the night. Ali Zafar has so much charisma, and energy and most of all; he is incredibly comfortable in such star-studded environment. In his interaction with the hosts, and during his colorful, breathtaking performance, Ali stole the show.
On the other hand, the tribute to Ali Zafar featuring four of music’s coolest names – Sara Haider, Jimmy Khan, Uzair Jaswal and Farhan Saeed became a bit tedious towards the end. Each of the four took to stage and sang an Ali Zafar sing, which was perfectly fair. But the Q&A session that followed felt a bit overdone.
The final performance worth mentioning belongs to Moammar Rana and Resham. They have chemistry and flair to a degree that they stole the show from the rest of the Lollywood performances that passed by like a blur. It seems there’s room for improvement as actors and models continue to learn the true art of performance in the coming years ahead or so we hope.
Hit and Run
Speaking of music, there were more than a few transgressions that made for objectionable moments. For instance, when Deepak Perwani and Nadia Hussain arrived onstage to give the award for best music video and looked at the show-reel featuring the nominated videos, they openly admitted to not having seen many of these videos. It is a tragedy that music channels don’t exist anymore but the music is still being made, and this faux pas made it clear that music is still fighting for visibility in this country.
Zoe Viccaji won the coveted Album of the Year trophy ahead of the Mekaal Hasan Band and Abbas Ali Khan. During her acceptance speech, Zoe said that music albums are a dying art. It is true for the mainstream but the story doesn’t end there.
There are several indie artists who would disagree with this statement. In fact, the victory of Sara Haider, who won in the category of Best Emerging Talent in Music, and the nomination of one Shajie Hasan, reflects the victory and glory of an independent music industry that has gone neglected for far too long. When Sara Haider received her nod, she spoke eloquently and thanked everyone, from Nida Butt to all the musicians who worked with her. Sara Haider’s existence and presence is a great reminder to all that music should never, ever be discounted, which often happens.
In terms of cinematic presence, Na Maloom Afraad sweeped the ceremony, which was hardly surprising. And it was lovely to see these new faces on a platform that has managed to survive after all this time. The speeches were average but give it time, they will get better at it as time goes by.
Amidst all the young, new and the beautiful, there were industry stalwarts like Rubina Ashraf, Saba Hamid and Bushra Ansari who cheered for the young and that is how Pakistan will move forward – in unison and harmony.
The iconic Nadeem Baig gave writer-director Syed Noor the Lifetime Achievement Award, both of whom received a standing ovation. Syed Noor, in turn spoke about the legendary Noor Jehan, Waheed Murad and a promise that he will adapt himself for the new-age cinema.
In the end, the Lux Style Awards managed a balance that is rarely seen. The show is a promise that though the past is glorious and will be cherished, it is time to move on and recognize the young and the restless. And in that lies the real success of the show. All objections overruled.
All LSA photography by Faisal Farooqui and the team at Dragonfly