This year's HUM TV awards, aired in full on the TV channel this weekend, showed an unprecedented level of organization and high production values from dances to lighting and sets.
|The stage, where the magic happened — Photo courtesy: Instagram|
Like most award shows, it tested the patience and concentration span of the audience, lasting a little longer than the average South Asian movie but provided enough pageantry to keep most viewers hooked.
As if the star-studded line-up was not going to suffice, HUM TV spliced in a troupe of performance artists; Their acrobatics and carnival style costumes added even more punch to the mix.
Dancing with the stars
Despite the constant reiteration of Pakistani Zindabad, the distinctly subcontinental flavour of the show was hard to shake off — Sunidhi Chauhan sang some of her greatest hits, coupled with perfectly choreographed performances by our favourite stars to popular Bollywood tracks.
This did leave one wondering, though, why Bollywood tracks were used so excessively instead of Pakistani hits. Seems like the great Pakistani songs of the past and present failed to impress coordinators of the HUM TV awards enough to warrant a performance.
Ahsan Khan and newcomer Feroze Khan proved to be superstars on the dance floor; Khan, in particular, is one to watch. Not only is the young ex-VJ a good actor but has infinite star potential. His performance with co-star, Sajal Ali would have been the highlight of the night, had Ms. Ali's bizarre costume and deer in headlights look not been so distracting.
|The Chup Raho co-stars performed together to Bolly hits like 'Saturday Saturday'|
Our resident billi Mehwish Hayat is a perennial favourite and knows how to dazzle a crowd while Saba Qamar proved to be a beautiful and graceful partner to Ahsan Khan in a few soft romantic numbers.
The cuteness quotient was maintained by Shahroz Sabzwari and his wifey, Syra Yusuf, who looked like a duo out of a fairytale.
A night to remember
Hosts Hamza Ali Abbasi and Sanam Jung may not have won any trophies this time but they certainly deserved something for their poised and relaxed presentation.
|The hosts for the evening. —Photo courtesy: Hum Awards' Facebook page|
The two share a natural chemistry and maintained an air of control without ever taking themselves too seriously.
While Hamza is a master at the rare art of self-deprecation, the best comedy was provided by the dynamic twosome of Vasay Chaudhry and Ahmed Ali Butt.
Chaudhry knows how to walk that fine line between gentle ribbing and the outrageous with admirable agility. After the obligatory teasing of Humayun Saeed (who is always a good sport), the banter between these two gifted comedians was one of the best parts of the event giving it that much needed authentic Pakistani flavour.
|The audience was in fits once these two took over. —Photo courtesy: Hum Awards' Facebook page|
While the popular awards reflected the taste of the masses, the jury awards were more interesting. In-house award shows are never quite based on merit alone and give the amateur, arm chair psychologist an insight into what HUM TV itself considered its better serials and portrayals this past year. The dramas Sadqay Tumharey, Mausam, Bunty I Love You and Mohabbat Subh Ka Sitara seemed to be the big winners, with a few other taking the residue honours.
Red carpet winners
Mahira Khan, Sanam Saeed, Hareem Farooq, Saba Qamar and Urwa Hocane dominated in the fashion department, proving that the Pakistani media has some gorgeous women.
|Saba Qamar and Mahira Khan took the less is more approach —Photo courtesy: Instagram|
Mahira’s emerald green ensemble was a standout while Saba Qamar looked elegant in white. Although the younger lot did leave some jaws on the floor, the veteran actresses were not far behind; From the ever lovely Samina Peerzada, the graceful Hina Bayat and everyone’s favourite, Bushra Ansari, they ladies stole the show with polished grace.
|The youthful Bushra Ansari and Samina Peerzada —Photo courtesy: Instagram|
Judging from the BTS previews we saw, stylists has been hired to coordinate many of the looks for not only the stage performers but many of the star attendees.
|Aisha Khan gets dolled up by NPro stylists. — Photo courtesy: Instagram|
Moving on to the men, we all know that Pakistani males are making us proud on an international level. They may come in third in the 'Sexiest Nationality' category according to social media but a few may need some help sartorially.
Hamza Ali Abbasi ditched his signature black for a grey outfit which might have drowned a man with less personality and the jury is still out on whether it worked.
Meanwhile, Adnan Malik forgot it was a grand awards show and walked in from the beach while Farhan Saeed ruined an otherwise perfectly good look with matching shoes, giving the outfit no contrast.
The strangest look of the night was reserved for the usually flawless Fawad Khan, who got an award for, well, being Fawad Khan. Perhaps, more seriously, the award was for being a great, positive, cultural ambassador for our nation.
|Fawad Khan's look didn't quite work, but we love him anyway. —Photo courtesy: Hum Awards' Facebook page|
Despite the leather lapels, Fawad is one star who can pull off any look. The style winners on the male side proved to be some underdogs — the subtle yet edgy look from the fabulous Mikaal Zulfikar was a looker, along with the minimalist elegance of Ali Rehman Khan and the infinite style of Hassan Sherhryaar Yasin.
|Zulfiqar looked dapper, even though he skipped on the tie. —Photo courtesy: Hum Awards' Facebook page|
Still a long way to go
Undoubtedly, there was a monumental effort on the part of HUM TV and visual feast for the viewing public. However, there were a few slips amongst all the smooth sailing.
One of the most glaring slips was in the dance costume designs, which lacked the visual punch that Bollywood has mastered.
The colours and embroideries might have worked in person but seemed to lose impact through the camera lens. Mehwish Hayat's dance costume in particular was a huge let-down — the 'Arabian Nights' look was poorly executed and didn't go with her songs at all.
|Mehwish Hayat's performance.|
The way the dances were shot was also lacking in intimacy and did not allow much of a connection with the audience.
The constant stream of praise heaped on each individual owner of HUM TV was a bit much. Maybe next time, simply collectively thanking the HUM TV team as a single entity would be enough.
Don't hate. Appreciate!
Awards show are imperative for our budding yet fragile entertainment industry; They provide a unique platform on which indigenous talent and creativity can be recognized while showcasing the quality of Pakistani drama and film at a somewhat international level.
|The awards promote healthy relations across the border. Sunidhi Chauhan performed at the HUM TV awards this year —Photo courtesy: Hum Awards' Facebook page|
The Hum TV award show and the ARY Film Awards are generally well produced and choreographed, with panoply of stars and performances lighting up screens usually full of the standard victims and abusers that make up our TV schedules.
Though many people who actually attend these events ‘live’ have criticized the inefficiency with which the show is maneuvered, the routine delays and the "organized" chaos, most of us overlook it as the Pakistani entertainment industry is still new at this.
For a country beleaguered by huge security and energy issues to produce such shows at all is an achievement and we should perhaps wait a while before complaining about them in comparison to the Oscars or Filmfare awards, all of which have had decades of practice in much easier environments.
Do these accolades serve a purpose?
Much as we enjoy the dances, the sight of our favourite stars dressed in one fabulous outfit after another, the witty banter and the odd controversy that these shows throw up, they do raise some questions: What is the actual point of an award show? Are they really recognizing true talent?
With channels simply making their own award shows, some healthy skepticism is inevitable.
|Extravagant performances are appealing but what do they do to nurture talent? —Photo courtesy: Hum Awards' Facebook page|
While ARY Digital’s award show maintains that they consider all Pakistani films regardless of the ARY connection, HUM TV’s award show dismisses such polite fiction and concentrates entirely on inhouse production and talent.
The quality of Hum TV’s line-up in the last 12 months has fallen well short of the peaks it once achieved with the likes of Dastan, Sheher-e-Zaat, Humsafar and Durr-e-Shehwar, so much so that it was forced to nominate serials in the 'Best Serial' category which were nothing more than popular potboilers with little or no depth.
The ARY Film awards also showed more than a hint of partiality in many of their awards, with their own productions sweeping many categories. Nevertheless, they got more of a pass because in comparison to drama serials, there were fewer films released last year so it was hard to concretely evaluate.
Are the Lux Style awards better?
Now compare these sparkling events to the somewhat lacklustere Lux Style awards this year, which used to be the unique industry wide event in which good work was appreciated. This year, they were reduced to little more than a tea party, where the talented winners were quietly handed their prizes.
The awards themselves held on to their reputation for actual quality and despite the lack of showmanship, their trophies held meaning. For the average observer, this raises the question; Are channels diverting funds that might have been put to better use to ensure their own home productions are highlighted and promoted?
After all the glamour wears off, much of these shows come across as a “mutual festival of backslapping” or as some have described “a friends and family discount awards”.
At least in the Lux Style awards, the competition between the channels forced the jury to be (relatively) fair. How will creativity and innovation thrive in an atmosphere where the channels award prizes catering to an agenda?
What value do such awards have when the competition is so limited?
Such award shows are common in the Indian entertainment industry, with channels like Zee and Star Plus holding annual, grand ceremonies but is that really something to emulate?
The current state of the Indian drama industry is forced and formulaic -- Yes, it earns money but so do the strong creative projects from Pakistan. The only proof required is the popularity of Pakistani content, not only across one border but in the world wide diaspora.
There is no inherent reason why channels like HUM TV and ARY Digital shouldn’t have in-house award shows, though they can often resemble a kindergarten class giving awards to the friendliest child, the most helpful child and of course, one for the child who always smiles.
Channels should be nurturing the originality that brought the industry to the fore in the first place. Success is hard to achieve but in this digital age, maintaining it requires even more; agility of thought, a spirit of collaboration and the courage to recognize the achievements of all.
Again, there is nothing wrong with channels producing their own award shows but not at the expense of the industry as a whole. That being said, overall, the HUM TV awards made for great viewing and will probably only improve with time.
Sadaf Haider is a writer at dramapakistani.net.