GT Interview


Ace fashion stylist EhtEsham Ansari styles Mishaal Khan, a world affairs enthusiast, human rights & environmental sustainability activist and budding photographer, in a summer staple every woman should own — flared pants


“the three looks are youthful and minimalist with a touch of extravagance. Keeping the scorching heat in mind, I chose weather-friendly colours and fabrics. These outfits are perfect for a weekend brunch”

M U S E : M I S H A A L A F Z A L
H A I R & M A K E U P : A R O O J @ S T U D I O Z S A L O N & S P A
S T Y L I S T : E H T E S H A M A N S A R I
W A R D R O B E : Q U I Z P A K I S T A N
J E W E L L E R Y : A L I J A V E R I
C O O R D I N A T I O N : S A N A Z E H R A
P H O T O G R A P H Y : A R S A L A N B I L G R A M I @ A . B I L G R A M I S T U D I O

1. What was the inspiration behind Architects InDesign?

We, as architects, knew that we wanted to do something which can change the way people see design. There is a difference in what we need and what we design for ourselves. This idea was enough for us to come up with our own company which provided us a platform where we can freely express ourselves. After all, what would the world be without design?

2. What are some of the ongoing projects Architects InDesign is working on?

Currently, we are mainly working on a number of houses and restaurant designs. We love both the typologies because they give us the chance to go into the most intimate details. There are some retail outlets in Lahore that are also underway.

3. What is the firm’s design philosophy?

Architects indesign believes in the statement “Less is not always more, more is more”. Despite the trending belief that less is more, we are following it in complete opposition. We love to fuse different design languages together and create a new experience of space.

4. Do you think there is an increasingly ‘globalized approach’ to architecture?

Definitely, architecture is one of the main things affected by the global culture. It is the most frequently needed type of art, requiring new inventions in terms of materials and concepts. These inventions then spread throughout the world making those concepts approachable for all, thus making it part of a globalized approach.

5. Which architects from the past you admire the most?

Andrea Palladio and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe are two of my favorites. They will seem poles apart but the use of proportion in both their works is magnificent. The Palladian architecture follows the details whereas Mies has clean cut lines. Both cannot look as good, if the sense of proportion isn’t understood.

6. What advice would you give to the aspiring architects?

My advice to young architects would be to learn and learn everything and anything. This is such a vast field that this process of design will never end. And that should be enough to prevent yourself from falling in love with your own designs, because there is always room for improvement.

7. What is your ultimate goal when it comes to your work? What do you want to be remembered for?

The way we work, brings us to a conclusion that we love to mix and match different styles of design. This gives a more stylized feel to our work. We want to be remembered for this element of fusion.

8. What is a weakness you’ve noticed some architecture firms have and Architects InDesign doesn’t have?

We owe a group of young and energetic people, always looking for new ideas to make. Our strength is the fact that we create design concepts on our own and not rely on cookie cutter approach.

9. What are some of the opportunities and challenges your office faces now?

Where there are opportunities, there are challenges as well. People have started to value design and as the land value has increased to such a level, we as architects are needed more to create more efficient designs. One of the challenges in our society which we face is that most people, who are our potential clients, know you as an architect but don’t know what to do with you. There is still a percentage of people who don’t exactly know what the scope of work of an architect is and no, it is not repairing rainwater pipes and parapet walls. There’s much more.

10. Architects InDesign has been providing architectural and planning services for nearly half a decade now in Pakistan. How do you think we have evolved over the time?

As I said earlier, design has direct influence of the economics. The land volume has appreciated in favor of architecture services. At least, we are looking at one aspect, numbers. As far as the value of understanding of design is concerned, we are way better now than we were. But for an intellectual change to take place, it is still going to take time.

11. Of the varied projects that you do, which kind of projects do you enjoy the most?

We definitely enjoy dong residences more. The spaces become more personalized and the experience is more intimate. We are focus on passive designs, which creates a different sort of experience altogether. This keeps us looking for more.

12. With so many achievements under your belt, where do you see the firm in next 10 years?

We do plan to be a part of the people who actually contribute in increasing the awareness of architecture design systems. Our society is already informed at the base level right now. But, as our city has already achieved its saturation point, we plan to float along using different design strategies, which are new not only here but globally as well.

Muniba Mazari is a 27-year-old artist, activist and motivational speaker. She runs her own brand called “Muniba’s Canvas” and works at a school for underprivileged children. 

Who is Muniba Mazari?

The mother of a four-year-old boy, daughter, sister, artist, motivational speaker, TV host, dreamer and an optimist!

What’s a regular day in the life of Muniba Mazari?

My son wakes me up at 7:00am. So my day starts with Nael and his favourite ‘The Dinosaur Train’ cartoon series. After that, I leave for work, or I paint. I’m blessed to have a super busy life thanks to physiotherapy, art and motherhood.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced being a wheelchair user in Pakistan?

Being a wheelchair user, life wasn’t easy initially. My biggest challenge, or fear, was facing people or a crowd. I fought an unseen battle against this fear for years and conquered it gradually. Today I speak in front of thousands of people. I feel so happy when people know me for who I am or what I’ve accomplished and not because of where I am sitting.


Fakir Studio

“When I see my scars I feel strengthened and more determined towards my goals”

Tell us about your journey since the accident?

It’s been seven years now. The accident was an incident which made me realise my hidden potential. It made me what I am today. When I see my scars I feel strengthened and more determined towards my goals. The only dream I had was to tell the world that differently-abled people are not less than anybody. They exist, breathe, live. Most importantly, they dream big! The idea was to glamorise the image of a wheelchair user. I’ve worked hard for it and will keep doing it till my last breath. And I’m so glad that gradually the perception is changing. Now people see you for your abilities without judging you for your ‘disabilities’.

Does your accident reflect in your paintings in any way?

Art is the only medium which helps you to express your hidden pain, fear, joy, depression or hope without uttering a single word. I paint women with big eyes which depicts hope and the idea of dreaming. The accident made me a dreamer and my art is all about women who dream big.

Do you remember your first interaction with art? When did you decide you wanted to become an artist?

My childhood diaries are filled with sketches. But I never thought of being a professional artist. The first painting I made was in the hospital. There I realised that this is my real passion.


Fakir Studio

Fakir Studio

“The first painting I made was in the hospital”

Tell us a little about your brand “Muniba’s Canvas” and the inspiration behind your art?

Muniba’s Canvas is all about women adorned with traditional ethnic jewels of our country. It’s about life, bright colours and women who are yearning for hope and freedom. The tag line of Muniba’s Canvas is “Let your walls wear Colours.” That says it all.

People usually ask me why I only paint women. I think being a woman, womanhood is the subject I know best!

You have a very gifted voice. Ever thought about pursuing a career in singing?

Music is food for the soul. I feel it’s my responsibility to revive Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Iqbal as well as beautiful national songs by other poets. I want my son to be able to sing Faiz. So if I ever pursue singing as career, my wish is to sing these legendary poets.

What advice would You give to the people reading this?

My story revolves around hope and determination. There’s no shortcut to success. The harder you work the luckier you get. We all have been sent to this world for a purpose. If you still don’t know what that purpose is, then  remember, a life without purpose is pointless! Live, laugh, love and share. That’s the key to happiness.

Photography I Fakir Studio 

 Risham Khan talks to actor & model

Did you always want to be an actress?
No. I wanted to win a beauty pageant when I was younger. Growing up, though, I found out that Pakistani girls were not allowed to participate in these beauty pageants. So then I thought, “This is not going to happen.” I actually wanted to participate in the Miss World, Miss Universe contests. But I ended up acting and started my career with a feature film.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced being a woman in the Pakistani film industry?
The biggest challenge is that we live in a hypocritical society where people form opinions without thinking; they go with the image that the other person is showing them. They don’t like confident, self-made women and I’ve always been one. But yes, it’s been very challenging being a girl who didn’t have a film industry background. But from the very first day I have been associated with the biggest brands. So, of course, when there are people praising you, there are always people trying to bring you down.I think this is the case with every girl. Why? Because I reached that level very soon. I started my career when I was 14, I started endorsing brands and I did my film when I was very young. I became huge because of “Bol.”And then being a Pakistani girl going to India and working there in a very commercial film: It’s not easy.


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“My dream was to participate in the Miss World or Miss Universe contest”

How did Bol change you?
Bol changed me as a woman. I’ve become very patient, my will is very strong, I’ve become more sensible about the decisions I take. And the way my female fans now understand and approach me — that has changed too.

What was different about Dekh Magar Pyaar SAY that made you say yes?
I respect Asad a lot. He’s one of those directors whom an artist wants to trust. So when he came to me, his approach was very nice. He came to me and said “I’ve written this script for you.”

Tell us about your character in Dekh Magar Pyaar SAY
Why did I like the character? The thing about the character in Dekh Magar Pyaar Say is that she’s a feisty girl. She’s very spontaneous. She’s dramatic and larger than life. You can expect anything from her! Essentially, she’s unpredictable with a lot of different shades. I think it’s quite challenging to play roles like that. In my first film I played a mullah ki beti and in the second film I played a bar dancer. This is going to be my third film. So, yeah, it’s been different and adventurous.

Can you personally relate to the character?
Not really. I don’t think actors are always like the characters they play but we have to become like those characters. When people leave the cinema, I don’t want them to go home and forget about my character! Kay bhai popcorn kha liya, film dekh li, ab ghar chalo. No. I’ve always tried to stay in people’s minds. I liked it when people watched Bol they took Zainab along with them. For several days people kept talking about this girl.

How was the experience of shootingDekh Magar Pyaar SAY?
It was fantastic but very, very hectic. I’ve never done such a film before. Not a single scene was shot in a proper bungalow or a fancy air-conditioned set. We had to wake up really early in the morning. Asad would say, I want to shoot you in the
4 am sun. I want that shot. And we said okay boss, we’ve got to come. We completed the entire film in 45 days—a record, apparently, for the Pakistani film industry. So it was fantastic.




“Pakistani people don’t like confident, self-made women. I’ve always been one”

How was Sikander Rizvi as a co-actor?
He’s fun. He’s quite chilled out. He’s a good learner; he’s always learning new things. And we wish him all the very best. He’ll definitely do something nice in the industry.

Describe him in one word
To me he’s Sikki, that’s it. He’s funny, he’s quite a bit of everything!

What was your chemistry like with Sikander?
Since it’s a romantic comedy, we had to make people fall in love with us, and for that we had to fall in love with each other first! We did that. We’ve tried our best as actors.

Tell us about a funny incident on set
Sikki used to mimic me a lot. And he’s superb at it! I think when we shot the first scene in the alley where you can see the church behind us, (when you see the film you’ll know), that scene was very memorable because it was Sikki’s first intense scene with me and he was very funny throughout!



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“Not a single scene was shot in a proper bungalow or a fancy air-conditioned set”

Are you working on any upcoming projects?
In Pakistan? Not right now. But, yes I am working in India and Inshallah very soon things will be coming up.
Who is your favorite Pakistani actor and actress?
I really like Shaan. Fawad is good too. Actresses? All the girls are working so well right now. I really liked Shehnaz Sheikh and Sania Saeed.

What advice would you give to young girls looking to become actresses?
Try and be yourself. Just try and explore yourself more and don’t try too hard. Acting is within you. Be patient.

Hair, Makeup, Styling & Photography by AKIF ILYAS

 Interview by Ally Adnan

Known both for his immense talent and for his looks, Faisal Qureshi is one of Pakistan’s most well-known, versatile and popular actors. Faisal has maintained his status as an A-Lister amongst actors for almost a quarter of a century and appears all set for greater success, fame and renown in coming years. In an exclusive interview for GT, Faisal Qureshi talks to Ally Adnan about himself, his career as an actor and show business in Pakistan.

You have been in the field of acting for more than thirty years. How has the world of show business in Pakistan changed during this period?

The industry has undergone a tremendous change during this period. In the early years, there was very little competition. Pakistan Television Corporation was funded by the state and was the only network around. People in the industry, therefore, did not have to worry about the commerce of show business and were able to devote all of their energies to art. They could undertake daring projects without having to worry about their commercial viability. They also knew that viewers had no choices other than the ones that were broadcast on their network.

Things have changed. The industry has grown tremendously since those times. We have had greater exposure. Much better equipment than was ever available to us is now at our disposal. And we have a lot of competition now. More than a hundred channels and production houses compete with each other in Pakistan today. Viewers have dozens of choices at any given moment. They are no longer bound to watching a single television channel. On the international level, Pakistani programs compete with those from the United Kingdom, India, Turkey, the United States and several other countries. As a result, producers, directors, writers and even actors have to pay attention to both the quality and the commercial viability of programs. Daring projects come with risks.

Has the focus on the commercial aspects of show business taken away from the quality and content of programming?

No, fortunately, it has not. If I were to sum it up in one sentence, I would say that we used to focus almost exclusively on art in the past and now we focus on both art and commerce. There are those who will disagree with me but I firmly believe that our television plays are as good as, and occasionally better than, those that were produced in the first thirty years of Pakistani television. They can also hold their own against those produced in India, Turkey and several other countries. Our plays are enormously popular in India where we have channels dedicated exclusively to Pakistani serials. Bollywood films have never been as popular in Pakistan as our plays have been in India. We may be making money but are not doing so at the expense of art.


I have always paid a lot of attention to people around me and studied their actions, emotions, speech and mannerisms

Traditionally, a career in show business has not been considered respectable in Pakistan. Indeed, it used to be more of a hobby and not aserious vocation for a number of people in the field. Has that changed?

That was the case a long time ago. Things have changed greatly. We have a number of highly educated, extremely talented and highly experienced people in the industry, many of whom have studied film and television in some of the most prestigious international schools and universities. Scions of respectable and well-known families are actively involved in show business. It can no longer be a hobby. Acting is now a demanding, competitive and serious profession; 1) because, there is money in the field and, 2) because there is a lot of competition. Any actor who appears on television today competes with hundreds of others. Only the best can survive. In Pakistan, a career in show business is respectable, financially viable and rewarding in Pakistan today. The days when one could get into acting just because of good looks and social standing are mostly over. Today, it is necessary for people to have real talent and a serious desire to make acting their career in order to succeed in show business.

That probably makes it very difficult for newcomers to enter the industry.

Yes, very difficult. It is not easy to enter the field these days. It seems that everyone wants to get in. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people audition for acting roles on a daily basis in Pakistan. Patience, persistence and perseverance are needed to succeed in addition, of course, to talent and good looks. This is actually a good thing because the competitive atmosphere eliminates those who are not serious about show business and are trying acting just for fun.

Does the competitive environment, along with the allure of show business make newcomers susceptible to emotional, sexual and financial abuse?

Yes, it does. The problem has exacerbated in Pakistan during the last decade because there is more money and glamour in the field than there ever was in the past. A lot of people want to get in and at any cost.The problem, however, is not unique to Pakistan. It may be a little worse in our country but it exists all over the world.

Other countries, however, have laws, acts and regulations to address issues of abuse. We do not. We also do not have unions to protect the interests of actors and prevent their exploitation. Do we not need an actors’ union in Pakistan?

We most certainly do and we are working on it. Atiqa Odho is leading the charge. Faysal Rehman, Sania Saeed, Nauman Ejaz and I, along with a few others, are involved. It may take a little while but we will eventually have an actors’ union in our country.


Good looks have become a pre-requisite for becoming an actor. In the long run, though, much else is required

Are Pakistani actors paid residuals and royalties for re-runs? 

No. It is something that will happen eventually but I do not think that now is the time to address the issue. The business case for making residual payments is not solid at this point. It is easy to blame the channels for being greedy and not paying actors when programs are re-televised: that is unfair. The cost of producing good programs is very high in Pakistan and the returns are often rather slim. So, there is not enough money in the pot to pay residuals. Once we start exporting our programs on a large scale, the revenue of channels will increase and it will become both fair and necessary to set up a mechanism to pay actors residuals for re-runs. We are not at that stage today.

You said that talent and several other factors are necessary for success in show business. Good looks, however, seem to be necessary, and often sufficient for people to become actors in Pakistan. Why?

That is certainly the case. The primary demographic that television caters to in Pakistan likes good looking young men and women. The industry is bound to pay attention to the demographic. As a result, good looks have become a pre-requisite for becoming an actor. In the long run though, much else is needed. I do not think entering show business on the basis of good looks is a very serious problem. At the end of the day, we sell dreams to people. There is no real harm in making those dreams pretty and glamorous.

Do you think that it is socially responsible to always show good looking people, wearing designer clothes, living in palatial homes and driving luxury cars, in our plays?

It is not if it is done excessively and exclusively.


In your case, was it looks or talent that helped you become a successful actor?

I don’t think it was looks. I have worked very hard to bank on my histrionic talents during my career as an actor and on nothing else. I have played some decidedly unglamorous roles on television. There have been many roles – many, many roles – where my characters have been far from good-looking. I have often worked without make up to look the part. Actors are judged on the basis of talent and not on looks. I had made a conscious choice, a long time ago, to become a highly skilled and well respected actor. It has never been my desire to become a superstar. My desire is to have my name in the list of capable and competent Pakistani actors.

Who do you think are Pakistan’s capable and competent actors?

Talat Hussain, Muhammad Qavi, Firdaus Jamal and Abid Ali are certainly very capable and hugely talented. Ali Ejaz and Khayam Sarhadi are excellent. I don’t think any of them have ever worried about anything other than the demands of the characters they play. Appearance, clothes, homes and cars have only been used when there has been a need.

Do you like any of the younger actors?

Yes, there are some who are good and quite a few who show promise. I think that Fahad Mustafa is a very good actor. He has immense talent and is likely to emerge as a major actor in television as well as film.

How did you learn to act?

It was by watching the performances of good actors. My mother is a well-known actor. I, therefore, had the opportunity of meeting and spending time with a lot of great actors and directors as a young man. I also spent a lot of time on sets as a child. I used to watch directors like Nusrat Thakur and Yawar Hayat direct actors. I paid attention to actors while they prepared for their roles, had discussion with directors and co-stars, and memorised their lines. Early on in my life, I realized that the power of observation was an essential trait in actors. I have always paid a lot of attention to people around me and studied their actions, emotions, speech and mannerisms. This has helped me a great deal as an actor.


My mother is a well- known actor. I had the opportunity of meeting and spending time with a lot of directors and actors as a young man

There was no formal education in acting?

Not really but some of the senior actors coached me for long hours. Ali Ejaz helped me prepare for the role of Boota in Toba Tek Singh. We discussed my role with him at great length. There were scenes that he enacted for me to make sure that I knew how to deliver some key lines correctly. He was a great teacher as were many others. I think that my education in acting, albeit informal, was great.

Did you also learn from any international actors?

I respect a lot of international actors but have not learnt acting by observing any of them. It is not possible to learn from them. If we are depicting Pakistani society in our plays and films, then our references need to be Pakistani as well. Actors fail when they use foreign references while playing indigenous characters.

The world of show business is not known for its sense of morality as much as it is for beauty, glamour and splendor? Does this make life difficult for married actors?

It would seem that way but it does not. Today, acting is demanding, arduous and grueling. The atmosphere on the set is far from being conducive to romance. Actors are too busy memorising lines, getting make-up done, managing schedules, and understanding their roles to be le to think about romance. They also see each other without make-up and, trust me, a lot of us are not as attractive as we seem on-screen.

Ally Adnan lives in Dallas andwrites about culture, history and the arts.
He tweets @allyadnan and can be reached at [email protected].

Photographs: Yaseen Lakhani

 Interview by Ally Adnan

The trailer of Wajahat Rauf’s comedy road film, Karachi Se Lahore, attracted more attention than most Pakistani films do during their entire run. The teaser added to the buzz of the film by showing Ayesha Omer performing what is ostensibly an item number. The long-awaited and much hyped film is set to be released on July 31, 2015. Starring Javed Sheikh, Ayesha Omer, Shahzad Sheikh, Rashid Naaz, and Ahmed Ali, Karachi Se Lahore is expected to be both a commercial and a critical success. In a detailed interview for GT, the team of the film — director Wajahat Rauf, actor and writer Yasir Hussain and actors Ayesha Omer, Shahzad Sheikh and Aashir Wajahat — talk to Ally Adnan about their film.

Ally Adnan: What is Karachi Se Lahore about?

Wajahat Rauf: Karachi Se Lahore is a comedy road movie that is light-hearted, funny, occasionally romantic and entertaining. My goal was to make a movie that was fresh, upbeat and smart. No one had ever made a road movie in Pakistan. I wanted mine to be the first.

Ayesha Omer: Karachi Se Lahore tells the story of five people — each quirky and interesting in his own way — who take a road trip from Karachi to Lahore. They encounter a number of unusual and unexpected situations during the road trip and handle them in equally unusual and unexpected ways. The film is cheerful and bubbly, with a lot of humor and laughs.

Yasir Hussain: The humor in Karachi Se Lahore is different than what people have seen in Pakistani and Indian cinema. I worked with Anwar Maqsood in the theater and learnt a lot about writing comedy from him. I stay away from physical comedy and slapstick and try to generate humor using word-play and sharp writing. The emphasis is on writing with wit, intelligence and cleverness. These elements, in my opinion, create the funniest lines one can write.


Ally Adnan: Ayesha Omer, dancing in front of a large crowd of men, in the teaser attracted a lot of attention. Was it justified?  

Shahzad Sheikh: Ayesha danced very well. So, of course, the attention garnered was justified.

Ayesha Omer: I think my dance — wonderful though it certainly is — attracted attention for the wrong reasons. Contrary to popular belief, I am not performing an item number. My character is dancing to get her friends out of a very sticky situation. She, and none of the men traveling with her, ends up saving everyone’s behinds. This is a cheeky reversal of gender roles. It is a first in Pakistani cinema where men have always been the saviors.



Aashir Wajahat, Wajahat Rauf, Yasir Hussain, Shahzad Sheikh & Safwan Bawany

Ally Adnan: Was shooting on the road from Karachi to Lahore perilous?  

Wajahat Rauf: We had made arrangements for our security before we left for the shoot. As it turned out, we didn’t necessarily need the security team. There was no danger and most of the people we met, while on location, were friendly and supportive. We felt safe while shooting on the road from Karachi to Lahore.

Ayesha Omer: In fact we felt safer on the road than we do in our own city.

Ally Adnan: That is not saying much because you live in Karachi.

Ayesha Omer: Yes, it is not. Karachi is not a very safe city to live in.

Yasir Hussain: I must tell you that Ayesha created the most dangerous situation that we faced while shooting for the film. She almost got us all killed.


Ally Adnan Interviewing the Karachi Se Lahore team

Ally Adnan: What did you do, Ayesha?

Ayesha Omer: Nothing. These guys are just crybabies.

We found one of the nicest beaches in the world while shooting in Baluchistan. It was untainted, unpolluted and totally pristine. I did not want to leave the area without at least dipping my toes in the water and exploring the beach. I convinced everyone to spend some time at the beach before we moved on. All of us had a great time at the beach until Ahmed spotted a pair of fighter sharks swimming at a frighteningly short distance. That is when all of us made a mad dash back to the shore and to safety. It was a scary experience but look at the bright side: we had a wonderful time at a great beach, we experienced some genuine excitement and we ended up safe and sound. All thanks to me.

Ally Adnan: Ayesha, what role do you play in Karachi Se Lahore ? 

Ayesha Omer: I play the role of an aggressive and feisty young lady who grew up without a mother and raised her younger brother alone. She evolves as a person during the course of the movie to become a stronger, wiser and more confident person. We see her conquer her fears and overcome her inhibitions as she deals with a number of challenging situations in the film.


Yasir Hussain, Ally Adnan, Ayesha Omer & Shahzad Sheikh


Yasir Hussain, Ayesha Omer & Shahzad Sheikh

Ally Adnan: Yasir, what role do you play? 

Yasir Hussain: My role is based on a real life friend of mine who is very witty but stammers. He always has something smart to say but getting it out is not always easy for him. Often he holds other people’s hands to make sure he gets the time he needs to say what he must. He is a little weird but very innocent and likable at the same time.

Ally Adnan: Shahzad, do you play the role of the typical hero in Karachi Se Lahore ? 

Shahzad Sheikh: No. I play a young middle class banker who wants to make it big very quickly in order to marry the girl he loves. He is someone who has always lived in fear of others and never been allowed to be his own man. A radical change takes place in his personality when he finds out that his beloved is being forced into marriage in Lahore while he is in Karachi. Uncharacteristically, he vows to stop the wedding from taking place and undertakes the journey to Lahore where he plans to halt the proceedings.

Ally Adnan: Aashir, you are the youngest cast member of Karachi Se Lahore. What role do you play? 

Aashir Wajahat: I play Khoobsoorat‘s younger brother who is a precocious little child who can be impertinent and rude at times but is smarter than all the others taking the road trip.


Ally Adnan: What are the biggest fears that you have about Karachi Se Lahore ?

Wajahat Rauf: My biggest fear is that people will not like the film and walk out of the theater saying that they wasted their time and money watching a worthless film.

Ayesha Omer: My biggest fear has already been conquered. I used to worry about the reaction of my friends and family to my dance number but that is now out of the way. Everyone has seen a part of the dance and reacted in a manner that I have been able to handle. I no longer have any fears about Karachi Se Lahore.

Yasir Hussain: I had great success in theater where people appreciated my work a lot. I am scared that they will feel that I am not as good in cinema as they thought I was in theater. And I am afraid people won’t laugh when I expect them to laugh. Other than that, I am confident about the film.

Shahzad Sheikh: I am actually very optimistic about the film. I think all of us worked very hard and helped make a very good film. It is natural to be a little anxious before the release of a film but I don’t think we have anything to fear.

Ally Adnan lives in Dallas and writes about culture, history and the arts. He tweets @allyadnan and can be reached at [email protected].

Photographs :

Yaseen Lakhani

Saba Ahmed talks to director Amin Iqbal

Q) What memories do you have of your first directing experience?

A) Terrible ones. It seemed as if I had taken on a whole lot of enemies in the industry. I started out my career as a screenwriter and that is what I had wanted to do at the time. I have even written 14 odd serials that went on air and were huge productions. I did all kinds of screenwriting, for telefilms, documentaries, feature writing for newspapers and I did some for BBC as well. Then one day I woke up with the feeling that what I wrote did not come across the way I wanted it to. That is when I started to direct. The trouble was that when I did start directing, I was afraid that no other director would want me to write scripts for them and this threatened me and made me feel insecure from a financial point of view since writing was my bread and butter then.

Q) What have been your favorite serials so far of the ones that you have worked on?

A) Thakan featuring Saba Qamar was one serial I particularly enjoyed, it has aired on Zindagi in India and I have received tremendous feedback. Many people were impressed by the sets used, little did they know that the serial was not shot on set. Teri Rah main Rull Gai was also a big hit, the title song was fabulous and is one that is close to me. It was an innovator in terms of the shooting and production values used. Dil Fareb on GEO these days, I thoroughly enjoyed because the art direction it employs is quite different than usual. It has a fresh look using emerging, versatile actors, Omair Rana and Mira Sethi and then Alia Butt for whom this was a debut performance. We worked closely on the nuances of the acting — stress pauses and the like — and all this has resonated with audiences who have reported back that this serial definitely has a certain freshness to it. Another one, it didn’t do well, Dil Muhalay Ki Haveli, but I loved the concept. The story was centered on food and how people in our society are fanatical about food. The kind of atmosphere and psychosis this fanaticism about food creates within a household is what this serial was about.

Apart from this, Agar Ho Sakay To is currently on air. There’s one particular scene which I told my wife makes me want to cry and when watching it with her the other day, I actually did start crying, to which she said to me, “Not only do you give your heart to every serial you direct but to this one, you have also given your tears.” It’s very emotional and it resonated so much with me that I felt compelled to write the lyrics to the title song myself.




“I learnt to love very early on and I love very intensely”

Q) How do you feel differently about filming on set versus on location?

A) Almost all directors in the private sector in Pakistan have not experienced working on set. The set can almost be regarded as the sole domain of PTV. When they started making dramas, there were sets in use for films which were created specifically for films. You need timing, lighting and peace to create a certain mood. You would create a time of day. When this line of work opened up to the private sector, they had no opportunities to make sets. They were compelled to go to original locations and do one-camera shoots which led them to have to move things around. For example, if we are featuring a certain character who smokes a hookah, we would have much trouble finding a house that is reflective of this character’s social status and is also designed around the lifestyle and needs of a hookah smoker.

We in the private sector, who have developed like mushrooms, have not had the experience of working with sets and neither has any relevant talent developed over the years. PTV has not maintained its standard and propagated knowledge and skill as it should or was on the path to being. Neither did they utilize their stage, their academy and their huge library of archives to develop new talent. I was particularly ashamed to hear that my son didn’t know who Munoo Bhai (of Sona Chandi fame) was.

Only now are there classes of schooled graduates coming out in the various fields of sets, wardrobes, lights, art direction, sounds, etc. Even in the private sector, on location, we are beginning to personalize locations and bring in props to fit our requirements, employing the skilled expertise of today.

Q) Any people in the industry you think are particularly talented?

A) Almost everyone in any industry in Pakistan possesses a fair bit of talent and the drive to want to show the world by doing something. As opposed to other nationalities where motivation and ambition is mainly derived from getting raises or promotions, our nation still considers itself young and in need of that extra mile. I still remember holding out a cloth in front of the TV screen while watching CNN to be able to get in all the censored bits! Our country is in a constant state of flux, and we have as a nation learnt to adapt and have become stronger and more resourceful as a result. Even in our industry, technicians have learnt to become cameramen and vice versa because everyone has conditioned themselves to make do with what they have. Teams come in from India and elsewhere and are impressed to see what kind of an environment we work in when compared to the work we put out. All these attributes are worth mentioning.

I have always made it a point to work with new people, Sohail Sameer is someone whose career began with me along with Yumna Zaidi, Mira Sethi and Irfan Waheed: I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with them. And the list does go on. Most newcomers from Lahore are people that I have worked with and are chosen by me mainly because our chemistries match. There will always be two to three actors making debut performances in any of my dramas.

Despite the lack of support, our TV actors are excellent and achieve high level performances without the use of any gimmicks.

A cherished moment with all his cast and crew

A cherished moment with all his cast and crew

Ready to start filming for APlus

Ready to start filming for APlus

On the set of Dil Fareb with Omair Rana and Mira Sethi

On the set of Dil Fareb with Omair Rana and Mira Sethi

My wife said to me:
“Not only do you give your heart to every serial you direct but to this one, you have also given your tears”

Q) Are scripts becoming less important?

A) Thirty years ago, we did have great scripts and legendary scriptwriters, but since then screenwriting and star screenwriters have kind of fallen off the grid. Additionally, screenwriting is a product of the society in which it is born. And there has been constant upheaval and censorship here in Pakistan. Screenwriters have not received much support, recognition or compensation through the years. Even in other fields of work, who in the past 20 odd years has been nominated for any major international award such as the Nobel Prize? Everyone seems to have the attitude: “why should I be the martyr?” or “why bother?”

Even so, we’ve been able to take the drama market from 1.5 crores to 9 billion rupees where today 108 channels are on air with licenses whereas the cable operator is only capable of showing 80 channels. Still, the fact that over the past 2 years, scripts have been being repeated is not solely the fault of the writers but also the channels that have a tight hold on creative output.

Q) How do you source talent in Pakistan?

A) Some friends of ours and myself have gotten together to set up a platform for recruiting talent specifically for television. The website should be up and running by the end of the week. It has the format and capacity for interested candidates to set up their profiles where casting can be done from. It will also help us to pick out more specifically cast members who are appropriate for certain roles more so than the actors that are already in the circle and are well known to us already.

It will also help us to navigate problems associated with auditioning. Every second on set is paid for and when we have newcomers come to the set to audition, it takes up some of our very valuable and expensive time. In Fast and the Furious 7 which was recently in cinemas, they have an Arab character for which they have cast an Indian. Pakistanis are much closer in looks and speech to Arabs than Indians but since the casting directors of this film did not know where to look for Pakistani talent, they found it from where they could.

On Chundrigar Rd.  while filming Bewafaii Tumhare Naam

On Chundrigar Rd.
while filming Bewafaii Tumhare Naam

On the set of Agar Ho Sakay To with Syed Jibran & Sunita Marshall

On the set of Agar Ho Sakay To with Syed Jibran & Sunita Marshall

With Iffat Omar and Yasir Nawaz on the set of Bewafai Tumhare Naam

With Iffat Omar and Yasir Nawaz on the set of Bewafai Tumhare Naam

Q) Why aren’t comedies, children’s shows and other neglected genres given as much importance anymore?

A) At first, it was PTV only and as a national institution, PTV was obliged to run all types of genres. There are no channels showing the various cultures of Pakistan or featuring any classic music programs. We are being restricted to a singular language, culture and religion, even though our alternate media on the internet is mounting increasing pressure on mainstream channels to diversify the content they broadcast. If no one raises their voice and demands something different, then the channel showing the same thing over and over again that is getting them the highest ratings will continue doing so. It’s important for the public to share their point of view and demand better and diversified content.

Q) What is your greatest weakness?

A) I learnt to love very early on and I love very intensely. You can call it a weakness or strength, either way, I have gained and learnt much from it.

The other is my little daughter, she is the apple of my eye.

Fooling around on the set of Anokhi with Mohib Mirza

A 13 year younger Amin Iqbal at a workshop

On the set of Anokhi with Mona Liza

On the set of Anokhi with Mona Liza

Q) What is your greatest extravagance?

A) It can’t really be something I spend money on since I never get time to spend money anywhere. My schedule is nonstop, almost 7 days a week, 17 hours a day and that too with transit between Lahore and Karachi. I’ve written once: kamaata koi hain, khaata koi and that is the case with my wife and I. This was the case with my father and his father, I guess it is just the circle of life.

Q) How is your ideal day off spent?

A) As you can see, I don’t get many days off but anytime I get to speak with my mother or my wife is great for me and almost 5-7 times a day. Otherwise, anytime I get to spend with my kids is ideal. I was an only child and I have six kids. I love to play and get up to silly nothings, jumping around, throwing water, taking ice and slipping it down someone’s back, yelling, whatever.

Saba Ahmed talks to designer Aneeta Nagi Bukhari

1. You’ve said that “Love Indigenous is a tribute to the multifarious worlds, and stories, that form our existence.” Care to elaborate?

Love Indigenous is about taking inspiration from a multidimensional world. On one end of the spectrum, I’m really inspired by geometric patterns and Islamic art and on the other I’m exploring the threadwork of interior Sindh and cross stitch of south Punjab. We’re creating one-of-a kind pieces of cross stitch on organza that I haven’t seen anywhere before. It’s proven to be a successful experiment. So for anything in the world, Love Indigenous is committed to pushing boundaries

2. Love indigenous is big on corporate social responsibility. Is this something that you hold dear?

On a personal level, social welfare has always been a big part of my life. As a family, we are constantly creating income-earning opportunities for families that need help and resources to make themselves self-sustaining. Our family has created income-generating opportunities for 20 odd families in our area. My father, who is big on health issues, is providing ongoing treatments and education and so it’s something I’ve grown up seeing and which I feel very strongly about. Love Indigenous is about taking responsible fashion to a more professional and more organized level. The Love Green initiative is where we source embroideries and hand block prints from families that have the skills and the talent yet don’t have access to urban markets. Sourcing and paying them is not where we end our relationship with them. We go beyond that: any ensemble that gets sold that is hand blocked or embroidered by people from this initiative, a portion of the profit is given back to them


3. Tell us about your design process

There are two arms to the design process, one is where we source from families and women from different parts of the country, and with that we have a decided cut, design and color combinations of the embroidery and of the ensemble. It comes back to us fit to our specifications. The other arm is our in-house production where our team of designers and myself sit together and brainstorm ideas. We don’t have any such set pattern, the floor is open to anything and in fact some of our most beautiful ensembles have been results of random musings. Most of our designs are hand drawn, transferred onto computers and then sent for printing

4. Tell us about your journey into the world of fashion and apparel

I’ve been exposed to many different and creative ways of expressing myself. I play the sitar; my mother’s a furniture designer and my father’s a journalist. When I got married and moved to Karachi, I enrolled at the Indus Valley School for Art and Architecture in the diploma program in Photography. That just connected me to a world of talent and gifted people who I was amazed to come across and then one thing led to another. Exploring photography led me to exploring textiles and I met more and more students studying various mediums, communication design, textiles, and photography. So later, I decided to put it all together and that is how Love Indigenous was formed


5. Are you big on multitasking? How are you at work?

I’m a homemaker first, I have a two-year-old and actually being a mother makes you a great multitasker! So I’m going at my own pace and I’m not competing with anyone but myself. Yes, a byproduct of multitasking is that I tend to micromanage big time. At work, I’m pretty easy going, and I understand that harmony is very important in the workplace. And striking that balance between accommodation and discipline is something I’m still learning

6. What are your favorite pieces from your collection?

I do have favorites, one is the hand embroidered jacket by women in Khairpur that I absolutely love and then there is the cross stitch jacket which incorporates hand cross stitch on organza. It’s got beautiful big floral motifs with our in-house digitally designed raw silk shirt. I think generally Love Indigenous is being known more for our statement jackets and coat

7. The market is saturated with designers. How do you feel about this?

I feel obviously that there is intense competition but I also feel that the competition really helps to challenge my creative sensibilities. You have designers that are formally trained and others that are just naturally gifted and the spectrum is so wide, but I think that if you bring something new to the table, you will not be disappointed with the response from the public. I think people are very open and accepting of new people coming into the market. Of course, people have their loyalties and favorites but if you do have something new and different, I think people are still keen to try you out and give you the response that you deserve


“My favourite pieces are a hand embroidered jacket by women in Khairpur and a jacket which incorporates hand cross stitch on organza”

8. Are clients different from city to city?

Probably not so much from city to city for the big metropolitan cities, but internationally, people don’t walk in and demand discounts. That is something that I’ve noticed as a trend so far. Locally, it’s just negotiate and negotiate for you to bring down the cost! This is something that bothers me especially when people haggle with poor people and are willing to pay exorbitant prices for designer wear

9. How is your ideal day off spent?

My ideal day off is spent being an entertainer for my 2-year-old. This wedding season she discovered the little dancer in her and on most weekends we go mad dancing with her on her favorite music. I feel humor and fun are so important and necessary. My husband and I are big on eating out and hitting the cinemas on the weekend. That’s our time to catch up

“Some of our most beautiful ensembles have been results of random musings”

10. What is your greatest weakness?


11. What is your greatest extravagance?

Travelling and definitely not touristy places!

12. Pakistani designer you admire most?

Very tough between Élan and Sania Maskatiya

13. Who from anywhere and from any age would you love to dress?

I’d love to dress

Natalie Portman

Makeup | Arammish Spa
Furniture & Interior | Mi Casa

GT talks to the brains behind one of Pakistan’s biggest retail brands “SHEEP”

What is your idea of style for the modern woman?      

The modern woman expresses herself through her style. It must be an extension of her personality and values.

Which living person do you most admire for his or her signature style?

Giselle Bundchen

What is the trait you most admire in people?


What is your greatest extravagance?


What do you dislike most in your wardrobe?


Which living person in Pakistan has a style you admire?

Nadya Shah

What is your greatest achievement?

It’s in the making!

What in the future do you consider your greatest achievement?

Happy children.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?



The modern woman no longer needs to spend tons on designer wear to look or feel good

You were involved in the creation of a mega retail brand featuring ready-to-wear for women. What were the initial challenges you faced?

The biggest challenge was getting the right team on board and doing the best one could with the limitations of a startup business. Since the quantity requirement was small initially, getting the right fabric quality was very difficult. We were too small to get it made and fabric in the open market was really not up to the standard

Having a brand targeted towards the masses, how does that influence your creativity in a country like Pakistan?

I have had this discussion with many local and international retailers – the interesting fact which most have admitted is that what you hate the most is likely going to be your bestseller! We worked on a formula where a large percentage of the product was based on market demand and customer feedback and then some which represented SHEEP®’s philosophy. This was perhaps the most difficult part of my work to maintain the balance between the two.

Arjumand, Sara, Aalia & Nadiya

Arjumand, Sara, Aalia & Nadiya

How do you feel a ready-to-wear brand has changed the modern woman?

The modern woman is now more liberated I feel. She is empowered. She no longer needs to spend tons on designer wear to look and feel good

Do you intend to take some unique elements of Pakistani fashion global?

My next project is exactly that. We live in a low-cost country with amazing talent. While there is focus on the local market, I am very excited about how we can take all this and sell to higher price countries

What is your favorite daily wear attire?

Jeans and a top

Name an essential item for the young traveller?

Ipod with music. It makes you dream about what you want to do in life!

Where do you see your brand 5 years from now?

That’s a secret!

Name a local brand who’s success you admire?

Sana Safinaz


Aalia Jafar & Arjumand Rahim

Aalia & Hasan Jafar

Aalia & Hasan Jafar

What you hate the most is likely going to be your bestseller!

Apart from being an entrepreneur and a good dress-maker, what do you believe is the role (or even, the responsibility), of the contemporary fashion designer in society today?

Anyone in this country who has had the privilege of an education must contribute to the economy. We are a poor country and so the privileged from us must contribute towards employment creation. The best way young designers can help is to develop the skill set of workers who have the talent but need guidance to contemporize their work to produce market-relevant products.

What advice would you give the young teenage girl looking to make a career in fashion and design?

To stay original, create your market rather than penetrate others. Be patient and you will see results. Lastly, always remember “Value Addition, Value Addition, Value Addition!!”

Text and coordination: Marium Hamid Ali Khan

Photography: Gibran

Hair and Makeup: Rukaiya’s Salon

GT talks to banker-turned-beautician

What is your favourite kind of makeup, party or bridal?

Frankly, I would prefer to do fashion shoots. I like very creative makeup, I don’t like to do very generic makeup. Brides are so tense and stressed out when they come to me. I just want to make them feel beautiful inside out. My concentration is always on making them feel at ease. With each step I try to relax them, ask them if they think the makeup is alright. I don’t impose my choices on the brides, but I do my research, so I can strike a balance between what the bride wants and something that is simultaneously creative. And I never compromise on products: I only use the best, regardless of whether it’s party makeup or bridal or daytime.

If you had a chance to do any one persons’ makeup from anytime and anywhere, who would it be and why?

I am planning something with the brides of the Edhi Centre where I go in, take my girls and do the makeup and the hair using my best products. That’s something that I feel really good about doing it. Just to make them feel special and giddy.

Aamina Sheikh is someone whose makeup I would love to do. She has a very strong makeup face and beautiful features.


“Aamina Sheikh is someone whose makeup I would
love to do”

What do clients take back with them after leaving your salon?

Every customer leaves here satisfied, that is the best thing. Especially people with short hair who cannot imagine having any kind of hairdo other than the basic blow-dry, I have done some spectacular hairdos for them!

You made the switch from banker to beautician. How and why did you decide to do so?

I had been working for HSBC in Pakistan for 25 years. My entire life had been spent servicing the consumer market, selling products of the bank. This has helped me a lot with making people comfortable coming to me and for me to understand what it is that they are looking for. When HSBC was getting ready to pack up from Pakistan, I was looking for jobs. Sherezad Rahimtoola was instrumental in guiding me. She runs an institute called Pivot Point, and I enrolled there, took the training for makeup, hair designing and hair sculpture. She very strongly recommended I do something — that I have an entrepreneurial spirit and this is what motivated me to take the initiative. I’m also getting trained at L’Oreal which is super!

Are there any upcoming products that you strongly recommend?

All women who get regular styling done, their hair part starts to widen, so we use Serioxyl which activates our dormant hair follicles to regrow the hair and tighten the part. I also offer Botox facials which regenerate your skin and fill in your lines. No injections, just facials. We massage the Botox in with collagen and each facial will gradually and surely reduce your wrinkles: hey, I’m doing them myself!


“I yearn to change the way people, especially women, feel about themselves”

What’s your makeup regime?

I wear different makeup everyday. I wear my hair differently everyday for my clients, I’m very conscious of that. I was always a trendsetter, even at the bank. If I had a certain hairstyle, everyone would follow and start emulating me!

What‘s your take on the fashion industry and styling in Pakistan?

Styling and fashion has done really well. You must have heard of the oft-repeated line that despite all the violence, the fashion shows never stop. In the world of makeup and styling, until very recently, there was very little awareness. I yearn to change the way people, especially women, feel about themselves. I want to change their confidence levels, their attitude and their skin and hair care regimes. And I always tell women who try to look good for any other reason but themselves that it’s not just for your husbands, it’s for yourself — for you to feel and look good for yourself is enough. Luckily, in Pakistan, everybody in this fraternity — be it makeup, fashion, styling, skin care, hair care — compliments the other. There is competition and therefore rapid creativity. It’s been fun to see it grow from the 80s and 90s — when makeup was like a small family dominated by two or three big names like Tariq Amin and Ather Shahzad — to a highly slick, competitive market now.

Photography | Arsalan Bilgrami

What is your idea of style for the modern woman?

The modern woman is strong, independent and doesn’t want to get boxed into a single style. She needs clothes that look trendy, fresh and yet don’t make too much of a dent in the wallet. It’s great to see so many of the young generation have individual styles these days. Whether it is uber glam, high street or bohemian it’s refreshing to witness women hold their own and not necessarily be “on trend.” That is why when Saira and I started Saaya, we sought inspiration from a range of things so we could create a brand that would appeal to different women from various walks of life

Which living person do you most admire for his or her signature style?

From the West I love Emma Watson. Her style has really evolved and it is now effortlessly chic. At our end I think Fawad Khan has emerged as an icon in more ways than one

What trait do you most admire in people?

Humility. I truly believe that if any artistic creation is executed with love and sincerity then it should carry its own weight without any need for arrogance or boastfulness



“It’s refreshing to witness women hold their own and not necessarily be “on trend”

What is your greatest extravagance?

Currently all I want to spend money on is travel. It is so fascinating to see the differences and similarities among people of different cultures. I find traveling gives me the most amount of inspiration when designing for Saaya. For example I was so fascinated with dervishes from Turkey; they inspired us to create our tunics with images of twirling dervishes, which to date is one of our favorite designs

What is your favorite journey?

I recently took a trip up north with my husband and son and I was just blown away. Too many of us focus our attention on traveling abroad when we have heaven in our own back yard. I met the friendliest people and encountered the most beautiful scenery. It truly made me proud to be a Pakistani

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Conformity. I think people appear most beautiful when they take fashion trends and blend them with their own unique style. I love it when people wear Saaya kameezes and make it their own. I’ve seen two women wearing the exact same kameez, but because of their distinctive flare the outfit looked completely different: that’s the beauty of being your own person

How are you using your medium to promote and maintain Pakistan’s culture?

I have been lucky enough to be part of a field where one can really promote what is most positive about us. Clothes from the subcontinent are by far the most beautiful in the world. I am always stunned by the sheer raw talent and dexterity of our kaarigars. In this way I am so grateful that I can use my work to showcase Pakistani culture. Whether it’s a block print of a twirling dervish, Urdu scripture or an embroidered elephant or rickshaw, giving your clothes an eastern touch always proves to be a winner!



What is your greatest achievement?

I would have to say Saaya. It had always been our dream to create a brand which made affordable and trendy outfits for women with eclectic tastes. Despite some challenges Saira and I were able to launch the brand in March 2013 and we overwhelmed with the response. It has been an amazing journey so far! No matter how much hard work we put in or how frustrating the process gets on occasion, Saaya always provides us with a sense of achievement and satisfaction. We can’t wait to see it grow further

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Live and let live. Life is too short to judge someone else’s journey. (I wish more people in Pakistan would embrace this motto!)

Name an item in your wardrobe you can’t do without.

These days its definitely a pair of gold cork wedges. You can wear them in the day with a casual outfit or spruce up an evening ensemble by slipping them on. They look great with both eastern and western outfits

Name three things in your handbag that are always there.

Chapstick, mobile phone and a measuring tape.

What in future do you consider your greatest achievement?

I would be delighted if Saaya became a brand that people associated with fashion and affordability — a brand which provides something for everyone and for all occasions. We are currently working on a more semi-formal, formal line which we hope to launch some time this year

What or who is the greatest love of your life?

Without a doubt my son and my sister. I’m obsessed with both of them. It might sound clichéd but no matter how hard my day is or whatever may have transpired, when I see Ali, it puts a smile on my face.

With my sister Saira, it’s like we are two sides of the same coin. She completely gets where I’m coming from without me having to articulate it. I’m very fortunate to have these people in my life

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?

I would have to say the Dalai Lama. I love his peaceful and positive attitude towards life. It’s something truly worth emulating



“I am lucky to be part of a field where one can promote what is most positive about Pakistan”

What are the challenges in keeping ready-to-wear fashion affordable?

Unfortunately conducting any type of business in a place like Karachi is a challenge. One is always losing working days because of civil unrest, strikes, national holidays etc. Adding to that the hardships faced by employees have to be accounted for as well. This leads to a lot of unforeseen variable costs. But one has to power through these issues and churn out a product that one is proud of and that is worth the price

What inspired you to subtly westernise the eastern ensemble?

It all depends on the market you are catering for. I want to wear ensembles that are traditional but have a modern twist and that is why at Saaya you won’t find out-and-out ethnic pieces. They have a very strong western element. I think that is one of our strengths. We integrate local handiwork and materials with a western twist. I’m not a big fan of the word ‘fusion’ but in essence that’s what it is

What advice would you like to give the teenage girl who looks towards making a mark in the fashion industry?

Think Big. With the right talent, handwork, and dedication I think any dream is possible and no goal is unachievable. We have so many examples of designers who started out in small workshops and today are the biggest names in the industry. It’s truly inspiring.

Considering that women in Pakistan are now rapidly entering the work environment what in your mind makes for a good work attire?

At Saaya we always have the working woman in mind. That is why many of our ready-to-wear cottons are simple, chic and affordable. Working women need outfits which allow them to exude confidence, through comfortable yet trendy cuts, colours and fabrics. We try to find that blend in our cotton line which proved to be very popular

As a woman, what difficulties have you faced in starting your venture? Please mention anyone who stands out in their support in helping your work.

Fortunately we didn’t face many difficulties in starting Saaya. The credit for that definitely goes to our husbands and our parents. Our friends and employees have all been bastions of strength in their own way. They have each contributed to making Saaya what it is. The fact is that without the backing of all the people in your life it is impossible to build a business.

The GT challenge: if you were asked to redesign the uniform for the ladies of our national airline, what would you do?

I think it’s definitely time to spruce up the uniform. Add an interesting print and make it a nicer shade of green. Also I would suggest a shorter kameez with a straight pant. In the 70s the uniform was kind of like that

Text & coordination | Marium Ali Khan
Photography | Gibran Jamshed

Syeda Amera is fresh faced with the collected demeanor of a genuinely cool person. Upon meeting her, I notice there’s nothing gushy, no flowery welcomes or flourishes. She has the calm confidence of a talented person who knows that her work speaks for itself. Having received rave reviews and tons of international press, Amera made it back home to chat with us about the floating catwalk on the Hudson River in NYC where she showcased her latest collection.

How did you get started with your work?

I started my work in 2008. It was a sudden decision taken based on the support and encouragement I received from family and my friends in the media. They all kept telling me how great my own outfits looked (which I used to design myself) and that I should take up fashion designing professionally. Gradually, I started getting offers from mall owners and retail spaces to open up my own store. It was just so spectacular for me, I was so young at the time, just 16 and still doing my O Levels! Initially, my success was just God-gifted and it was only later that I polished my skills and took courses in fashion from France and Singapore. After that I never looked back.

Are you more interested in bridals or prêt?

Technically I do luxury prêt, but I would say that my work is not exactly prêt — that’s heavily dictated by market concerns. I also do heavy couture dresses which are totally western and contemporary in their styles and cuts. I don’t do desi bridals which are typically for shaadis and nikkahs. I do make outfits for engagements and valimas for the adventurous fashion-forward bride. Basically I only really take on projects where I don’t feel artistically restrained.


I make outfits for engagements and nikkahs for the adventurous fashion-forward bride

Tell us about your production and design processes?

We all take inspiration from things. In the case of the recent fashion show in NYC, I took inspiration from the sea. We used colors like sea greens, aqua and all shades of blues. For the embellishments, we used pearls and crystals and created transparent flowy looks. Our inspirations keep varying so it depends on what we want to showcase and of course on the season and current trends.

For production, we start off with a sketch. We then get together all the materials, cloth, embellishments, etc. that we shortlist to go with the desired look in the sketch and then proceed to make a 5 to 10″ sample. We then get into pattern cutting, superimpose the sample onto the pattern and then follow several processes of trial and error to end up with the perfect piece.

What’s it like designing for the ramp and entering the real fashion market?

The clothes I’m making nowadays are all mostly red carpet style gowns and cocktail dresses but still very wearable. And everyone who’s walking the red carpet nowadays is constantly trying something different. I also personally believe that increasingly the gap between reality and ramp will become negligible.

Tell us about your most recent show at the floating catwalk on Hudson River?

It was such a great experience, a dream come true. The cream of the fashion world from all across the globe saw my collection being walked down the ramp. There were reporters and fashion writers and bloggers from every notable fashion magazine. We were featured in Tattler, Vogue and Glamour. Not only was all this exposure such a treat but getting to see so many other very talented designers’ works on the ramp was incredible.


Increasingly the gap between reality and ramp will become negligible

This collection is said to have been inspired by the sea. Can you tell us how you worked it?

The color forecasting for 2015 was all muted and particularly lots of blues and aqua and sea greens. And since our inspiration was the sea, it teamed up perfectly for us. The pearls were something that just fit and crystals and sparkle will never be out of fashion!

What materials/techniques do you like to use in your work?

I mostly use net — net that’s been mixed with some organza works perfectly for a beautiful, ethereal feminine look. And when you work with transparencies, net works so well since most other translucent materials such as chiffons don’t hold up work and embellishments as well. This fabric has a wonderful delicateness and yet a structure of its own. For my next collection, I’m planning to work with organza.

If you were to characterize yourself within the industry, do you have a particular identity?

Everyone tells me always that I have a really international kind of look. Mostly everyone in Pakistan is doing very traditional looking work with lots of kaam, etc. You could say that my work is feminine yet cutting edge as far as fashion is concerned.

Where is your client base located?

We currently stock in three different locations: Dubai, Chicago and London. Our buyers there mostly buy in bulk and then resell to their clients and I don’t know who they are! Since we are from here, we try to maintain a strong client base in Pakistan too.

Marium Hamid talks to Mahjabeen Obaid a pioneer of luxury invitations in Pakistan 

What is your idea of style for the modern woman?

Minimal make up, pulled back hair, straight pants and a simple shirt with fun accessories. Also lots of arm candy, a statement handbag and comfortable shoes.

Which living person do you most admire for his or her signature style?

Tom Ford hands down.

What is the trait you most admire in people?

Being real! There is nothing more admirable than a person who knows who they are and are comfortable in their skin.



No one is completely honest as everyone watches out for
their best interest

What is your greatest extravagance?

Jewellery!  Isn’t it always!

What is your favorite journey?

Family vacations with my father were always the most fun and extravagant. We would pick a destination and then drive around from city to city, exploring! All those holidays were just fantastic: lots of laughter, singing to tunes, stopping and exploring the food. I cherish each of those memorable journeys and that time spent together.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Honesty. No one is completely honest as everyone watches out for their best interest.

How are you using your medium to promote and maintain Pakistan’s culture?

At Mahj Design Studios all our fabric invitations, boxes and announcements are handmade using raw materials that are sourced from Pakistan. We use fabrics and colors that are symbolic to our culture in bright Jamawars, silks and hand woven cottons. We design a lot of wedding monograms in Urdu and our customers abroad love the ethnic feel it adds to the overall look of the invitation.

We have also used truck art. It is one of the most widely recognized art and culture forms associated with Pakistani culture. The most appreciated were Christmas tree ornaments for customers abroad as corporate gifts.




Mahj Design Studios was started in 2008 to cater to the emerging demands of customers who wanted quality wedding invitations in Karachi but didn’t know where to find them.  It rapidly gained recognition online and surprisingly Pakistanis settled abroad became the core clientele who wanted a ‘touch of home’ for their wedding invitations. In 2010 Mahj Design Studios expanded into wedding favors, baby announcements, personalized stationery and notecards. Mahj Design Studios works with customers and wedding planners designing invitations according to the colors and theme of the wedding where each invitation is carefully designed and tailored, not only to meet, but to exceed the expectations of its customers with exclusivity and differentiation. We are now expanding into home accessories and lifestyle products so stay tuned for our new inspiring venture! 

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Colour colour colour! make the design pop! Make it look fresh and happy.

While I enjoy designing the elegant black and white invitations for non-Pakistani weddings abroad, I feel that our weddings are the one time in our lives where family and friends join together in music and dance, mehndis and chooris! The invitation is a prelude to the wedding so it should reflect that vibe! It should set the tone for what’s to come.

To successfully transmit that energy into an invitation requires a lot of knowledge of fonts and design symbols. Anyone can print fuchsia pink or orange on a card but to be able to make the font, colour and designs all work well together requires knowledge and exposure.

What is your greatest achievement?

Professionally I think it has yet to come as I set the bar really high for myself and keep pushing the possibilities. However, recently Mahj Design Studios has had the honour of being included among the most reputable couture wedding invitation companies around the world.

The feature and link to this website is below


What or who is the greatest love of your life?

My family and designing. A designer’s mind is always in motion,  observing and absorbing. I am constantly storing knowledge somewhere at the back of my mind to revisit that memory at a later stage.

What in the future would you consider your greatest achievement?

I would like to open a couture stationery outlet for our walk-in clients in Karachi as we currently only meet by pre-scheduled appointments. I would also stock at retail stores across the globe, PAPYRUS stores being a good benchmark for achievement.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?

I would have to say me! I am very intrigued by myself and my mind. Sometimes I sit in solitude and listen to the whispers of my mind’s eye and then an idea just pops and I go with it.



Recently Mahj Design Studios has had the honour of being included among the most reputable couture wedding invitation companies around the world

What is your most marked characteristic in the world of art?

Being the pioneer of making luxury invitations and stationery in Pakistan where each one of our pieces is a work of art. Our handmade invitations are bespoke pieces that stand apart in their creativity and artistic expression. One of our most extravagant pieces would have to be the ones we made for a royal wedding where we hand-carved a design inspired by Islamic architecture. It took a long time but the results were breathtaking.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?

A woman who can balance work, family, friends and run a home.

What advice would you like to give teenage girls?

To complete their education and to work; to make their own money, and to travel and see the world. Never rely on another person for your happiness: it comes from within. Be strong enough to voice your opinions and never internalize. Scream if you feel like it, get stark raving mad, speak your mind and make your stance very clear. We live in a society where girls are meant to brush things under the carpet and are told not to confront. The most important advice would be to be assertive so that no one takes advantage of you.

How do you strike a balance between work, home and children?

With lots of coffee and help from my husband and my mother. Everything is on a schedule. I honestly think that working mothers spend the most amount of quality time with their children as they are so focused in being present both physically and mentally to make up for the lost time when they are away.

Considering that women in Pakistan are receiving increased recognition for their contribution to the economy, how does your venture support women?

Most of our invitations and favor boxes are all hand-made by women which is the main source of income for their families. We carry out training classes for them as this type of artwork requires a lot of practice and precision and while teaching them the art of making our exquisite boxes with fabrics and crystal, their eyes light up with the vibrancy of color and feel of the soft silks. Teaching them an art that they too can become masters of their own destiny.

As a woman, what difficulties have you faced in starting your venture? Please mention anyone who stands out in their support in helping your work.

No difficulties at all, I started Mahj Design Studios in 2008 and it has grown internationally since then. We actually prefer working with clients abroad as it is much easier to communicate via email and skype. Also less interference by the clients let’s us have more control over the design process which is what we are hired to do.

Name an essential quality an artist-turned-entrepreneur needs in an emerging market.

One needs to be able to market their work properly. They must first know who their customer is and try and find avenues to approach them.

Where do you see yourself as an entrepreneur 5 years from now?

With retail outlets of our own, and being sold at PAPYRUS

Name a local home-grown brand whose success you admire.

Maheen Karim

Text & coordination | Marium Ali Khan

Photography | Gibran Jamshed

Hair & makeup | Saman Zubair

at Saman Salon & Spa

Necklace | Outhouse

(Sana Hafeez Shaikh the Official Representative of Outhouse Indian Jewelry in Pakistan)

GT talks to makeup artist extraordinaire 

What is your idea of a modern women?

My idea of a modern women is someone who oozes confidence and is comfortable in her skin; someone who does what she thinks is right without needing external validation.

Which living person do you admire for his or her signature style?

I admire Madonna as she constantly and convincingly reinvents herself.

What trait do you admire most in people?

Honesty, integrity, and the ability to be aware of where one is in every moment.





Riyah, Saqib, Rukaiya, Nubain & Tapu

“Patience is overrated”

What is your greatest extravagance?

My greatest extravagance is dining out.

What is your favorite journey?

One that involves nature and is enriching and nurturing for the soul.

What do you consider the most over-rated virtue?

Patience. You don’t know if you have tomorrow.

What do you dislike most in your wardrobe?

I don’t dislike anything in my wardrobe, if I didn’t like it it wouldn’t be there!

Which living person in Pakistan inspires you?

My inspiration comes from everywhere, not from any specific person.

Which words or phrases do you most over use?

“Chalo ho jaaye ga.”

What is your greatest achievement?

My children: seeing them grow into beautiful, wholesome human beings.

Who or what is the greatest love of your life?

My children, my ability to make the most of the moment, and to make people laugh.

What in the future do you consider your greatest achievement?

Seeing my family and loved ones happy, healthy, successful, content, in a state of inner peace.



Rukaiya with her daughters, Rania & Riyah


Rukaiya Adamjee & Deepak Perwani with a friend                            Rukaiya Adamjee with friends


Rukaiya Adamjee & Frieha Altaf with a friend

“When a bride looks at herself in the mirror and
feels the prettiest she has ever felt: I live for
that moment”

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?

Oprah Winfrey. I admire her ability to survive, having risen from nothing to unimaginable heights.

What is your signature look?

Bohemian, but it can change according to the occasion.

What is the quality you admire most in a woman?

Inner strength, gentleness and the ability to reach out.

What is your favorite daily wear attire?

Tracks and a T-shirt.

Name an essential item every home needs?

Don’t know about items, but a home always needs a burst of good energy and love.

What are your favorite trends this season?

Natural and flowing, anything that feels good will look good.

Who would you like to style?

Very happy to style myself, thank you!

Name a local celebrity whose style you admire?

I like Mahira Khan’s style, it’s very natural.

How did you make the leap to celebrity stylist?

Hard work, perseverance, being passionate about what I do, and always being honest.

Describe your “I made it” moment?

Yet to arrive.

What song sums up your life at this moment?

The song that sums up my life at this moment is “The Rose” by Bette Midler.

Text | Marium Ali Khan
Photography | Gibran Jamshed

Designers Saira and Shakira are increasingly chipping away the walls of convention in fashion

GT talks to the duo about their remarkable creativity

How did you get started with Saira Shakira?

Shakira: We started working after we graduated from fashion school. We were married and we weren’t doing anything, so from a very small setup at home we began making clothes for our family and friends. Then our husbands supported us and pushed us because we were pursuing this slowly. It’s been three years. We did our first prêt show in 2014, PFDC, and then we did bridal week too.

Saira: We started off with prêt and that became our forte. Now we have started venturing into formals and bridals too.

Are you more interested in bridals or prêt?

Shakira: We like doing prêt more because you can experiment. With bridals, everyone wants very typical stuff. When a bride comes to us, she usually wants something very “pretty pretty” and flowy and long.

Saira: Prêt requires just as much money, cloth, trimmings, etc., except for the work (kaam). But the margins are definitely bigger in bridals and formals when compared to prêt.




‘Men tend to do better in this industry because the workers take them more seriously’

Tell us about your production and design processes?

Saira: We prefer doing our production in-house but during the busy wedding season we are compelled to outsource work too. We’re doing our digital printed line on silk karandi next. It’s fun stuff: kurtis and nice prints. 

Shakira: We don’t have a design process as such because there’s not one thing in particular that either of us handles. Whenever we want to design, either we sit together and do it, or if we’re busy and we need to design separately, we’ll design some pieces on our own, then get together and discuss them. She (Saira) is very good with work (kaam), I’m very good with motif placement so we combine our work and come up with something together.

What was it like exiting PIFD and entering the real fashion market?

Saira: Mostly we were dealing with western cuts, larger-than-life and over-the-top stuff—because obviously we were learning and all this is a part of the training process. But with the market, it’s a whole different ball game. It has to be wearable and more practical. We had to tone down a bit.

Shakira: It was difficult for us, we used to include lots of elements in one design. The cost of production of the design was becoming too high for us to compete in the market.




‘Shalwars are coming back’

Whatis your standard request from your clients?

Shakira: The standard request we get from almost all our clients is for us to make them look thinner.

Any new trends in bridals this season?

Shakira: I think for outfits of the relatives of the bride and groom, a lot of western input is coming in. Crop tops with lehngas, a lehnga with a collared shirt. People actually want to wear them! With the fashion week, we did a lot of capes, jumpsuits and shrugs, crop tops, collared shirts and lehngas.

Saira: It’s difficult to set a new trend in formals and bridals because people have very set notions about how they want to look.

New trends in prêt?

Shakira: Jackets are very in, waistcoats and faux fur in trimmings, collars and sleeves.

Saira: Shorter lengths have been back for a while in prêt and bridals. Slowly and steadily but shalwars too are coming back.

If you were to characterize yourself within the industry, do you have a particular identity?

Shakira: We do a lot of fusion, modern stuff, you would be hard pressed to call us traditional.

Saira: We use a lot of pastels, lighter colours and you’ll always find a bit of androgyny in almost all our pieces.




Behind the scene with Humaima Malick, Abdullah Haris, Saira, Shakira & others

‘The standard request we get from almost all our clients is for us to make them look thinner’

Tell us about your latest shoot with Humaima Malick?

Shakira: This was our biggest shoot to date. Humaima’s a celebrity and her movie had just come out and we think she’s pretty and she just won at the Masala awards—all great things to have in a brand ambassador. The woman we want to dress up is a woman like her. I think she carried the clothes very well. It started at 8am and ended at 11pm! Part of it was shot at Jallo Park which was interesting since it was the first time I had been. Abdullah Haris did our shoot, we decided to work with him because we think his work is different.

Saira: Abdullah’s work is edgy and he takes it very seriously. We’ve done both our PFDC prêt and bridal videos with him.

Where is your client base located?

Shakira: We get a lot of clients from all over Pakistan and the world, the U.S., Italy, South Africa and India too. But our base is from Lahore since we live there. We’re planning an outlet here in Lahore and in Karachi featuring Saira Shakira prêt basics. Mainly stocking off-the-rack stuff featuring kurtis and three piece suits. But slow production is something that really holds us back.

Saira: People automatically think we’re from Karachi once they look at our Facebook page!


‘When a bride comes to us, she usually wants something very “pretty pretty”‘

How much do you think gender plays a role in your industry?

Shakira: As sad as it is to say, men tend to do better in this industry as the workers take them more seriously than they would a woman who’s telling them what to do. We have had to get our husbands to intervene when someone is just not cooperating with us!

How is your working relationship with each other?

Shakira: Thankfully, we’re both fairly laid back and we don’t argue and fight. I tend to freak out more and panic when something goes wrong and Saira is the one to smooth it all out. She’s the calmer one. We complement each other.

What do you dislike about the industry?

Saira: There should be copyrights, but it really is impossible to avoid other people from outright copying your work.

Shakira: Everyone nowadays is a designer! Every household seems to have a designer. There should ideally be some way to regulate how and why one can become a designer. But it sounds absurd even as I say it!


You’ve recently worked with Deepa Mehta and taken a serious shot at acting. Tell us about your latest big-screen roles:

Acting has always been a passion of mine. I just didn’t know how much I liked it until I really tried it. I’ve dedicated a lot of time in learning the craft. There’s a lot more learning to do. I’ve shot two features in 2014. The first is with world-renowned director Deepa Mehta, in her latest film “Beeba Boys.” It was a small role, but I learned a lot from her.  The second film is called “The Black Prince, directed by Kavi Raz.”  He’s an incredibly committed and talented film maker whose drive simply amazes me! The film is a period biopic about the son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Maharaja Duleep Singh. I play the role of Arur Singh, who was the right-hand man of the Maharaja.

You’ll shortly be releasing a cookbook featuring South Asian cuisine, with an emphasis on easy recipes for men. Any particular personal experiences that led to you focusing on cooking for men?

Lets face it, the majority of guys don’t cook. Its a sad fact. After careful deliberation, I’ve come to the realization that there are a number of things that support the absent male in the kitchen. The book is designed to make guys feel comfortable in the kitchen. Cooking is not as scary or difficult as it may seem. Sometimes, a guy needs to hear it in his own language: guy talk!


Performing alongside Nelly Furutado at Andheri Stadium in Mumbai: over 70,000 fans, new years eve, amazing evening, and lots of love’

Tell us about your musical journey from the tabla at gurdwaras at age 6 to pioneering your own style of contemporary South Asian music.

Like any living entity, one’s journey is forever evolving. Let’s just say the journey has been amazing. When you love what you do, you usually take the road less traveled. Thats the road I’ve always been on, and its the road I chose. JoSH’s experiences, inspirations, and backgrounds have brought us to the style of music we have. Like any living entity, it’s always evolving.


The film is a period biopic about the son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Maharaja Duleep Singh. I play the role of Arur Singh, who was the right-hand man of the Maharaja’

New York or Montreal?

Home is where the heart will always be, Montreal.

What’s your most memorable musical performance and why?

Performing alongside Nelly Furutado at Andheri Stadium in Mumbai. Over 70,000 fans, new years eve, amazing evening, and lots of love.

What is your idea of style for the modern woman?

Something without fuss — usually a pair of jeans and a T-shirt

Which living person do you most admire for his or her signature style?

Gayatri Devi but she passed away; now Jane Fonda

What is the trait you most admire in people?

Diligence and determination to see an idea through



What is your greatest extravagance?

Power tools for The Craft Company

What is your favorite journey?

Climbing an impossible hill and then coasting down effortlessly

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?


How are you using your medium to promote and maintain Pakistan’s culture?

My craft business, The Craft Company, aims to promote and preserve the art and craft of Pakistan.  As an artist my paintings are all about the colour and feel of eastern sensibilities, about the eastern woman and her aesthetic



Muna Siddiqui is the owner and designer of The Craft Company, a handmade craft atelier that works with the ethos of producing arts and crafts to promote and preserve the heritage of sub-continental art and culture. But her watercolor paintings solo show at the Momart Art Gallery in December 2014 after almost a decade since her last solo show is startlingly haunting in its subject and intensity, removed yet connected to her work at the Craft Company and its focus on vintage sub continental art

Which living artist in Pakistan inspires you?

So many to name!

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

It is what it is

What is your greatest achievement?

To always be true to my art, whether it is my creations at The Craft Company or my paintings

What or who is the greatest love of your life?

Not a singular answer

What in future do you consider your greatest achievement?

Probably to keep painting and writing and maintaining the Craft Company

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?

A superhero who can fly!


What is your most marked characteristic in the world of art?

I think whatever I paint has to be woven with design so that it is a delicate balancing act

What is the quality you most like in a woman?

Elegance and tenacity

What advice would you like to give teenage girls?

Never think you cannot achieve your dreams

Name an essential quality an artist-turned-entrepreneur needs in an emerging market.

Logic, pragmatism and careful selection of what is achievable and what is a long-term goal

Where do you see yourself as an artist and an entrepreneur 5 years from now?

The Craft Company continues to expand in Pakistan and overseas. My paintings have a life of their own and i continue to be as compelled to make them

Name a local home-grown brand whose success you admire.


Name a budding brand that you feel hasn’t received the recognition it deserves.

I think the handmade craft business in general is relegated to this, like APWA, Behboud et al

Text | Marium Ali Khan

Photography | Arsalan Bilgrami

GT talks to Bushra and Zainab of Jawahir Jewellery

What is your idea of style for the modern woman?

Bushra Butt: Being able to carry everything and anything with confidence.

Zainab Yousuf: The modern woman’s style is functional, comfortable, minimal yet stylish. The woman of today is a career woman, a mother, a woman of many facets. She needs a fuss-free sense of style which makes her look beautiful yet is easy to achieve.

Which living person do you most admire for his or her signature style?

Bushra Butt: I don’t admire any one person in particular because I believe each one of us has a unique style representing who we are and what we believe in and I admire that about everyone.

Zainab Yousuf: I admire Queen Rania for her amazing style, her elegance, poise and grace. Despite being a Queen, she gives off a ‘real woman’ vibe, never overdone, never flamboyant, always elegant.


Which living person in Pakistan inspires you?

Bushra Butt: I admire Pakistani women in general for becoming more independent and not only understanding what their rights are but actually making an effort to fight for them.

Zainab Yousuf: I’m inspired by strong women, women who are survivors of difficult or unfortunate circumstances. I look up to Malala, a true survivor, such a young girl who has achieved so much already. Her journey, what she went through, who she has become now, an achiever who hasn’t forgotten where she came from.

What is the trait you most admire in people?

Bushra Butt: Humility.

Zainab Yousuf: I like genuine people, with a strong centre, people who are connected to their emotions, who are comfortable in their skin. They are who they are, immense strength lies in that.


Name a local celebrity whose style you admire?

Bushra Butt: Noor Jehan. I feel her personality was larger than life and that’s what I admire about her the most.

Zainab Yousuf: Aminah Sheikh and Mahira Khan.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Bushra Butt: Vacations. If I have anything more than a week off I must absolutely get far away.

Zainab Yousuf: Like most women, spa beauty treatments and retail therapy of any kind!

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Bushra Butt: I love you but I love me more!

Zainab Yousuf: Let go. Be present in the moment. Positivity. Gratitude. Yoga again!

What is your greatest achievement?

Bushra Butt: Being the youngest MPA in Punjab assembly.

Zainab Yousuf: Being a mother to my four-year-old-son, having my jewelry line, and being a fitness and well-being expert to women are all  achievements in my life.


What is your favourite daily wear attire?

Zainab Yousuf: My super comfortable Yoga leggings, a tank-top and a long flowey shirt on top with a scarf and flat pumps.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?

Bushra Butt: My husband primarily because I admire him for the person he is. I feel there is so much to learn from him that will help me grow as a person.

Zainab Yousuf: My son Ayaan is the love of my life. I gain a lot a lot of strength from him. What I have achieved is because of him.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?

Bushra Butt: Her ability to multi-task.

Name an essential item every woman should have.

Bushra Butt: No accessory has more style than the scarf. Versatile, inexpensive and practical, the scarf is worth its weight in fashion gold.

Zainab Yousuf: An everyday bag with enough space in it for her daily essentials as well as the child’s! A pair of pearl earrings, and a yoga mat!


What is your collection’s most marked characteristic?

Bushra Butt: Bold and beautiful.

Zainab Yousuf: Jawahir features richness of design, our pieces are eclectic, versatile, they can be worn formally as well as casually or semi formally.  You can wear our pieces with a jumpsuit or jeans, western wear or to a wedding with a gharara. Therefore our collection is very multi dimensional.

Where do you see your brand 5 years from now?

Bushra Butt: In the list of a “MUST HAVE”

Zainab Yousuf: Five years from now I see Jawahir having its on retail store locally, slowly branching out its retail nation wide.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Bushra Butt: Tolerance. It’s good to be tolerant but some people take that as a weakness and try to invade your boundaries.

What is your favorite journey?

Zainab Yousuf: Yoga is the best journey I have undertaken in my life. The beauty of its philosophy, the spirituality, the strength, the athletic grace, the positivity, I can go on and on. Trying to apply those principles in my everyday life has been life-changing.

What in future do you consider your greatest achievement?

Zainab Yousuf: Seeing our jewelry brand become a household name in terms of fashion accessories. Having different lines, ranging from a premium line to one that is universally affordable as well. Taking Jawahir on an international level, stocking locally as well as abroad, meeting the immense demand that we are facing for online shopping, within Pakistan and internationally as well, is on the agenda for 2015.

What do you dislike most in your wardrobe?

Bushra Butt: The clothes that I’ve never worn and will not wear!

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?

Bushra Butt: Bushra Butt but a little less sensitive!

Text: Marium Ali Khan
Photography: Gibran Jamshed
Hair & makeup: Mahvish Hasan
Outfits: Tena Durrani

Saba Ahmed meets actor Omair Rana

In the world of acting, there are a dwindling number of true enthusiasts who respect the art. When I meet Omair Rana on a sharp winter’s morning, his grin catches me off-guard: he has the air of an irrepressible performer. I’m struck by his wit and his composure. After all, he has recently become father to a beautiful baby girl!

Omair is once again pursuing his lifelong passion for theatre. His most recent tribute to the late Shade Hussain, a beloved music teacher at Lahore Grammar School, was the play It Runs in the Family, a comedy by Ray Cooney. Staged at the Alhamra Arts Council, the play had all the trappings of the plays of yesteryear, in the heyday of theatre in Lahore.

“I have been doing things because I enjoy them rather than because I want to reach somewhere,” says Omair. Whilst doing theatre plays with Shah Sharabeel, Adeel Hashmi noticed Omair and offered him a role in the much beloved comedy drama sitcom, Teen Bata Teen. Having dropped out of the TV circuit some time ago, Omair discovered films and went down that road mainly because the projects were interesting to him. “Film and theatre both require a bit of madness and I enjoy that,” Omair says with a wide grin. He has had the pleasure of working on some critically acclaimed films, notably Dukhtar and Chambaili.


Theatre is more organic for and comes more naturally to Omair

Omair tried hard not to settle for a run-of-the-mill career. According to Mrs. Samina Rehman, his colleague at Lahore Grammar School, he would have been selling oil and salt for the rest of his life had he stayed any longer at the sales and marketing gig before he came to focus on acting. He quit and in 2000 founded Real Entertainment Productions, which has since its inception done over 50 plays.

Omair believes in specialization, and that people should be delegated and trusted to their respective work. Likewise when working on TV, he sees people that are less than capable at directing plays. “I believe that every art deserves its proper respect,” he says. “I might be able to carry a tune but that doesn’t make me a singer.” With Tamanna, Salman Shahid, himself and the rest of the team would repeatedly bounce the script off each other. “We would each edit it, share it and pass it around with everyone,” he says. “On a TV set, everything should be ready for the actors: the lights, the cameras, that’s what a supporting crew is for,” says Omair. “They’re still quite a few steps behind and it’s more about money per hour than anything else.”



“The fool that I am, I would always be on time and once I waited for ten hours before being put in front of the camera!”

He has teamed up with TV actors and other people from the fraternity including Faisal Rehman and Atiqa Odho to start The Actors’ Collective (ACT), an association of actors, including film, theatre and televisions artists in Pakistan. It aims to standardize and better the industry locally and internationally. Omair recalls an experience he had while on a TV set: “The fool that I am, I was called on set and I would always be on time and I waited for ten hours before being put in front of the camera without a script. I was livid!” Being part of a good team with a good script is what he cares about, and if the money isn’t great, he’s one of the few who doesn’t care.

The TV industry in Pakistan thrives on typecasting actors, yet thankfully Omair has been able to avoid being typecast. The TV industry believes less in character acting than the theatre and film industries, where an actor can completely become someone else. “On TV, I’ve done some crazy stuff, been able to do roles that are quite apart from who I am,” he says, adding that “they are still trying to typecast me!” The moment he dyes his hair or becomes clean shaven, he becomes someone else. At a very base level of understanding, the TV industry recognizes what one looks like and so do the viewers. For Omair’s age and looks, he will typically be cast on TV as the young single father or as the thirties about-to-be married man. He recalls, “Last night I had a nightmare that someone was casting me as a sixteen-year-old college student!” The last serial he was cast in, he played a character that was contemporary friends with Noman Ijaz’s character, who in real life is at least 15, 20 years older than him. According to Omair, there are a few people out there in TV who like to experiment and push boundaries. But the forces of production houses are so strong, they kill the enterprise of those not stereotyping actors according to their unaltered physical appearance.



Theatre is more organic for and comes more naturally to Omair. The last play Omair did prior to It Runs In The Family was showed as part of London’s 2012 Cultural Olympiad, the Urdu adapted version of Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ (translated as ‘Ilaj-e-Zid Dasteyaab Hai‘) and was performed in London as part of the ‘Globe to Globe’ program. Along with Nadia Jamil, Salman Shahid and others, the play opened to rave reviews with many in the audience moved to tears.

What was the experience like working in Bollywood?

I’ve learnt a lot from working in Bollywood. Pakistani films are certainly on the rise but in India, movies are already a huge, money-churning business, they’re extremely organised and professional. For instance, wherever our team went to shoot, we were accompanied by an auditing team. They’d work in a separate room and make sure that we’d never go over the budget. There is so much to learn that I find the entire debate that Pakistani actors shouldn’t work elsewhere senseless. By working in other countries, we’re able to move out of our comfort zones, learn more and bring that back to our own industry.

The Indian film industry is in a very exciting phase right now as it has the perfect combination of experienced filmmakers and newcomers, who are taking Bollywood to new heights.

In the course of promotions for “Khoobsoorat” I have met Farah Khan, Anu Malik and Anupum Kher and they’ve all been very welcoming.

Looking back, what are your thoughts on “Humsafar” or “Zindagi Gulzar Hai,” the dramas that made you famous?

“Zindagi Gulzar Hai” couldn’t have been shown in India at a better time, I appreciate the efforts of HUM TV who are trying very hard to make their productions popular all over the world. I feel very fortunate.



The days that I am off work are the days I spend like a bear

How do you spend your free time?

The days that I am off work are the days I spend like a bear. I go into hibernation. I stay at home and connect with family. I visit my parents or my in-laws and I love to spend time with my son.

Any movie or dramas in the pipeline?

I’m currently in talks for a Pakistani film and a couple of Bollywood films. I’m staying away from television for a while.

This year, there was a small kerfuffle at the ARY film awards with Shaan proudly declaiming that he had never worked in an Indian movie. Ali Zafar gracefully and intelligently defended his decision to work in India. What message would you like to give your fans in Pakistan about cross-border collaborations?

It’s useless criticising working in India. Ali has carved a niche for himself; I have been his fan much before he came to Bollywood. He has got all the elements working for him. I am a huge supporter of Ali. There are very few people who don’t like my work in India; they are continuously criticising me and my work, they have their own opinion and I don’t want to say anything to them. If any Indian actor will work in the Pakistani industry, Indian people will criticize him or her, I think there is no limit or border for talent and art.



I find the entire debate that Pakistani actors shouldn’t work elsewhere senseless

Your character Zaroon in the Pakistani romantic “Zindagi Gulzar Hai” is immensely popular in India. Are there any similarities between the two of you?

Only the romantic part!

Who are your influences in Bollywood?

I grew up on Amitabh Bachchan films like “Do Aur Do Paanch,” “Mr Natwarlal,” “Satte Pe Satta” and  “Shahenshah” etc. I love this dialogue: “Jis din main koi gori titli dekh leta hoon mere khoon mein sainkado kaale kutte ek saath bhokne lagte hain, uss din main Black Dog peeta hoon.” And “Rishte mein toh hum tumhare baap lagte hain” from Shahenshah. I’ve also seen “Mr India” several times.

Sahira and Rahat Kazmi’s handsome son, Ali Kazmi, is all set to conquer Hollywood with the upcoming release of his first major feature film, director Sidney J. Furie’s “Pride of Lions.” In an exclusive conversation with Ally Adnan, he talks about his upcoming film, his life, and his experiences as an actor in both Pakistan and Canada


Do you enjoy being in front of the camera?

I am very comfortable in front of the camera, having had an early start at the age of two, when my mother directed and featured me in the video of Nayyara Noor’s patriotic song, Wattan Ki Matti Gawah Rehna. I have never looked back since. I have worked in a large number of commercials, television serials, plays, independent films, experimental features and tele-films, but, even today, I get excited when I face the camera. This is what I like and what I enjoy. I was born to face the camera.


How was the experience of being raised by two well-known actors?

My parents were two of Pakistan’s first thespians—actors who devoted their entire lives to the craft. Everything in our home revolved around acting. My home was a veritable institution for learning how to act. In addition to providing education, instruction and guidance, my parents inspired me to seek satisfaction and pride for performing a role well. Even today, I say, “It does not matter what part you play as long as you play it well.”

‘At the age of seven, I acted in the highly successful TV series, Dhoop Kinaray, directed by my mother’

Why did you move to Canada?

My wife and I decided to move to Toronto, Canada, shortly after we got married. The prospect was terrifying because we were both doing well in Pakistan but it was something that had to be done. I needed to broaden my horizons.  I attended the Toronto Film School and graduated with honors in Film History, Direction and Cinematography. Toronto has treated me well. I have found success, peace, happiness and friendships in the city.

Ali Kazmi with Lou Gossett Jr. during the shooting of Pride of Lions


When did you get your first big break?

I got my first break in Toronto with the 2009 Toronto Fringe Festival (www.fringetoronto.com). This is an annual theatre festival which features un-juried plays by artists from all over the world, mounted in various theatres all over the city. Quite by accident, I saw an audition notice from the Fringe Festival for Israel Horowitz’s one act play, The Indian Wants the Bronx. I knew the play well. It was the play that had made Al Pacino, the Al Pacino. The play is set in the sixties and tells the story of the fifty year old Gupta who arrives in New York from India to visit his son. The man barely speaks any English and is confronted by two hoodlums at a bus stop. A war of words follows and degenerates into tragic acts of rage and violence. The dark and gritty play was one that I had always wanted to be a part of. This was my chance.

‘It was too late to sign up for the audition, but my desire to act in the play was too great to be controlled’

I was too young for the role, did not have an agent at the time and it was too late to sign up for the audition, but my desire to act in the play was too great to be controlled. I showed up for the audition where I found the lobby full of fifty-year-old actors sitting to read from the play. Once they were all done, I raised my hand and sheepishly asked if I could audition. I was allowed to read from the script. I must have done well because I got a standing ovation from the producer and the director at the end. They were, however, concerned about my age and let me leave their offices somewhat flattered but decidedly disappointed. It wasn’t until two days later that they called to tell me that, after reviewing all audition tapes, they had decided to give me the role. After six weeks of grueling rehearsals, the play was mounted at Toronto’s famous landmark, Honest Ed’s where it played to sold out audiences and magnificent reviews.

Glickman Talent Management’s agent, Craig Alexander, saw my performance of Gupta and called me the next day to say that he wanted to represent me. He is my agent even today.


Do you have good memories of Pakistan?

I have great memories of working in Pakistan. At the age of seven, I acted in the highly successful TV series, Dhoop Kinaray, directed by my mother. Mom was worried about my ability to get the scene right and prepared to over-direct me when I surprised her by getting it right on the first and only take. I enjoyed working under my mother’s direction in Enver Sajjad’s play, Zikar Hai Kai Saal Ka, where my father and the beautiful Atiaqh Odho were my costars. My first drama serial, Phir Youn Love Hua, was directed by the immensely talented Rubina Ashraf in which I played the role of a young man named Sameer who falls hopelessly in love with a girl called Imaney played by the gorgeous Nadia Hussain. I worked on many other plays, tele-films and sitcoms, including Kaisa Yeh Junoon, Tere Ishq Main, Meethi Meethi Bathein, U-Turn, Kaisay Kahoon, Aurat Aur Mard, Urban Desi, Socha Na Tha and Haseena, in Pakistan. It is remarkable how Pakistan is able to produce high quality work with extremely limited resources and a socio-political environment that is rarely conducive to artistic expression.

Tell us about “Pride of Lions.”

My big break into Hollywood—the Promised Land—comes with the veteran director Sidney J. Furie action-adventure feature film, “Pride of Lions.” The ensemble cast includes legendary actors including Bo Svenson, Margot Kidder, Louis Gossett Jr., and Seymour Cassel. The movie tells the story of five individuals who decide to embark on a daring rescue mission to save a group of young U.S. soldiers who are held captive in northern Afghanistan.


Sidney is a great director and working with him has been both fun and a learning experience. He really is an eighty-year-old kid! Full of energy, vigor and spontaneity, he brings an intense vitality to the set. The first one to arrive on the sets, and the last one to leave, he is the captain of ship where the entire crew works together as a family. The action-adventure script, written by Furie himself, treads into areas reserved for more serious genres exploring the relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren and finding humor in difference of views held by people of different generations.

Do you have a good life?

I am a very lucky individual. I make my living doing what I enjoy. One cannot ask for more.

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