The brief: a rogue, someone who looks like a total harami but knows how to respect women.
It’s no easy task to find a model with personality; the task gets tougher when it comes to male models who honestly aren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer, or maybe that’s just an image they choose to project. Who knows? But when I began organizing shoots for Instep, I was adamant that I would find models who didn’t appear to be vacant and had some substance under their near-perfect exteriors. The project on hand was Humayun Alamgir’s men’s wear and Shahbaz Shazi was behind the camera. The challenge was to find the right face.
Originally from Chiniot, Humayun Alamgir is a designer with an unabashed love for bling. His designs are usually boisterous and over the top and his runway shows are always loud, to say the least. I wanted him to embrace his ethos and take his genes by the horns, while making it look high end and not high street. I feel that the fashion fraternity – of which I have been part of for more than two decades – is not tolerant or inclusive when it comes to over-the-top fashion. We’ve convinced ourselves that ‘less is more’ and there’s proud snobbery around the word ‘sophistication’. Ideally our culture, especially up in Punjab, should dictate a major part of fashion, and it is all about colour and life. It is noisy. In making this shoot as high fashion as it gets, it was important to get the optics right. I wanted to show the heart of our flashy culture, but with finesse. I needed the perfect model.
Turns out I wouldn’t find a model but a rapper. Osama Karamat Ali Shah. Who?
Osama’s DP, in which he looks exactly like Jason Mamoa or Khal Drogo to be exact, surfaced on the internet, and in some random moment of nothingness while surfing the net, I googled him and got some details. Osama Com Laude. Real name: Osama Karamat Ali Shah. Doctor by profession, rapper by passion. A couple of videos on YouTube. Looked like I had a match. The risk was that I had never met him and he could turn out to be NOTHING like his pictures (a couple of people even suggested he wasn’t) but I took a leap of faith. And it paid off.
We got Osama on a flight from Pindi (yes, Pindi boy to the core) to Karachi and lined up the shoot. We tossed around with the idea of getting animals on the set; a horse, dogs, maybe even a lion because a 6’3” man with a face best known for savagery should be surrounded by wild animals. The term ‘unleash the best’ played in my mind. But we decided not to offend PETA and let wild animals be. Boy, the Great Dane, with his former modeling and acting experience (he’s made a TV debut in some play) made a guest appearance and that was it.
It was an easy day. Osama, with his ease in front of the camera, took the attention he got in his stride; he was fawned over by men and women all day. The shoot turned out great and I have a gut feeling that we’ll be seeing a lot of OCL in fashion and perhaps even on TV as he’s looking at a career in acting. That said I can’t say how he’ll manage to practice medicine if he decides to act, unless someone decides to make Grey’s Anatomy here and cast him as McDrogo.