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Saturday, November 3, 2012

Zeb and Haniya rock across the US

After their memorable “Coke Studio” performances, Zeb and Haniya garnered a huge audience in Pakistan as well as abroad.
The duo recently returned from their month-long US tour, which was  part of the US State Department’s initiative Center Stage organised by the New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA). It included 13 large concerts, a number of radio performances and other outreach activities. The pop-folk duo sheds some light on their tour experience and upcoming projects.
“Something I really, really like that has come out of this tour are the things people have been saying during our performances: ‘What is this sound? I have never heard anything like this before but I love it’,” says Haniya Aslam, vocalist and guitarist, referring to the audience’s response to the sound and music they created.
US tour
The US State Department’s new Cultural Diplomacy Programme has served the role of providing a proper platform and arena in the US to international artists. Instead of sending American artists abroad, they have invested in bringing artists such as Arieb Azhar, Noori and now Zeb and Haniya to the American public — something which private entities have failed to do.
“We expect Americans to have misconceptions about us and we have misconceptions about them as well but it’s actually quite a varied country,” says Haniya. “Now that we have travelled so much, we realised that the country’s pretty big. There are all kinds of people there and a lot of Americans have actually come from various parts of the world and have faced difficult situations. Thus people actually understood what we were talking about and where we were coming from.”
Speaking about the musical experience they had, vocalist Zebunnisa Bangash, known more popularly as Zeb, believes there is a level of receptivity when cultures reach out to each other and mesh together. “It didn’t matter where we were from, but it really felt like people were very receptive towards us, whether it was a freshman from college or a diplomat from Washington DC,” says Zeb. “There was also a lot of prior knowledge of South Asian classical music as well, just like we know a lot about American music.”
“For us it was a steep learning curve as most Pakistani bands only get to perform in desisettings for more desi crowds,” she continues, appreciating the opportunity they received. “But we had the chance of doing so many shows in front of new audiences and the sound was fantastic everywhere.” On the tour, the duo performed with a live band, including Amir Azhar, Hamza Jafri, Muhammad Ahsan Pappu, and Kami Paul.
Other projects
Apart from their US tour, Zeb and Haniya have been busy with other projects as well, which includes their second album whose videos are close to completion. A tour in India is also on their current itinerary, which is being hosted by an Indian newspaper in November. During their stay there, they also intend on completing their project in collaboration with Shantanu Moitra and Swanand Kirkire on a show called “The Dewarists” — something the audience should look forward to.
“We sat down in the studio day after day and came up with tunes together — It’s been really interesting for us to go through this kind of a songwriting process with such great musicians and composers,” says Zeb, adding that Moitra and Kirkire took time off from their busy schedule and came to record tracks with the duo. “We all contributed something to most of the songs. The album is almost done. It’s a very musical conversation in that regard, so I am interested to see how it will turn out after we fuse our varying styles.”

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Have you seen?: Veena wears a burqa in Mumbai

Ironically, the bold Veena Malik has been spotted on the streets of Mumbai wearing a black burqa.
According to a press release, she wants to avoid the mobbing crowd while she searches for the ‘perfect face’ for her upcoming movie, The City that Never Sleeps.
“It’s a big movie for me and I don’t want to take any chances, so I have decided to personally search for the perfect face,” Veena’s press release quoted her as saying.
“In Mumbai, everyone is an actor but we need to find the hidden actors,” she adds.
The movie is produced by Satish Reddy and directed by Haroon Rashid, and the cast will include Indian, American, and Canadian actors.
Talking to The Express Tribune, she said, “If Shahrukh Khan and Amir Khan can search for a character on the streets of Mumbai, why can’t I?” While Veena has been busy with various Bollywood projects, she says this one is really important for her.
“The city that never sleeps” is a well-known tag-line for cities like Dubai, Mumbai, Barcelona and New York — which is currently undergoing a natural calamity (hurricane Sandy). The cast members of the movie came together and prayed for New York in this terrible time. “It’s very bad — several parts of New York have been affected by the storm,” Veena said. “I am praying for all the people and my appeal is to refrain from going outside until the storm ends.”

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Pakistani cinema will revive in 10 years: Sajjad Gul

Evernew Studios in Lahore — the first studio to open in Pakistan following independence — is a place with immense historical and cultural value as it forms thefoundation of Lollywood.
Apart from overseeing and managing the studio, producer, director and entrepreneur Sajjad Gul has closely been linked to the development and growth of Pakistani cinema and has kept a vigilant eye on it. As a film-maker, he may have been in hibernation but as far as the underlying transformation in the film industry over the years is concerned, he has played a major role.
“There are a series of events that can point to the state of affairs we are in today,” said Gul, whose father opened Evernew Studios and Firdous Cinema, Pakistan’s first cinema. He feels that although the studio withstood many years, it also unfortunately, depicts the inability of the film industry to innovate and evolve in terms of technology and infrastructure. In this regard, Evernew still remains one of the biggest and oldest studios of Pakistan.
He recalls that there were misconceptions regarding the circumstances and state the film industry was in, back in the day. “The studio is a commercial unit, like a factory or an outlet,” he said, adding that being an entrepreneur and a media professional at the same time meant that there was no return on investment. “Losses had started in the early ‘80s in Ziaul Haq’s era. This clearly dispels the popular notion that Punjabi cinema was commercially viable.” He said it was “easier said than done” to provide technology such as cameras, laboratories or even lighting equipment to the industry.
“Everything had to make sense. If we had invested Rs300 to Rs400 million about 20 years ago, we would have definitely gone bust much earlier,” he added. “We realised that in Zia’s era, cinemas were going down and the global film industry was also in decline due to all the technology that was coming out — televisions and satellites.”
While Gul has managed to keep a balance between his two roles, a studio owner and a producer, he feels that managing a studio is more like managing a factory and being a producer is more about “creative entrepreneurship.” As a producer, he also feels that he gained the title of notoriety in the early ‘90s following his Salman Rushdie inspired film,International Gorillay.
“This film was a clear signal to me and the film industry that people were no longer coming to cinemas anymore,” said the film-maker, who is revisiting the idea of making a new film despite his latest film No Paisa No Problem being a box office flop. “I am being honest that we wrote and produced fiction with International Gorillay. I was in London back then and the whole Rushdie issue suddenly erupted, so I thought why not express how we feel?” He added, “Back then people didn’t behave the way they did regarding blasphemy like they did recently [on anti-Islam film, Innocence of Muslims] — the sensitivities have changed and how people react has changed as well.”
Commenting on the cinema-going culture in Pakistan, he believes that within the next 10 years, the trend will pick up again and Lollywood would take control as a prevalent film industry. “New screens [theatres] are being constructed in Pakistan, so people who didn’t get the chance of watching films on big screens will now have the opportunity to,” he said. “Cinema-going was a habit we had, which we lost, specifically those people who were on average incomes.”
“In the next 10 years we can expect more than 300 new screens and once this happens, box office will revive — number of films produced and released will also increase,” he added. He also believes that one thing that has triggered the cinema culture in Pakistan is the availability of films from Bollywood, which is also thriving.

Ali Zafar working on new music album

After his hit albums – Huqa Pani, Masty and Jhoom, pop artist Ali Zafar is now working on his fourth music collection.
Zafar’s first two albums were mainly made up of pop elements, whereas in his third album he experimented with Sufi music. The album topped the charts in both Pakistan and India for several weeks and also won the best album award at the Lux Style Awards this year.
Responding to fan queries about what to expect from the new album, Zafar said he is going through the process of unlearning and breaking away from the norm. “I am rediscovering, experimenting,” he said in a press statement.
The pop sensation also made his way to Bollywood and acted in films such as Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, London Paris New York and Tere Bin Laden.