The Funkaar Platform at Stars Club provides a stage where artists, both budding and established, perform their ballads, play their music and share their creative pieces. Photos by author
The Funkaar Platform at Stars Club provides a stage where artists, both budding and established, perform their ballads, play their music and share their creative pieces. Photos by author

It used to be the jazziest place in Karachi in the early 1900s, always buzzing with artists, writers, performers and poets. But over time with the changing socio-political landscape of the country, Café Grand ─ what it was called then ─ lost its glamour.

But its allure was only lost, not forgotten ─ and that's what Stars Club aims to recapture.

Situated opposite the iconic Metropole Hotel in Saddar, Stars Club is an effort to revive what used to be the bustling art and culture hub of Karachi in the 1920s-30s.

Stars Club opened its doors to the public in July 2017. The space is reminiscent of Café Grand, with some restored elements like the chandelier and the refurbished vinyl-style tiled floor.

There's a bar on the right as you make your way into the historic building. It's called the Adakaar Bar. All mocktails and beverages served there are named after works of performing artists, which when translated in Urdu means adakaar. Atop the bar, there is a screen where they play Pakistani films and/or content produced by Pakistani artists.

The Adakaar Bar over which a screen showcases all things Pakistani.
The Adakaar Bar over which a screen showcases all things Pakistani.

On the opposite wall hangs a film reel with black-and-white pictures of veteran artists. It's a tribute to the veteran Pakistani performing artists, I learn.

"There's only one rule here: we don't allow this space to be used for Indian content. It is our way of promoting Pakistani talent, to give it the space and value it has been struggling to get," Kashif Warsi, the CEO of Stars Club, tells me.

In the centre of the space, onlooking the audience in the restaurant, is a Funkaar Platform, where artists come and perform ballads, play music and/or share creative pieces.

All of the material, if not originally theirs, should be from Pakistani artists.

The film reel with black-and-white pictures of veteran artists is a a tribute to their contribution to Pakistan's art and culture scene.
The film reel with black-and-white pictures of veteran artists is a a tribute to their contribution to Pakistan's art and culture scene.

"It's an attempt to connect stars in the making with the stars that are now part of Pakistan's history," says Mubashir Zuberi, the general manager of the place.

"So many artists in Pakistan have died without recognition. Our literary and art history is rich; there is no dearth," an impassioned Mubashir says.

"When we have knowledge about our pasts, we can appreciate our present and become better artists," he adds.

The club also has a film-themed restaurant with a full fledged menu, serving everything from cheese burgers to steaks, pasta and Chinese as well as Pakistani food. All items on the menu have been named after Pakistani art and artists, and needless to say, there's something for everybody on the cards.

It's a quaint place for sure!
It's a quaint place for sure!

The eating space is also carefully designed; with the red-leather seating booths lined on one side, the false ceiling with colonial-style carvings, the wooden fixtures and the dim yellow lighting of the space that transport you into that era... one that most of the younger generation has only seen in movies.

Upstairs at the Stars Club, there is an art gallery in the making. There is also a recording studio, called Stars Studio, where budding artists can record their songs, practice and/or learn to play new musical instruments. Then there is a fashion house where design students as well as thriving couturiers can showcase their work. There will also be a small furniture shop and a place to buy local handicraft.

The Stars Studio where artistes can record their music
The Stars Studio where artistes can record their music

The Stars Club team also offers music as well as singing lessons to those wanting to acquire a new skill, polish an old one or simply develop a hobby.

"We want this place to become an avenue for healing, there's a lot that we've been through," a solemn Kashif adds.

Given its rich history and entertainment value, Stars Club is a welcome addition to the much-happening Karachi nightlife. Here's hoping it keeps shining!

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