The “new Hollywood”

The phenomenal popularity of Turkish drama in Pakistan has come as a pleasant surprise to many By Usman Ghafoor The posh suburb of Yeniköy along Istanbul’s gorgeous Bosphorus waterway and home to the rich and the beautiful Ziyagils — the fictional family of Ask-i Memnu, Turkey’s all-time popular TV series now charming international audiences —… More The “new Hollywood”

“I see society in these films” — Shyam Benegal

By Usman Ghafoor One of the many constants in Shyam Benegal’s illustrious film career, spanning well over three decades (and still going on), is an irrepressible urge to challenge himself creatively. As he approaches 80, this 17-time winner of India’s most prestigious National Film Award — for his socially relevant and off-Bollywood’s-beaten-track movies such as… More “I see society in these films” — Shyam Benegal

“Our reporting is mostly state-centric” — Neelabh Mishra

By Usman Ghafoor Delhi-based Neelabh Mishra, Editor, Outlook Hindi, was in Pakistan recently, along with his friend Kavita Srivastava, a human rights activist, on the special invitation of the family of Dr Khalil Chishti, the 80-year-old Pakistani virologist who had been released from a jail in Ajmer, India, having served a life sentence. Mishra took… More “Our reporting is mostly state-centric” — Neelabh Mishra

A fictional reality

Durre Shahwar is a throwback to the old PTV classics and a proud affirmation of the fact that when it comes to TV drama, we haven’t lost our touch By Usman Ghafoor Durre Shahwar’s old-world charm is unmissable. Indeed the first few things that strike you about this Hum TV serial, now on its way to… More A fictional reality

“The literary level of theatre is unmatched” — Salman Shahid

By Usman Ghafoor The inimitable actor in Salman Shahid didn’t quite develop in stages, but it definitely evolved on stage — his favourite medium. “Neither TV nor film can match theatre’s literary level,” he says. Even though his initial claim to popularity was a nerdy comic in early 1970s’ phenomenally successful TV show Such Gup,… More “The literary level of theatre is unmatched” — Salman Shahid

A Lahori in LA

Glimpses of America – beyond 90210 and Baywatch By Usman Ghafoor First, a confession. Like most urban-based Pakistanis, fed on Hollywood movies and American TV shows, I found myself inanely distracted by this huge picture of glamour I had in my mind when I was preparing to leave for Los Angeles — for the very… More A Lahori in LA

New film gives voice to the quiet Beatle

Martin Scorsese’s documentary on George Harrison, airing this week on HBO, offers an intimate portrait of a complicated man By Usman Ghafoor “Do you know where you were on this day last week?” the interviewer quizzes the four very young-looking Beatles, seated informally in front of her, apparently on a TV show from the early… More New film gives voice to the quiet Beatle

“Pakistan is unfairly scapegoated” — Ethan Casey

By Usman Ghafoor Ethan Casey’s inshallahs are quite endearing, and so is his unwittingly kind view of Pakistan in what must be the two rare books by any foreigner in recent times — Alive and Well in Pakistan (2004) and Overtaken By Events: A Pakistan Road Trip (2010). Seattle-based journalist, blogger and public speaker, Casey… More “Pakistan is unfairly scapegoated” — Ethan Casey

Surviving Sehbai

Up close and personal with the man who shaped Bol’s rabid, chauvinistic Hakeem and finds a freespirited Manzar Sehbai By Usman Ghafoor To a person meeting Manzar Sehbai for the first time, he appears a lot like Bol’s Hakeem Shafaatullah — he has the same monstrous beard and moustache (as on screen), a balding pate… More Surviving Sehbai

“I feel vindicated” — Veena Malik

By Usman Ghafoor You can’t put Veena Malik down. That is precisely the kind of conclusion one comes to, after watching her unashamed public trial in the wake of her super-confident ‘diva’ act on one of Indian television’s biggest reality shows. Fresh out of Bigg Boss’s grand Lonavala mansion in Maharashtra, that saw her survive… More “I feel vindicated” — Veena Malik

Bend it like Begum

By Usman Ghafoor It was through a ‘reality’ show on television that Ali Saleem went bride-hunting for himself. Of course, the phenomenally successful Begum Nawazish Ali helped him create an alter-ego that was to become a cathartic tool with which he says he was able to “find acceptance” among his audiences also. The show’s immense… More Bend it like Begum

Data darbar 24/7

Data Darbar still stands magnificently in the heart of interior Lahore, in the face of all imminent threats of terrorist attacks By Usman Ghafoor It was hard to believe that the last resort of the 11th-century Sufi saint Abul Hassan Ali Hajveri, “saviour” to a lot of the faithful, could be bombed and that too… More Data darbar 24/7

Ali in wonderland

Ali Zafar may be in magical Bollywood, but starstruck he is not. His head is firmly screwed on his shoulders and he’s making all the right moves By Usman Ghafoor Instep: Bollywood is said to be a wonderland. How has your experience been so far, especially shooting in YashRaj Studios whose grandeur is fabled? Ali… More Ali in wonderland

Mania in the air

Air Race is to flying fanatics what Formula 1 is to car race lovers By Usman Ghafoor Accept no hyperbole. But if you were in Abu Dhabi this spring, you couldn’t not be hit by the ‘mass mania’ for what happened to be UAE’s most breathtaking — not to mention, spectacular — sports event of… More Mania in the air

House of music

Hanif Tayyab’s The Music Gallery has some rare features By Usman Ghafoor TMG, short for The Music Gallery, a classically done three-roomer, housed in Lahore’s modest Muslim Town, is already a place with a ‘mixed’ identity. It’s a gallery cum music shop cum event & celebrity management company. What’s more, it is a place where… More House of music

“I have a vision for our film industry, which is that it should break free of its shackles” – Shaan

By Usman Ghafoor It wasn’t John Abraham of Bollywood. Quite interestingly, Shaan became the first mainstream film actor in the subcontinent to strip before the camera — remember the detention sequences in Khuda Kay Liye? New York’s John and the upcoming Jail’s Neil Nitin Mukesh in nude shots have all followed much later. Bait him… More “I have a vision for our film industry, which is that it should break free of its shackles” – Shaan

“State has the right to punish” — Asif Iftikhar

A dialogue with Asif Iftikhar, a PhD student of Islamic Law at McGill and a visiting faculty member at LUMS and Pakistan College of Law By Usman Ghafoor The News On Sunday: In a recent interview, you said that there is “no prescribed punishment” for blasphemy in Islam. Elaborate. Asif Iftikhar: When one speaks of… More “State has the right to punish” — Asif Iftikhar

A ban for all seasons

Whatever India knows of Pakistan TV programmes today is primarily a ‘memory’ — passed on by a previous generation or two. The ban on TV channels by authorities across the border has only pushed it further behind By Usman Ghafoor Mumbai-based Mr and Mrs Agarwal, both in their late 60s, have an all-time favourite TV… More A ban for all seasons

Back to bikes

Critical Mass aims to show the automobile users that cycling is a sustainable as well as environment-friendly alternative By Usman Ghafoor At first, they appear to be a rather ‘cliquish’ group of English-speaking foreigners and locals, both men and women, out on the road for a refreshing morning bicycle ride, dressed in their designer casuals’… More Back to bikes

“What’s wrong with this contradiction?” — Sabiha Sumar

By Usman Ghafoor A routine conversation with multiple award-winning film maker Sabiha Sumar can easily turn into a debate on President Musharraf’s policies being dictatorial or otherwise. “You can’t judge the situation as a blanket thing,” she argues, “Ok, we had one military dictator who was terrible for the country — Gen Ziaul Haq —… More “What’s wrong with this contradiction?” — Sabiha Sumar

“A good film is a story well told” — Mehreen Jabbar

Mehreen Jabbar talks about Ramchand Pakistani and more… By Usman Ghafoor The global success of Shoaib Mansoor’s Khuda Key Liye, Mehreen Jabbar contends, has “given a fresh hope for the revival of cinema in Pakistan”. Herself an acclaimed TV producer of such serials as Kahaniyaan, New York Stories, Pehchan and Putli Ghar, and an educated… More “A good film is a story well told” — Mehreen Jabbar

Only if you can set the cash registers ringing!

First-time film makers in Pakistan complain about facing a horde of issues — from lack of funds and technical infrastructure to red-tape. But their real test begins at the ticket window of the merciless box office By Usman Ghafoor Picture this: Moammar Rana shelves his much-tomtommed celluloid debut as director, after a grand opening and… More Only if you can set the cash registers ringing!

Prof Azizuddin Ahmad — from one movement to another

By Usman Ghafoor & Farah Zia Azizuddin Ahmad, “Professor Sahib” for friends, likes to talk at length about ‘ideas’, but you ask him to give a few biographical details and he withdraws. “I was born, taught for a while and now write,” is how he sums up his life. Who influenced him, one tries to… More Prof Azizuddin Ahmad — from one movement to another

“I know why most writers lose their sanity” — Syed Mohammad Ahmad

When the characters of his stories become putty in his hands, Syed Mohammad Ahmad says a writer achieves his catharsis By Usman Ghafoor Not so much by a twist of fate than a ‘quirkiness’ of mind that young Mohammad Ahmad — growing up in a conservative middle class home in 70s’ Karachi — landed a… More “I know why most writers lose their sanity” — Syed Mohammad Ahmad

Married to the mob

Although the customary ‘election fever’ or ‘hysteria’ is still missing, the campaigning is expected to get a shot in the arm with some innovation in style and design By Usman Ghafoor ‘Main beti hoon Zulfikar ki, mera naam hai Benazir!’ goes a paid TV advert, launched on air a day prior to the Chehlum of… More Married to the mob

“The real divide in Pakistan is that of status quo and anti-status quo” — Imran Khan

By Usman Ghafoor The past 11 years, Imran Khan admits, have taught him ‘the hardest way’ that politics is ‘no cricket’. When he formed his political party, back in 1996, the sporting legend of the country and also the celebrated philanthropist suddenly found himself in the midst of a crowd of detractors who were ready… More “The real divide in Pakistan is that of status quo and anti-status quo” — Imran Khan

“Cinema for me is a very sensuous experience” – Govind Nihalani

By Usman Ghafoor Govind Nihalani has a way with dark themes. Whether it’s Aakrosh (1980), his debut feature that strikes you for its frighteningly realistic depiction of a victim of the faulty judicial system, Ardh Satya (’83) that exteriorises the moral dilemma of an honest police officer in a corrupt system; Tamas (’88), a hard-hitting… More “Cinema for me is a very sensuous experience” – Govind Nihalani

“It is a satisfying experience” — Pappu Samrat

Proud scion of one of the subcontinent’s famous dance gharanas, Pappu Samrat is loath to peg his better known Indian counterparts above himself By Usman Ghafoor For 37 years old Shaukat Husain Samrat, life is about living — or, perhaps, dancing — for the moment. There is no room for regrets, and certainly no time… More “It is a satisfying experience” — Pappu Samrat

“If you can make people dance, you’re a hit” – Uttam Singh

By Usman Ghafoor Not many people who know Uttam Singh from his very popular Dil Toh Pagal Hai and Gaddar ditties are aware of the fact that this award-winning Bollywood composer started in music as an arranger, with much-revered qawwal Shankar Shambhu, back in 1965. Together this mentor-protégé duo would famously open the Ajmer Shareef… More “If you can make people dance, you’re a hit” – Uttam Singh

“No political party can revamp itself” — Dr Mubashir Hasan

An interview with Dr Mubashir Hasan, the founding member of Pakistan People’s Party and, currently, President Punjab Chapter, Pakistan People’s Party-Shaheed Bhutto Group By Usman Ghafoor What is the more important issue Pakistan is facing today — extremism or civil and military imbalance? Dr Mubashir Hasan: I personally think that Pakistan suffers from three major… More “No political party can revamp itself” — Dr Mubashir Hasan

The danka dozen

A bunch of dynamic youth from diverse backgrounds and nationalities swears by the popular potential of what was actually started as a simple web portal on Lahore’s cultural landscape By Usman Ghafoor At first, it appears to be a boisterous, high school reunion of sorts. A bunch of fun-filled youth, in perfect holiday mood, storm… More The danka dozen

“Spontaneity has to be rehearsed sometimes” — Sania Saeed

By Usman Ghafoor Sania Saeed has defied quite a few popular showbiz norms. Very early in her TV career, she showed that she had a brilliant way with turning a character, however small or simple, into a consummate scene-stealer. Everyone saw how this rather petite, young girl from Karachi stage held her own against a… More “Spontaneity has to be rehearsed sometimes” — Sania Saeed