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A sky full of stars

In its 15th edition, the Lux Style Awards acknowledge and recognize the stars of tomorrow and pay a rich tribute to the late Amjad Sabri

A sky full of stars
Positive vibes: Ali Zafar opened proceedings with a tongue-in-cheek number and danced to it; played charming host despite some technical glitches, led the Amjad Sabri tribute from the front and picked up the trophy for Song of the Year for his Coke Studio hit, Rockstar Romeo.

instep overview

The 15th edition of the Lux Style Awards – the longest running award ceremony in Pakistan that recognizes and rewards excellence in the fields of music, fashion, cinema and television – made its annual appearance (in Karachi) last weekend and made for a hugely entertaining, evocative evening despite a massive delayed start, technical glitches and some glaring loopholes.

A spectacular, one-of-a-kind celebration of talent, the Lux Style Awards, having recognized years ago that the biggest weapon in their arsenal is their inherently Pakistani content, continued a showcase that contained barrels of laughter, plenty of poignant moments, star-fueled performances, some beautiful acceptance speeches and most of all, a night filled with a display of camaraderie between some of Pakistan’ biggest stars that is often rare and hard to find elsewhere. Their second strength is being an autonomous platform; while most award shows in Pakistan are media-channel related and thus favour their own shows and films, the LSAs are independent and unbiased.

Former EP band-mates, Fawad Khan and Ahmed Ali Butt brought the funny full steam ahead.

Former EP band-mates, Fawad Khan and Ahmed Ali Butt brought the funny full steam ahead.

The indisputable truth is that as artists from music, film, cinema and fashion took center-stage as hosts, presenters and performers, the LSAs served as a clean mirror to all the industries and what they have accomplished in a reality that is drenched in blood and violence.

Cynics argue over the show’s contribution to entertainment, to music, to cinema but that’s a naïve approach. Award shows in Pakistan don’t have a long shelf life and have a particularly selective, jarringly exclusive manner of recognizing excellence, which also means that the consistency and contribution of the LSAs cannot be diminished.

Though not without flaws, gaffes and some glaring technical glitches that were persistent throughout this long night, the show this year was not just a splendid blend of the past and the present but an acknowledgment that though the journey has been tough, controversial and not without problems, it has survived and evolved and is looking to restore lost glory.

Having peaked in 2007 with a show in Malaysia that is often described as the best in all the years, the 2016 edition offered plenty of moments that will go a long way in redeeming the years when the LSAs were reduced to a tea-party and a fashion shoot.

Highlights: new-age stars take control

Our story begins with the sumptuous red carpet that was replete with stars – the quartet from Khumariyaan who were thrilled to represent the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Mai Dhai, Atiqa Odho, Hamza Ali Abbasi, Noori brothers Ali Noor and Ali Hamza (with their spouses) and many more – who poured in from all across the country and continued to make their way across for several hours before the show began.

One found plenty of first-time nominees roaming the halls, wondering why the show still hadn’t started despite being hours into the designated time period. But more on tardiness later.

With the shadow of last year’s opening performer, the late Amjad Sabri looming in the background (who was acknowledged with a performance and a posthumous award), the proceedings began on a high note as one Ali Zafar took center-stage.

Though pictures of rehearsals found their way across social media platforms days before the show and many were aware that Zafar had prepared a song on the occasion of LSA’s 15 years, his opening act had such electric energy that it can’t be articulated in words in a way that does it justice.

Written, composed and sung by Zafar, the playful number saw Zafar, who can sing, dance and charm with ease, poking fun at social media culture, this age of selfies, competitiveness in movie stars and much more before concluding on a note of celebration and oneness.

Zafar has great stage presence and brought fantastic energy to proceedings despite several technical glitches during his stint as host.

If Zafar opened with style, Yasir Hussain took it to the next level as he reprised his ‘Moti’ avatar from Karachi Se Lahore once more and had the audience cracking up non-stop. Walking offstage to the front-row with Zafar, he spared no one and had a punch line for everyone – from Mahira Khan and Deepak Perwani to Hamza Ali Abbasi and Fakhr-e-Alam – and did so in a fashion that hardly anyone found it offensive.

You have to remember that with a show like the LSAs, there are plenty of segments and performances that are spaced out between the award presentation and speeches. And the balance, though not as slick and crisp as last year, gave plenty of new-age stars a chance to not only shine and sizzle but take ownership of the LSA platform.

Those who did manage this balancing act of sorts were new-age stars like Mahira Khan, Fawad Khan, Shehryar Munawar, Sohai Ali Abro and Farhan Saeed who stood out among all other performers.

Khan, who made her debut as a first-time performer at the glorious LSA stage, having lost all of that hesitation that plagued her LSA 2015 appearance when she appeared alongside Fawad Khan, looked comfortable and shone brightly as she danced to a medley of songs from her own films. Point to note: music from Pakistani films. At one point, Khan went off-stage and pulled her Bin Roye co-star Humayun Saeed onstage and he sportingly danced along to the rhythm and let the moment spark. Though Khan also shook a leg alongside NMA star Mohsin Abbas, it was her finale with Ho Mann Jahan star Shehryar Munawar on Asrar Shah’s ‘Shakar Wandaan’ that made it the performance of the night.

While Mahira Khan shone, her Humsafar co-star Fawad Khan also made a spectacular appearance, hours into the late night.

Having lost the arrogance that clouded his LSA appearance last year, Fawad Khan channeled his inner comic and created hilarious ruckus in a pre-recorded skit that had been penned by Vasay Chaudhry and had everyone grinning. Alongside old EP band mate Ahmed Ali Butt, Khan dressed up as an effeminate hairstylist and brought the funny full steam ahead.

The skit also proves that Khan has a funny bone and is not afraid to experiment with it. When the LSA finally make it to the airwaves, this is one segment that will have even the harshest of viewer chuckling. With whacked out hairdos and perfect timing, both actors reminded us just how far they’ve come from the days of their first major success, Jutt and Bond.

Though it was Mahira Khan’s first live choreographed performance, she nailed it with grace and charm. Joined by Mohsin Abbas and later on by Shehryar Munawar, Khan pulled off a memorable performance and endeared herself to fans further with her gracious acceptance speeches.

Though it was Mahira Khan’s first live choreographed performance, she nailed it with grace and charm. Joined by Mohsin Abbas and later on by Shehryar Munawar, Khan pulled off a memorable performance and endeared herself to fans further with her gracious acceptance speeches.

I should also add that outside of the performances, Fawad Khan, Ali Zafar, Humayun Saeed and Hamza Ali Abbasi – all four superstars of Pakistani showbiz world, had this bro-mance, camaraderie going on and patted each other on the back for their various achievements which was nice to see. Think back to 2008 when Shan Shahid and Iman Ali could barely stand to look at each other at the LSA platform and you realise that the show and the stars it awards are evolving and moving in the right direction.

Moving on, another person who made a mark was Sohai Abro. Though not as effective as Mahira Khan, Abro held a certain charm as she danced to the thumping sound of Moor’s ‘Eva’. As an energetic Abro pulled in ‘Eva’ singer Meesha Shafi, who was seated in the front aisles, for a brief, playful, dance-y moment, she stood out as a performer who held enormous potential and promise. Her dances on songs from Fawad Khan’s films, Kapoor & Sons and Khoobsurat, on the other hand, fell flat.

The Amjad Sabri tribute, poignant and moving, involved a special song that had been composed by Shuja Haider and was sung by Ali Zafar, Ali Sethi and Quratulain Balouch. The late qawwal’s family members were invited onstage and spoke their truth as other industry stalwarts also joined in.

The Amjad Sabri tribute, poignant and moving, involved a special song that had been composed by Shuja Haider and was sung by Ali Zafar, Ali Sethi and Quratulain Balouch. The late qawwal’s family members were invited onstage and spoke their truth as other industry stalwarts also joined in.

Former Jal front-man Farhan Saeed also came into his own during LSA 2016. Alongside his off-screen partner Urwa Hocane, Saeed danced to the music of Manto, Diyar-e-Dil and Adil Omar and Talal Qureshi’s whacky and addictive tune, ‘Nighat & Paras’ and like Sohai Abro, Saeed and Hocane offered promise and potential.

Moving away from performances and comedy segments, the awards section of the night saw speeches that were drenched in honesty and a level of sobriety that is perhaps a reflection of the jaded reality that surrounds us.

For instance, actor Faisal Qureshi, having won an award for Best Actor for his work in the serial Rang Lagga dedicated his trophy to the plight of Kashmiris, while Mahira Khan, who picked up a total of three awards, dedicated one win to her father in an endearing speech while took the occasion of her second trophy win to reflect on the terrible and terrifying times we live in. There was no condemnation in Khan’s words but a message of love and peace and one that is certainly worth exploration in these times of hate, chaos and fear. Her third trophy was for Best Dressed on the LSA red carpet.

Similarly, Nilofer Shahid, who picked a Lifetime Achievement Award for her contribution to the world of fashion design dedicated her victory to one of the greatest humanitarian who ever lived, the one and only Abdul Sattar Edhi, who passed away earlier this year.

Three of Pakistan’s most dynamic singers – Zeb Bangash, Meesha Shafi and Quratulain Balouch – on different occasions came onstage and belted out some verses from their respective repertoire without the help of any music instruments and made you wonder and wish for an age where these women could shine in concerts more frequently across cities without the shadow of security threats.

Special mention:The Amjad Sabri tribute

Over the years, the Lux Style Awards have paid tribute to several notable names such as Reshma, Naheed Akhtar, Nazia Hassan, Mehnaz, Runa Laila, Noor Jehan and many more. This year’s edition, having kept that tradition alive, paid an extensive, timely and rich tribute to the late Amjad Sabri, who performed at last year’s edition and was murdered in the unforgiving streets of Karachi earlier this year.

Alongside a special song, recorded in the voice(s) of Ali Zafar, Ali Sethi and Quratulain Balouch and composed by one Shuja Haider, the Sabri family was invited onstage. Their eyes filled up with tears and their grief broke through as Zafar, Sethi and QB continued to sing along. Slowly and deliberately, other stars such as Ahmed Ali Butt, Farhan Saeed, Urwa Hocane and Humayun Saeed among others also joined in with a candle in one hand and let the Sabri family speak their truth. No one can bring back Amjad Sabri but the tribute was a gentle reminder that though he is gone, he will not be forgotten and will be remembered by history, time and most of all, his own people.

Room for improvement

Perhaps the biggest issue with LSAs this year was timing. When you begin the show several hours after the designated time, the audience loses interests or simply walks out. This means those who do manage to stay or are billed as performers are performing to a half-empty room. Meanwhile those in the audience, who do choose to stay on for the entire duration of the shown, become far too tried to truly appreciate the effort that is put in.

Bottom line: tardiness is not something to celebrate and needs to be addressed.

Outside of the spectacular delay, there were several moments that fell flat. Mawra Hocane’s stint as host, for instance, was not only forgettable but bordered on sheer annoyance. Ahmed Ali Butt’s segment with a crop of stars also failed to click. As he invited actors like Hamza Ali Abbasi, Humayun Saeed and Ayesha Khan and asked them to participate in one particular segment, the jokes fell apart. There is, after all, a limit to the number of times Hamza Ali Abbasi can be mocked for his Facebook status updates. After a while, it becomes predictable.

And though Saeed brought a few chuckles during this sequence as he played along, the rest of it could’ve been done away with. For instance, presenting two individuals with dwarfism as the parents of Jeena (Aisha Khan’s avatar from a TV series) bought cheap laughs on account of their appearance and nothing more. The sequence didn’t allow them to truly perform so it remains an indefensible stunt.

The technical glitches throughout the evening made proceedings too disjointed to follow and took away from the spectacular effort put into the show. Moreover, while the dancers were extremely impressive, their costumes and props were more high school than seasoned awards show.

Conclusively, this was a strong year for the Lux Style Awards, especially since it brought in Unilever’s new Chairperson, Shazia Syed, who has always been a supporter of the platform. In her words, “The awards aspire to celebrate the legends of Pakistan while also becoming the premium showpiece for emerging talent.”

And for that, they must be commended. The end.

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