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GT – July 01-15 2018

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Mahlia S. Lon

If you love to hear from the stars themselves, then boy do we have an issue for you! We have up close and personal interviews with…wait for it: Mahira Khan, Sheheryar Munawar, Amna Ilyas, Mira Sethi, Ayesha Omar, Osman Butt and Aditi Singh. Phew! All packed together for your reading and viewing pleasure.

Young tech entrepreneur Shan Rizvi who rose from humble beginnings to co-found not one but two tech solution companies tells us what our kids should learn in order to be ahead of the game in today’s fiercely competitive world.

For our Memorable Romance feature, we take you back in time to small town life in the late Mughal era as we relate the tragic romance of Sohni Mahiwal.

Last but not least, Iran’s National Team Melli may not have made it all the way at the FIFA World Championship but they played like the heroes that they are and we bring you their backstory leading up to the FIFA Cup.

Enjoy the latest issue of GT, filled with more reading material than most other local magazines. Health and happiness!

Having spent the better part of a day informally with the cast of the summer blockbuster 7 Din Mohabbat In, Mahlia Lone gets to see what Mahira Khan, Shehryar Munawar, Amna Ilyas and Mira Sethi are really like to work and interact with. Their natural camaraderie shows through and, feeling comfortable, they their let their guard down

At this interview, seeing up close your insane schedules, I didn’t realize how hard actors really work to achieve stardom. Tell us about the unglamorous side of showbiz?

Amna: One of the hardest part is during a hectic film promotion schedule you hardly get to sleep.  We all reported for an interview at 6:30 A.M., but Mahira hardly slept last night.

Mahira: I was at a dubbing session for Maula Jutt till 2:00 A.M. last night. Since I don’t speak Punjabi I have to really concentrate on getting my Punjabi accent right. Then I was up at the crack of dawn for a televised interview, the hosts for which were two hours late on set.  I haven’t slept for two nights. Right now I’m pretty sure my eyes are shut but hopefully they are not. I’m zoning out and super tired but you know you are feeling so tired from inside but you have to put up this face and you are smiling all the time.

“It’s the love that I get from my fans that keeps me going”

Mira: It looks like a charmed life but really the love you get from your fans makes up for all of this (the punishing schedule).

Mahira: Yes, it’s the love that I get from my fans that keeps me going.

Sheheryar: Reminds me of that song by Bob Seger Turn The Page, that’s what it is right now.

(He hums the chorus)

Here I am

On the road again

There I am

Up on the stage

Here I go

Playin’ star again

There I go

Turn the page

“I’m lucky to have worked with these three women”

Tell us what the others are really like in person.

Sheheryar: I’m lucky to have worked with these three women. Mira is extremely polite. Aamna is very honest to herself and because she is honest to herself she is open about what she says. And Mahira, I’ve said it before, is the kindest person I’ve ever known.

Mira: I’ve known Sherry over the course of 9 month intermittently and what I have shared with him is what I’d share with my best friend.

Amna: The way Sherry and Mahira were looking out for us was very touching. Mira and Mahira were always calling out for us, while Sherry would always search for me with his eyes in the crowd in an extremely gentlemen like way.

Amna also starred in Meenu Farjad’s critically acclaimed film Zinda Bhaag opposite Naseeurddin Shah

Mahira: Sherry and I have been friends for at least four years now since Ho Mann Jahan and we are completely comfortable with each other (she says punching him playfully on the arm). I can call him anytime if I want to talk or hang out and we really get along well with each other.

Mira earlier you told me that you were looking for a strong script to make your film debut, is that why you chose 7DMI as your film debut vehicle?

Mira: Yes, it’s been written by Fasih Bari Khan. When you write something from the heart that’s when it’s actually funny. (As opposed to) When you sit down to write with preconceived pretty cooked notions of what it is you want, it often doesn’t work out like that in my experience.

Shehryar: These characters have a little bit of us in them.

The directors of the film Meenu Gaur and Farjad Nabi directed Zinda Bhaag (2013), Pakistan’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards that year. How was it working with them?

Amna: I worked with them (the directing duo) on Zinda Bhaag as well. They are great to work with—professional, but relaxed and very considerate. (The others all chorused yes in unison.)

Shehryar, you yourself are a successful film producer (Ho Mann Jahan-2016), was it hard not to want to take over?

“When you write something from the heart that’s when it’s actually funny”

Shehryar: No, if you trust the team and they are doing a good job, I focus on the job at hand, acting.

Shehryar you were speaking a regional language that I’m not familiar with on the phone. Which one is that?

Shehryar: I speak several regional languages of Pakistan. Brahui is my mother tongue since my mom is from Kalash. We speak it at home. It’s a Dravidian language, spoken by the original inhabitants of the Subcontinent.

I also speak Sindhi fluently. My father is from Sehwan Sharif, where the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar is located. It’s a city like no other; it’s so religiously tolerant and atmospheric. People of all religions and backgrounds come to perform Urs (pilgrimage) there. I really like going back.

What are you wearing to the film premier?

Mira: A designer is custom making an outfit for me.

Mahira: I’ve had no time to think about this. My stylist will pick something out.

Amna: (With a brain wave) We should wear the same colour like a team.

Mahira: (Excitedly) Let’s all wear black.

Amna: Not black again! We’ll blend into the background.

Shehryar: (Looking at the ladies) Are we discussing this now? (Sportingly) I can wear green; I like green.

Coordination by Sana Zehra

Resilient, hard working and optimistic, Shan Rizvi came from a working class background, but beat the odds after facing countless Obstacles. Today Shan is successful doing what he loves, solving problems using technology. He has co-founded with investors based in Sweden, commercially successful startups, like Pencil News and Just Ads. Sana Zehra sits down with the visionary to talk about his tech companies and factors that shaped him into becoming what he is today

Your journey is quite interesting and inspiring; you broke all the barriers to achieve success. What drove you?

Going to Finland at the age of 18 was a transformational experience. It was like going from 0 to 1 with an onslaught of new responsibilities that taught me a lot. Being the only South Asian student also made me interact with other international and exchange students, interactions that gave me a new perspective.

For the next five years, I took literally every possible opportunity to spend a semester abroad, with every new place offering a chance to start anew on some level.

Tell us about your two companies, Just Ads and Pencil News.

I started my entrepreneurial career as a search engine marketing consultant but knew from the onset that while it was lucrative, it was repetitive to the point of being depressing. There was a need to take a step back and re-think what the same process might look like in a post-AI world. In that future, running state-of-the-art campaigns will not be so painful; it’ll be Just Ads.

The time to get super rich from cryptocurrencies is probably over

Pencil News stemmed from my frustration at the half-hearted support for Urdu in the digital realm. The largest newspapers displayed Urdu text in the form of images to preserve the Nastaliq font, a hack rendered unnecessary long ago. There were many amazing apps that I used daily, so it was jarring to realize that the technology that most of them are based on isn’t available in Urdu. With artificial intelligence on the horizon, the technology gap between languages seemed to be widening further, so Pakistani languages have some catching up to do and we’re working on that.

What made you come up with these names?

Kristoffer, one of our board members and co-founders, came up with the name Just Ads and it just clicked with everyone.

Pencil was more deliberate. While we were working on natural language processing and machine learning applications for Urdu, on the surface, we were a news aggregation app. That made it more important for the name to reflect our true ethos: using technology to enable people to create and consume content, like a pencil once upon a time.

What innovation are you most excited about at the moment?

Self-driving cars. It is amazing that they are less than 3 years away. Imagine being able to sit in a car in Karachi, set location to Gwadar, and work or enjoy the sights throughout the way there without having to drive. (Yes, I’m quite sure it’ll work in Pakistan too)

What development do you see in technology startups soon?

Not sure how soon it will be, but eventually, the cost of tablets or similar devices will be so low that the government will only have to maintain an up-to-date digital curriculum and ensure that every child in the country has access to such a device, like an identity card. Adults will be able to use the same devices to access government services, continuing education, and vocational training.

You talk about a turning point in your life when you attended that prestigious school, do you think attending that school helped you?

Oh, without a shred of doubt. Up until O-Levels, it was a foregone conclusion that I would pursue higher education in Pakistan. It was at the Lyceum that I saw people pursuing higher education abroad so actively; it encouraged me to pursue the same.

(My parents) gave me existential puzzles and questions that frustrated me but also got me in the habit of finding my own answers

It also gave me a chance to get to know people from a diverse set of backgrounds, which prepared me well for the life ahead.

Do you think kids from middle SES (socioeconomic status) should attend these “prestigious schools” or do you think that it can result in social awkwardness or isolation for them?

Prestigious or not, kids should attend schools that have good teachers, good extra-curricular opportunities, and a socio-economically diverse student body.

Light and easy

How would you define the colour blue to someone blind?

Light is a wave and wavelength determines colour. Blue, for example, has a shorter wavelength than both Red and Green. The sky is blue, and the oceans are blue, which might be why it’s associated with the calmness and serenity of nature but we’re not even sure if the same colour appears same to all of us, let alone how it makes us feel.

What does love sound like?

Love sounds like a laugh, a moment in which two or more people are bound by a shared understanding of something amusing.

Whose brain would you like to have had?

Easy, Albert Einstein.

If you could commit one crime without ever getting caught?

Travel to countries without a visa

Worst purchase you ever made?

Nokia N900 rather than the iPhone in 2007; it had a Unix terminal!

What’s the most fun you’ve ever had?

My last year of university for sure, one semester in Barcelona, another in Rotterdam, while having a remote part-time job to pay for the travel and entertainment.

What would you say to students on their graduation?

The world is changing, presenting new threats and opportunities. You should know the basics of artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud computing, climate change, block chain, clean energy, and other emerging trends. You should also be able to work efficiently in a team with people from different genders, personalities, cultures, religions, professions, expertise etc. You can either complain about how difficult things are in Pakistan, or you can solve those problems competently and earn love, respect and wealth. If one problem is too big to solve, break it down into very small chunks, and if that’s not possible, look for another problem; there is no lack of those, right?

Whether middle or upper SES, kids can learn a lot from being exposed to diversity early on. Any social awkwardness is temporary, a source of learning, and might even be the antidote to isolation. Don’t hurt anyone, and try to be kind; your awkwardness might be more accepted than you think, today more than ever.

What role did your parents play in where you at today?

They gave me existential puzzles and questions that frustrated me but also got me in the habit of finding my own answers.

What’s your typical day like?

I wake up around 7 A.M., drink two glasses of water and try to avoid looking at my smartphone for 10 minutes before jumping into phone calls. Because of the time difference, in Sweden it’s 5 P.M. there at that time.  After the morning meetings, I freshen up and clean my work space if needed, while reviewing the most important goals to accomplish that day. Then I spend a few hours on related tasks, especially those that must be done by the end of day in Sweden and Pakistan.

Evenings are for reading, watching, listening, thinking and writing; sometimes for fun, sometimes for learning. But whenever possible, it’s preferably to hang out with a close friend and talk about something fun.

Why aren’t more women in this field?

Because for a long time, people have held misperceptions regarding gender that led them to perceive engineering as a field somehow more suitable for men. For example, I recently interviewed a candidate whom I asked this question and he laughed condescendingly before saying that women don’t make good engineers. Even if there is a minority of people who hold such thoughts, it must make a pretty uninspiring work environment.

Cryptocurrencies are here to stay but there are so many speculative factors involved that risk is high and it’s probably unwise to invest right now, except an amount you wouldn’t mind losing. The time to get super rich from cryptocurrencies is probably over though.

Block chain is more interesting, but there are too many wantrepreneurs and hyped projects. Stay away from ICOs, if you can resist the temptation.

What are some of your favourite apps out there and why do you like them?

Music-streaming app Spotify is the gold standard, because it’s evident in every part of the app that the developers care about user experience.

Any food delivery app, because I don’t like to cook.

Students should learn about the basics of artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud computing, climate change, block chain, clean energy, and other emerging trends

By Haider Rifaat

One stylish star, Ayesha Omar is incomparable in all respects. Not only did she impress us with her acting on the big screen in Karachi Se Lahore, but she also represented Pakistan at New York Fashion Week this spring. In an exclusive interview, she dishes about Karachi Se Lahore 3, Rehbra, partying in New York with Gigi Hadid and much more! Let’s hear it from Ayesha herself

How did you get into acting?

I went to an art college where I did a lot of theater and acting. I had many family friends in the business so I was cast in children roles when I was young. One thing led to another but I never thought that I would take up acting as a career.

You are often regarded as a style icon in Pakistan. How do you feel about that?

Yes, I have been hearing this for the past year (giggles). It’s hard for me to believe that I am considered a style icon as I am very laid back and casual (in my personal life). Though I mostly dress down, I do like to play with aesthetics and experiment with fashion.  It’s a huge honour that people think of me as such.

I still have trouble believing it (laughs) because I was a complete tomboy growing up. I never really cared about what I wore and my friends thought that I was a crazily dressed kid. I wore different colours and mixed them up but I had some stylish friends so I learned from them and the people I was surrounded by.

You attended New York Fashion Week earlier this year. What was it like representing Pakistan’s fashion industry? Share one interesting story that no one knows of yet.

It was amazing! It felt great to be given an opportunity to represent not just the fashion industry but the face of Pakistan. Maybelline sends their representatives to New York Fashion Week just like L’Oreal does to Cannes Film Festival.

I didn’t think I deserved it but people received me with so much love. It was quite a rollercoaster ride because we were attending events all day long and there was so much happening. Everything was meticulously planned and it was just a lot of fun. I am looking forward to going again in January to represent Pakistan.

“It’s so tough to put yourself out there for speculation, judgement and criticism”

It was just me, the brand manager and marketing head managing everything ourselves. The brand manager took my pictures and did crazy things in chilling weather. At times, I took off my shoes and ran around in the cold. It was freezing in February! As for an interesting story, I remember seeing a crowd of people as Gigi walked in to the press party. That was a memorable moment.

Who were you most excited to meet at New York Fashion Week, 2018?

I was definitely most excited to meet Gigi!

How was it like partying with Gigi Hadid?

We met briefly and hung out at a press event for Maybelline and it was a quick in and out for her, but it was lovely meeting her regardless. Her entire presence and aura was unreal.

Who is your style icon?

I have many style crushes; of course, Gigi is one of them. I like Blake Lively, Victoria Bekham and Kendall Jenner. In Pakistan, I would say Meesha Shafi, Zara Peerzada and Feeha Jamshed. Across the border, it’s Sonam Kapoor. If we look back, Audrey Hepburn and Coco Chanel are my style icons. I also like Dua Lipa and Gwen Stefani.

Is it tough being on your toes 24/7, belonging to an industry that demands perfection?

How do you battle it?

Yes, it is – it’s so tough to put yourself out there for speculation, judgement and criticism. It’s a constant battle since I’m someone who loves my privacy. When I travel, I get to live anonymously. I like being on my own without anyone watching me, without looking my best all the time and being constantly scrutinized.

It’s tough to maintain a balance for anyone who is in the public eye. It takes a toll on your sanity and mental health because you always have to pretend to be someone that you are not. It is a relief being yourself sometimes.

What future projects can we expect from you?

I am currently working on two films; one is almost finished and the other is somewhere in the   middle. I will start working on a third film, which is Karachi Se Lahore 3. The entire cast will return for it and we will be announcing it soon. Rehbra is a sad story right now. We started working on it two years ago.

I worked extremely hard on this project, more than any other. We shot this film in extreme weather conditions, for up to 20 hours a day without access to food and other resources. The producer of the film was relatively new and she disappeared on us because she ran out of budget. I guess she was new to the business. Our shoot has not finished yet and there is no law protecting actors from this. It’s heartbreaking.

Do you think Pakistan’s film industry has regressed in recent years given the lack of quality and content of movies?

This is a very tough question to answer.

Yes, recently the quality and content of films has been uninspiring. It is sad to see that people do not realize that content is key to success.  Our dramas have always been of the highest quality and widely appreciated around the world. I don’t know why we want other things to take precedence in films.

There should be production, dance, songs and masala but if the story doesn’t grip you, the film is not headed anywhere. Any amount of songs and dance will not help the movie. We have had some amazing hits like JPNA (Jawani Phir Nahi Ani) and NMA 2 (Na Maloom Afraad 2) in the near past but it is sad that each time a film comes out and is not as good as you expect it to be, it affects us all.

Have you received any international offers for films/television shows? Do you see yourself established in a different industry altogether?

Yes, I have received many offers for films and a couple television shows abroad. They didn’t really work out because I couldn’t understand the character and there were some scheduling issues. I think I still have a long way to go and I would love to dabble with different industries altogether because everything is a learning experience and there are no boundaries for artists.

An artist is an artist all over the world, be it in your country or any other. It would be a huge learning experience for me to work in a different industry, come back, and apply the same knowledge here in Pakistan. I believe when you travel, you learn, and I do travel a lot because of my work. Each time I tour, I learn about a country’s culture, their people and their behaviour.

What would you like to explore beyond performing arts?

I would love to explore health, food, nutrition and holistic ways of living and farming.

You are vocal about harassment and have experienced it beforehand. What can youngsters especially girls take away from this?

Youngsters should not be okay with certain things that make them uncomfortable. There is a lot of shame and stigma attached to speaking out about anything that makes you feel awkward. We need to break the culture of silence.

We have grown up in a society where it is taught to hide and cover up a crime, which often attracts unwanted attention. As a society, we need to place the blame where it rightly belongs; the shame is not for the victim but the perpetrator. This is what needs to change and it is only possible if we talk about such issues and instil a mentality in youngsters that it’s not okay if something bothers you; you should not cover it up as you will feel guilty or responsible for it.

Ayesha is headed back to NYFW next January

Maybe you can stop a person in their tracks by reporting the crime and making the person realize that they cannot get away with it easily. I hope to create some space for people around me who are struggling to get somewhere in life or have no confidence.

What are your thoughts on the water shortage and climate change in Pakistan?

My thoughts are intense about our environment. I feel very stressed and concerned about our future.

We choose to live in our bubble but when there is talk about resources needed to survive, it is something very alarming. The world will be running out of water very soon, so is Pakistan and some parts of Africa. Everyone is taking measures to control it but we aren’t doing anything.

I’m taking small steps on an individual level; I take the slogan “take baths, not showers” very seriously. I try to use buckets of water instead of running water. When I brush my teeth, I choose to keep the tap closed.  As for climate change, I have started to limit the use of plastics, such as using straws and so on. We need to campaign and implement such things on a personal level.

As you may know, Khadija Siddiqui’s murder case took place in 2016 but it is being given attention this year. As a celebrity, how would you respond to such a tragedy?

It is deeply scarring to think that Khadija Siddiqui’s murderer is unpunished for his crime. It’s a constant source of anger, frustration and resentment towards the legal system, judicial system and the government. It leaves you feeling so helpless. I have come to realize that my reactions to tiny incidents and people are based on a collective conscience and state of existence.

It is incredibly alarming that people can openly commit unimaginable crimes and get away with it, fostering a feeling of insecurity and fear. I love my country but I do feel fearful and insecure living here. I don’t feel protected and safe as a woman.

Who do you owe your life to for your success?

I owe my life to Allah because my creator is the only one I owe anything to. If He does not allow it, nothing is possible, and my mum of course for all the sacrifices and struggles she has been through. She’s a single parent as my father passed away when I was two years old; she raised me alone without any help from friends and family; she may not the perfect parent because she was going through her own trials and tribulations, but my mother sacrificed her entire life for us. I will always be eternally grateful to her. What I am today, it is because of her.

Even the people who have been a source of frustration for me have propelled me to work harder.

One of Pakistan’s most successful male models, Usman Butt has been graced fashions shows, print advertisements and television commercials for more than four years and will soon debut as an actor in the upcoming television serial, Dilaara. The handsome young man tells Ally Adnan why he is more than just a pretty face 

Your first television serial, Bol Entertainment’’s Dilaara, will be on air soon. Are you excited?

I’m excited and truthfully also a little anxious.

Why are you anxious?

Dilaara marks my debut as an actor. I have seen success as a model and hope to find it as an actor as well but sometimes worry that viewers may not like me on television. I have seen rushes of the play and am satisfied with my work. But it still feels just like waiting for the results of an exam that I think I’ve done well in, hence, the anxiety.

What’s Dilaara about?

Dilaara deals with the subject of loveless marriages. A large number of marriages in our country are the result of coercion, deception and blackmail, both emotional and physical, and not of love. Dilaara tells the story of one such marriage and its devastating consequences.

Do you feel that Dilaara will be a hit amongst television viewers? 

Yes, I absolutely do. The topic of Dilaara is important and relevant. Forced marriages, though common in Pakistan, have rarely been explored on television as a subject in a serial. Bee Gul’s phenomenal script delves into the subject with great intelligence and sensitivity. The serial tells a poignant and social relevant story. I believe that Dilaara will strike a chord with audiences and become a huge hit. The serial has many strengths.

What are these strengths of Dilaara?

Dilaara tells a very good story and tells it well. The characters are rich, real and nuanced.  Khalid Ahmed has directed the serial with great skill and elicited some truly remarkable performances from the actors. Abid Ali and Kinza Razak are brilliant in the serial. I believe I have done well as an actor too. The production design is good. It has been shot well and the score is excellent. A lot of good poetry has been used judiciously in the serial.  Dilaara will be one for the ages, in my opinion.

Tell us about the character you play.

I play the role of a kind and sensitive young man named Shuja who finds himself drawn into a forbidden relationship and has to make a choice between following his heart and behaving in an honourable manner. His decision is not an easy one; it is made difficult by the social, cultural and religion norms of Pakistani society, his own sense of right and wrong, and the thinly-veiled mendacity that pervades the world he lives in.

How did you land the role of Shuja?

Khalid Ahmed auditioned me for the role.

You started your career in show business with modeling. Was it difficult to make the transition to acting?

Yes, it was. Acting and modeling are vastly different. I had to work hard to learn acting and get comfortable in front of the television camera. Three people: Actor/director Khalid Ahmed, and writers Bee Gul and Faseeh Bari Khan, gave me invaluable advice, guidance and encouragement during the process. They are my mentors in the world of show business.

How are modeling and acting different?

The business of modeling is very different from that of acting. The duration of projects, payment structures, industry economics, and career management – virtually everything – is different in the two fields.

The primary requirement for a model is good looks whereas that for an actor is histrionic ability. A model’s thought process, while performing, is generally outward. He opens himself up for the camera. An actor’s thinking is inward. He largely ignores the camera. A model conducts himself with confidence and assurance whereas an actor needs to have both humility and vulnerability. A model has to play a part for a short period of time and does not need to immerse himself in the character that he plays. An actor, on the other hand, has to play a character for extended periods of time, learn lines, and have an understanding of the whole story.

Does it help to have both acting and modeling skills?

Yes, my acting ability helps me a great deal in modeling, especially when I work in commercials. As an actor, I benefit from the confidence, sense of style and poise that I have cultivated in my years of modeling.

Which do you like more, acting or modeling?

Acting, without a doubt.

Why?

Modeling is mostly about having good looks. If one has the right genes, a sense of style and no fondness for food, little else is required to do well as a model. I believe there is more to me than my good looks. I have acting talent. I am hardworking, disciplined and driven. I understand cinema and television. And I have a natural flair for acting. I cannot be content with just modeling.

Additionally, I am more comfortable in the world of acting. Modeling is intensely competitive. People in the fashion business tend to be unfriendly and cold. I guess the short duration of modeling gigs does not allow one to forge meaningful relationships and friendships. I find people in television to be warm and friendly. They work together as a family and offer each other a lot of support, help and guidance. I like the congenial and friendly atmosphere of the world of television.

Do you plan to give up modeling if and when your acting career takes off?

No, as much as I prefer acting, I could never give up modeling. Frankly, it’s very lucrative, relatively easy and a lot of fun. I love the energy, excitement and exhilaration of walking the ramp. I relish wearing good, fashionable clothes. I enjoy seeing myself on billboards, in publications and on television. And I like the perks – gifts of clothes, luxury travel, and many others – that come with modeling.

What do you like to do when not working?

I am a fitness freak and believe in eating well and staying fit. I spend a lot of my time in the gym. Not only does working out keep me healthy, happy and energetic, but essentially in my line of work, it also helps me manage my weight and keep fit. I cannot imagine a day in my life when I would not spend a few hours in the gym.

I enjoy travelling alone as it clears my head; I process my thoughts and find peace. I like places that are off the beaten path and tend to avoid tourist destinations. I love the sights and sounds of new places and foreign lands.  Adventure and discovery are exhilarating, educational and enjoyable.

In a recent interview, you spoke very candidly about the prevalence of sexual harassment and abuse in the world of show business. Did you experience any backlash because of your comments?

No, not really. A couple of people who had hit on me, in the past, called and asked me if I was going to name them as predators in future interviews.

Are you going to name and shame them?

No, I am not. The people that I mentioned had backed off when I refused. They never offered to help me in exchange for favours received and did not threaten to hurt my career after I refused. They have not propositioned me since and have remained nice and friendly towards me. They had a right to ask me as did I to say no; we exercised our rights as adults and moved on. No harm was done. I don’t think it would be right to out and publicly shame them. They don’t deserve it.

Now that the shooting of Dilaara is complete, are you looking at other acting projects?

I want to take a month long break before taking on a new acting project. Working in Dilaara was great fun but it wore me out nonetheless. I need to spend time with my family, rest, relax, and recoup my energy before I resume work.

Have you been offered any acting work recently?

Yes, I received an offer to work in a soap from a major television channel a few weeks ago but turned it down because I am not sure that I want to do soaps. I find the quality and content of regular television serials to be generally higher than that of soaps. I’m also in the early stages of a discussion about working in a film about the fashion industry. It has a promising story and script. And, I just received a call about working as the lead in a telefilm that will be made in Islamabad. I believe that I will get more – and better – offers once Dilaara starts airing. I put my heart and soul into the serial and hope that it will open many doors for me.  Fingers crossed.

Photographs by Mohsin Khawar

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

A Punjabi and Sindhi folk tale

By Mahlia Lone

One of the four timeless tragic Punjabi romances is the story of Sohni Mahiwal set in Gujarat in the 18th century (late Mughal period). The love affair to melt the hearts of countless generations grew between Sohni, potter Tulla’s beautiful and artistic daughter belonging to the Kumhar caste (generational potters) and her Uzbek migrant trader turned buffalo herder, Izzat Baig, nicknamed Mahiwal. Strategically positioned on the River Chenab, Gujarat a the time was an important caravanserai on the trade route between Central Asia and India.

A Sindhi version of the story Sohni Mehar is attributed to the Sindhi Sufi poet Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai and was immortalized in his poetic compendium or collection called Shah Jo Risalo, written in pure Sindhi replete with Sufi symbolism. It’s one of the seven Sindhi tragic romances known as Seven Heroines. In this version, Sohni belonged to the Jat tribe living on the western bank of the Indus River, while Dam, Sohni’s husband lived in Samtia on the river’s eastern bank. During the marriage procession over the river, Mehar gave Sohni a drink of milk and the two fell in the love at first sight.

Let’s return to the Punjabi story popularized in films. Tulla created the most beautiful and sturdy of earthenware pottery painted with lovely designs. As his lovely daughter grew up, she took to painting the pots while her father crafted and baked them. One day, a merchant caravan coming from Bukhara and heading to Delhi stopped en route in Gujarat. A young and rich trader came to inspect Tulla’s famous pottery. There he spotted Sohni with her head bent over a small pot for sweets, using a fine hair brush to paint the patterns meticulously with tiny strokes. Izzat Baig fell in love with her at first sight and desired to buy the pot she was cradling.

Tulla replied that that pot needed to be baked to make it resilient before it could be purchased.  The young man returned the next day for it and kept returning every day after that.  He was so smitten that when the caravan set off for Delhi, he decided to stay behind. Soon his money ran out, and Tulla hired him as a water buffalo herder.  Izzat Baig began to be known as Mahiwal, the buffalo herder.

Deluged with positive attention from the lovesick youth, Sohni too had fallen in love. Whenever he was late, she got depressed but as soon as she would see him coming up the road, she felt elated.  Pining in each other’s even momentary absence, the two lovers began to meet in secret.

As we know, at the time it was strictly forbidden for girls to marry out of their caste. When rumours about Sohni Mahiwal spread in the village, her family hastily arranged her wedding to a well to do pottery merchant who travelled long distances to sell the Gujarati potters’ wares.

On the day of the barat (wedding night), Sohni was piled into a doli (palanquin) and carried off forcibly to her husband’s neighbouring house.

Grief-stricken, Mahiwal wanted to be as close to his lady love as possible and started living in a small mud hut across the river from Sohni’s house. Now that she was married, he still didn’t want to leave for his land and his previous life, believing that the earth under Sohni’s feet was his dargah (shrine). He renounced all worldly life and started to live the ascetic life of a fakir (hermit) just as Sufi fakirs do in their love for Allah.

At night, Sohni would sit by a window  and look at her lover sitting outside his hut across the river.  When her husband left for a long trip to sell pottery, one night she stole out of a house and decided to cross the river. Because she didn’t know how to swim, she turned one of her father’s sturdy garrha (water vessel) upside down to aid her to stay afloat as she crossed the river. Without the pot to keep her afloat as she kicked her feet, she would have gotten swept away by the gushing river.  Seeing her risk her life just to meet him, Mahiwal swam and brought her to his side of the river.

Tomb Of Sohni In Shahdadpur, Sindh

Now swimming makes you hungry. Mahiwal caught a fish and roasted it on an open fire to feed his famished girl. Feeding the soul and the body, their bliss was complete.

Sohni Mahiwal continued to meet like this for many nights. Their love madness was growing exponentially. One night Mahiwal hadn’t been able to catch a fish. In a gruesome act of self-mutilation, he carved out a piece of his thigh, roasted it and fed it to his Sohni. When she consumed his flesh, she could taste that she wasn’t eating fish and spying Mahiwal’s black blood soaked dhoti (he had a wrapped a black one so she wouldn’t see the blood) was struck by how crazy in love with her he was.

That night Sohni’s sister in law who lived in the same house discovered her nocturnal secret. Shocked, she went and told Sohni’s mother and mother in law. Sohni’s mother felt ashamed at her daughter’s scandalous behavior. For a Muslim girl to run out of her husband’s house every night to meet her lover at his house was unthinkable. But the girl had become too headstrong and rebellious to heed her mother’s warning.

Sohni’s sister in law decided to take matters in her own hands. She felt she owed it to her brother to save his honour. She devised a plot to make it impossible for Sohni to cross the river and replaced her garrha with one that hadn’t been baked as yet, figuring that it would crumble as soon as it touched the water. Sohni would not dare to cross the river without the aid of a float.

Unaware of the fate that lay before her, the next night, Sohni took the unbaked garrha and began to wade across the swift river.  When she was a quarter of the way across, the garrha began to disintegrate in the water. She called out to Mahiwal for help. Mahiwal jumped in and swam towards her, but his leg started bleeding. At the halfway point in the river, he reached Sohni whose head was bobbling up and down as she thrashed in the water, her arms and legs flailing desperately. Weakened by the loss of blood, his body wasn’t strong enough to swim with her against the current. While holding on to each other, they both drowned in the Chenab River.

Mere mortals could not tear apart the lovers joined by God who reunited them in death, forever to lie in each other’s arms.

Legend has it that 75 km. from Hyderabad, Sohni Mahiwal’s graves lie in a tomb located at Shahpur Chakar Road, Shahdadpur. The shrine is visited by lovers who pray for their loves to be restored to them.

For a Muslim girl to run out of her husband’s house every night to meet her lover at his house was unthinkable

Most Pakistani actors dream of working in Bollywood. However, Indian actress Aditi Singh has crossed over to our side with her movie Wajood. Belonging to a family of Bollywood actors, she’s the daughter of Jainendra Pratap Singh and niece of Aditya Pancholi, and started her career with the Telugu movie Guppedantha Prema. Sana Zehra asks Adhiti all about nepotism, love and her movie new Wajood

What was the response to the trailer launch of Wajood like?

Well I wasn’t here in Karachi when the launch took place, but after it, I received so many messages praising the trailer of Wajood and my look in it that I was overwhelmed. Though I was miles away, people really made an effort to convey their liking.

Does other people’s approval matter to you?

Not in my personal life, but when it comes to my professional life, of course it does. My audience’s appreciation makes me into the artist I am. I won’t ever want to do anything that makes them feel any less love for me. Whatever I do, I do to entertain my fans and their approval matters. The happier my fans are with my work, the longer and more successful my career will be. Simple!

How do you deal with the uncomfortable questions about your personal life?

When a person decides to become an actor, he/she should be well prepared because once you put yourself out there, your personal life isn’t so personal anymore. I started acting at the age of 16, and I accepted whatever was part and parcel of my field.

Having said that, yes some things are private and I keep them that way. I guard my privacy, am not an open book and like to keep certain aspects of my life mysterious. But I still have to give some insight in to my personal world. It adds a personal touch to my story.

Have you signed anything new?

There are a few things in the pipeline, which I’ll disclose them soon.

What is the one thing that you look forward to every day?

I look forward to doing what I love every day, which is performing in front of the camera.

Who, according to you, is the best dressed actor in Pakistani cinema?

Javed Sheikh, Shehryar Munawar and Humayun Saeed.

Who, according to you, is the worst dressed woman in Pakistani cinema?

Nobody. Pakistani fashion is graceful and the actresses are so elegant.

Any infamous incident of the past that still haunts you?

Yes, I lost both my grandparents within a month in 2008. I was the closest to them.

Do you admit that the film industry operates on a flawed system of nepotism, one that blatantly prefers family over genuine talent?

What ultimately decides an actor’s fate is purely his/her talent and luck. Nepotism is not only in the film industry but in every industry. Parents prepare their children to take over the family business. The film industry too has this system. This does make it easy for bagging the first film, but thereafter only capability decides stardom.

Acting is not inherited; it’s inherent and gifted by God.

What drives you to act? Is it the attention, the perks, or the joy of experiencing different lives every time you play a new character?

Experiencing different lives every time I play a new character is a great feeling. Also the high and happiness I receive, when I succeed at making the character believable and entertaining. That happiness is immeasurable.

Strangest rumour you heard about yourself?

Still waiting to hear something strange. (Haha)

If you wake up one morning and found out that you turned into your costar what would you do?

If I woke up and turned into Danish Taimoor, I would straight up go to Rayaan (his son) and cuddle him all day. He’s so cute!

If I woke up as Sheikh Sahib, I would commission a biography on myself.

What would your matrimonial ad say?

“Priyanka hai pheeki,

Theek thak hai Kareena Kapoor,

Kudh ko khushnaseeb samjhein janaab,

Main hoon Kohinoor!” (Hahaha)

(Priyanka is plain,

Kareena is OK.

Think yourself fortunate,

I’m the Kohinoor!)

Acting is not inherited; it’s inherent and gifted by God

One thing men should know about women?

Give a woman respect, and you’ll have her world.

Meanest thing anyone has ever said to you?

You’re not good enough to be an actor.

Do you believe in true love?

ABSOLUTELY, without a doubt

Which writer would you like to write your biography?

Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight series

Which film would you like to have directed?

The Queen

Which book would you like to turn into a film?

The Untold Story of Rekha, I’d make it into a biopic.

Which film would you like to watch over and over again?

Wajood

One TV show you would have liked to produce?

Mohabbat Tum Se Nafrat Hai

What makes you cry?

Onions

Greatest work of art?

All the music created by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Sahib

Which colour describes you best?

Red because it signifies power and fire

What gives you pleasure?

Travelling and spending time with the people I love

Whose body would you inhabit while keeping your own mind?

Mahira Khan

The five most important things in life?

Family

Respect

Love

Luxury

Ambition

The most difficult question you could be asked?

How to fall in love

The good looking World Cup squad that went viral all over the Muslim world

Iran’s national football team, also known as Team Melli, is not only easy on the eye, but a talented, skilled and hardworking bunch of young men.

By Mahlia Lone

RANKINGS

The team remained the highest-ranked Asian team out of a total of 47 from December 2014 till May 2018, the longest period a team has been at the top of Asian rankings continuously.

Historically, the Iranian National Football team has won the Asia Cup three times in 1968, 1972 and 1976 and qualified for the FIFA World Cup  five times.

TEHRAN, IRAN – JUNE 12: players of Iran celebrate after the match during FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier match between Iran and Uzbekistan at Azadi Stadium on June 12, 2017 in Tehran, Iran. (Photo by Amin M. Jamali/Getty Images)

MASCOT

In February 2014, the team’s mascot became the endangered Asiatic cheetah to bring attention to conserving the swift and rare exotic animal.

In a controversy leading up to the FIFA World Cup, being an American company Nike refused to supply the Iranian team with footwear due to U.S. sanctions. Nike’s decision was based on U.S. President Donald Trump’s call to withdraw from the joint agreement between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN’s Security Council. The U.S. Department of the Treasury implementing financial sanctions on Iran can charge a person who violates the sanctions with criminal penalties of $1 million and 20 years in prison.

The Iranian Football Federation was irate as the firm had previously supplied the Iranian team with boots despite the sanctions, like at the 2014 World Cup. Nike is providing the shoes for 60 percent of the World Cup players.

Even German company Adidas didn’t step up to the plate, so the players had to desperately find specialty football boots last minutes in Russia or called up the European clubs they play for to help them out.

Iran’s fanatic female football fans are still banned from stadiums and are threatened with jail time if they defy the law. Even Saudi Arabia lifted the ban barring women from watching male sporting events last year.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino early this summer discussed lifting the ban by the Irani government with President Rouhani on the very day 35 women were detained for trying to sneak into a final in Tehran. Defiant Irani women donned fake beards and wigs to disguise themselves as male spectators in Tehran’s Azadi Stadium.

Irani female activist Melody Safavi, who now resides in the U.S. and is a member of the Iranian reggae band Abjeez, wrote the song Stadium asking Iranian men to support women and get this unfair law abolished.

Iran unfortunately could not beat Portugal and the draw meant the team was eliminated from the FIFA World Cup

Just before the World Cup, Iranian national team captain Masud Shojaei and legendary ex-player Ali Karimi beseeched moderate President Hassan Rouhani and the Iranian Football Federation (FFIRI) in a video clip posted online to allow “women to enter stadiums as spectators. it is the dream of many Iranian women who are football fans…we see the flood of passion from our ladies.”

President Rouhani is sympathetic but said it will take time to appease the hardliners and lift the ban.

Studio Z owner Zara Bari makes every client feel like a star. Zara gives Sana Zehra great tips for achieving red carpet hair and glowing skin

What products do you use/recommend and why?

I think product usage varies on individual preference and correlation with the environment, i.e. climate. However, the non-negotiable that I insist upon in a healthy regular routine are:

  • Regardless of the number of times, varying from person to person, one must wash hair, sulphate free shampoos and conditioners are the way to go. Simply eradicate the use of detergent or other lustre regressing components.
  • A good sunscreen is a must use/must have at all times.
  • We are fortunate to be in a country where organic items are accessible. Go organic!

There are so many salons opening currently. What does Studio Z have that others don’t?

It’s true that the industry is going through a mushrooming effect. As a result it’s essential to stand apart.

We are a small and involved team, staying ahead of the pack by ensuring product authenticity and specification of needs in accordance with clients. We don’t pursue clients by cross selling impulse driven products or services neither by joining the trend or hype bandwagon.

What is your take on having great hair?

It’s essential to know how to handle your own hair. You can get the colour you want; you can get the style you want; but think how much you want to put you hair through.

At Studio Z, we discourage over colouring, over bleaching and over styling. You may walk in with a makeover agenda for your hair but if the hair strength is compromised, we make it our business to take you through a journey to rebuild, and strengthen your hair first.

Can you please tell us how to keep our skin healthy throughout the year?

Other than sunscreen, it is imperative to know your skin well. Hydrate your skin by drinking plenty of water and adopt a skincare routine according to the weather. Your routine cleansing must be detailed. Wash your face at intervals, use the right cleaning products, and remove makeup thoroughly. Know your skin well. All the basics!

What is one beauty trick you swear by?

I wish we could sell water bottles as skin tonics. Keep yourself hydrated; no product matters if there isn’t adequate amount of water in your system to cleanse you inside out. When facing breakouts, dryness, roughness of hair notice your water intake and fix it.

What are the current beauty trends making the around?

  • Make a personal statement.
  • Stay subtle but stunning.
  • Keep and carry natural hair texture, brushed up brows and even toned natural skin.

Bare breathable skin with a pop of colour on eyelids.

What are the three makeup items one should not leave out?

  • Moisturizer
  • Mascara
  • Tint

How has makeup evolved in the last few years?

In today’s technologically advanced and research friendly world, a lot of detailing and knowledge of product range availability is needed to make informed choices. The makeup market is highly competitive and extends from drug store brands to high end makeup products. Now makeup is all about individuality unlike earlier s where it was skewed toward the trending colour palette.

“You can get the colour you want; you can get the style you want;

but think how much you want to put you hair through”

What’s most important for brides to remember for their wedding day makeup?

Makeup artists are there to enhance your beauty, and not transform you into somebody else. Embrace your skin tone and your flaws that make you unique. You can carry a look off confidently, if you are comfortable with yourself. Don’t insist on being a photocopy of someone else. Find your own statement look. We can help you with that.

“No product matters if there isn’t adequate amount of water in your system to cleanse you inside out”

How would you describe your signature look and what is it about your style that sets you apart from other makeup artists?

We don’t overdo or over complicate but emphasise on completing your look. Makeup is no short cut and supposed to be a detailed job. Customisation and personalisation is key. We look at the face, type of person, desired look and style accordingly.

Changing skin tone is a popular request. However, if you try to change your skin tone, you will start looking grey, which is a very common problem. We look towards winning customer trust and try to be on the same page style wise.

Who would you like to give a makeover?

My dream come true would be Shahnaz Sheikh and Marina Khan.

Do you have any favourite makeup products? We’d love to hear!

Here are a few of my favourite makeup products:

  • Musarrat Misbah Foundation. It’s perfect for our skin tones so you may not need a colour corrector with it.
  • Christine Dior Skin Star Foundation. It’s SPF 30 and long wearing.
  • Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation
  • Laura Mercier Translucent Powder
  • Lancôme Monsieur Big Mascara
  • Becca Highlighters
  • A Girl Pro Conceal & Contour
  • Estee Lauder Pink Kiss Satin Blush
  • Urban Decay Makeup Setting Spray.

Photography by Arsalan Bilgrami of A.Bilgrami studio

1. Nando’s

Nando’s special sauces are great for chicken, aromatic rice, crispy wedges, etc. We love their Wild Herb sauce the most. It’s so yummy and appealing to your taste buds. Any how can one even leave out Peri Bites? With a recipe from heaven, the special sauce gives you major cravings.

2. Paisely Maze B from Sapphire’s Deco Life Collection 

Relive old world-charm and sophistication with Sapphire’s Deco Life Collection. Available online and in-store from July 6th.

3. Too Glam to give a Damn!

Girls! Brace yourselves because cheetay.pk now has the best makeup products from top international brands on their website (delivery at the moment for Lahore only). We’re going gaga over their offers because they’re giving 20% off on all products. They’re 100% authentic and what’s best is that your favourite makeup brands are now only a click away. So head over to the Healthcare section on their website. Glam up your life and place your order now!

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