Why isn't Mahira Khan at Cannes this year?

Published May 18, 2019 03:00pm
Photo: L'Oreal
Photo: L'Oreal

Who has attended the Cannes Film Festival this year?

Ask any Instagram-savvy Pakistani and they will rattle off this list: Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra and Kangana Ranaut. There were many other illustrious names that walked the iconic red carpet; among them, Julianne Moore, Selena Gomez and Elton John. And sweeping past the sea of cameras that throng the fete were some fabulous, jaw-dropping gowns.

But cross-border tensions or not, we’re pre-programmed to connect more easily to Bollywood and the strong Indian contingent at Cannes – and what they wore - is what we remember most easily.

But who did not attend the Cannes Film Festival? Instagram-savvy Pakistanis know that answer also: Mahira Khan.

They know this for it was only last year when they went on Google sprees, dissecting and discussing the actress’ debut at the world’s most prestigious film festival. Her first time at Cannes was also significant because it had been a first for Pakistan. L’Oreal Paris has been Cannes’ official sponsor for more than two decades now and L’Oreal Paris Pakistan has been operational for more than a decade. And yet, this had been the first time that the brand had acknowledged Pakistan on a platform as major as this one.

Mahira attended the event as the official spokesperson for L’Oreal Paris Pakistan Haircare and call it patriotic pride, but we think that she stood tall and beautiful amongst the many other L’Oreal Paris representatives at the event.

Mahira Khan attended Cannes last year in Alberta Ferretti
Mahira Khan attended Cannes last year in Alberta Ferretti

It was a proud moment for Pakistan – and not just for Mahira – when her name was called out on that infamous serpentine red carpet along with her country’s. It was a moment that hinted at the business potential of Pakistan’s burgeoning glamour industry and held the promise of greater trade opportunities in the future.

It is a moment that has lost some of its impact now that Pakistan has been skipped out from Cannes this year. Mahira is still officially associated with L’Oreal Paris Pakistan and only last year, the brand had announced her Cannes entry with a press conference and plenty of hoopla.

What happened this year?

Apparently, Mahira is going to Paris Fashion Week instead.

L’Oreal Paris Pakistan were unable to give an official quote at this point but they did confirm that Mahira will be their representative at the upcoming Paris Fashion Week (PFW).

Throwback to Mahira's first look for Cannes
Throwback to Mahira's first look for Cannes

We’re assessing that it was, quite possibly, a budgetary decision to skip out Cannes and invest into the upcoming Parisian trip instead. This is great, of course. It will probably be a trip that will be high on glamour and we’ll enjoy it via the far reaches of social media.

But only last year, Ayesha Omar had attended New York Fashion Week (NYFW) in her capacity as the official spokesperson of Maybelline New York Pakistan, one of the product lines that fall within the L’Oreal umbrella.

If two international trips with Pakistani representatives – NYFW and Cannes – could have taken place last year, why couldn’t the same be done this time around?

Could this be about our films?

Once again, the involved parties were unavailable to comment but we wonder if L’Oreal Paris Pakistan felt that our nascent film industry needs to become stronger before getting represented at a major film festival like Cannes?

This doesn’t make sense, though, considering that quite a few very good Pakistani films released last year. Pakistani films were teething last year just as they are this year. Why make a Pakistani debut at all then?

But what does it imply about Pakistan?

Regardless, Mahira’s absence at Cannes it not really a cataclysmic issue. Maybe she’ll be there again, flashing that brilliant smile of hers, next year. But at this point in time, the impact made by her debut last year has waned, implying that perhaps it was just a one-time wonder, a fluke or, perhaps, an effort that has been stalled due to various budgetary decisions.

Ideally, at this point in time, Pakistan needs to be represented internationally with consistency, especially in the case of a platform as iconic and powerful as Cannes. It is only then that the current global narrative can slowly inch towards positive avenues. And it is only then that our fashion and glamour industry will be taken more seriously on an international level.

Remember her sari look?
Remember her sari look?

L’Oreal Paris Pakistan has been instrumental in orchestrating some of the country’s foremost fashion weeks. It symbolizes the potential of the beauty industry in Pakistan. It made the effort to make Pakistan visible at NYFW last year and will be doing the same at PFW this year.

It is appreciable that it made Pakistan visible at Cannes last year. But in order to strengthen that first glamorous appearance, it should have followed up this year. Now that it has not done so, we hope that the brand doesn’t just keep skipping out year after year.

Call us pessimistic but we have cheered for far too many major launches and debuts only to sadly see them fade away. Let’s hope Pakistan’s representation at Cannes isn’t one of them.

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