Pepsi Battle of the Bands: When the legends returned!

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Pepsi Battle of the Bands first rocked and shocked the industry in 2001. It was the first edition of the show that crowned Aaroh as the winners while Entity Paradigm came at second place. Over time these bands, after producing a number of hit singles, faded away but were never forgotten. During the Pepsi Battle of the Bands 2017, these two bands and others resurfaced to put on a show music lovers were dreaming to witness. While winners, Kashmir and runner-up, Badnaam, must be credited for their hard work, dedication, teamwork, and persistence, all other bands did give it a try and must be applauded for their efforts. However, the highlight of Season 2 of Pepsi Battle of the Bands has to be the reuniting of Call the band, Aaroh, and EP.

Kashmir – Winners of Pepsi Battle of the Bands 2017 – Image Source: behtareen.pk

Ali Azmat, the celebrity judge of the finale, sang Pataal Say, which he composed with Ahsan Bari. Shahi Hassan’s song, Namumkin, which he dedicated to Juned Jamshed was a soulful one while Meesha Shafi’s Speaker Phaar is a song you can listen on repeat. Josh created a celebratory scene with their performance of Haseena Baliye while Atif Aslam’s Mere Watan stirred the crowd. In season seven when Call performed on Jilawatan, it sent viewers and the audience to yesteryears. In episode two, Aaroh reunited to perform on Raag Neela whcih was a pure thrill. However, the finale was even better. When Aaroh and EP took on stage, it was 2003 and the new boys in town were creating magic on stage. If Aaroh’s slow and steady Na Kaho was enough to bring back old times, EP’s head banging, It was fourteen years since Aaroh and EP came up with their respective albums. However, fourteen years later, both bands are still looking in their prime.

Runners-up – Pepsi Battle of the Bands 2017 – Image Source: http://www.desiblitz.com

EP stole the show with its meticulously engineered music when it performed on Hamesha. It felt the entire band had been preserved to be released for this performance. Their vocals and every single musical intonation was perfect while Ahmed Ali Butt’s rap was as good as it was fourteen years ago. Now that the episode is on Youtube, I will watch all these performances and that of the top two bands over and over again. I always enjoyed having Pepsi, now I guess Pepsi’s third edition of Battle of the Bands will only increase my love for this brand. Let’s see! Till then, rock on!

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The day I revealed bits and pieces of my upcoming novel!

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NUST did a great job in organizing the NUST Literary Festival and telling the world that literature, creativity, and imagination can come from anywhere!

The moment I saw the message of my publisher, Syed Ommer Amer, that I am invited as guest at the NUST Literary Festival, I was over the moon! The Festival was hosted at the Karachi campus of National University of Sciences and Technology. I have been associated with Daastan as an author. I have had four books published with this platform. Representing Daastan at this Literary Festival and also to speak at this occasion was a dream come true. Invited in the “Meet and Greet” session, I took the stage only after Mubashir Ali Zaidi, the writer behind the concept of “100 Lafzon Ki Kahani” and Ms. Parveen Shah, author of Chawanni had already spoken. This made me feel intimidated for these two personalities have a fine command on literature.

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Although I have been delivering guest lectures, this was the first time I was asked to speak at any Literary Festival. September 16, 2017 was an interesting day for on this day my article on how to become a good public speaker was published in Daily Dawn’s Young World.

During my speech I read excerpts from my upcoming book, “Divided Species”, a science fiction novel set in modern-day Karachi. It was an emotional feeling when I held the printed copy of this book, which took me nearly six years to complete, in my hands. Daastan made it possible!

Through this blog, I want to share with my readers excerpts of the speech I made on this auspicious occasion:

“…When a cricketer plays his debut match he recalls that on this pitch cricketing greats with the likes of Allan Border, Wasim Akram and Sachin Tendulkar played a number of their innings. I too am feeling like that debutant cricketer for before me, on this stage, Mr. Mubashir Ali Zaidi and Ms. Parveen Shah came and shared their thoughts with you….Until yesterday my published articles of 320 was a big enough number for me, but right now I am feeling as if I am beginning my innings without scoring any runs….The women in the audience will better understand that cooking requires the right amount of ingredients cooked at the perfect flame. I have poured in much effort, thoughts and time in writing “Divided Species” and today, as I hold this book in my hands, I feel I am experiencing the taste of food I cooked myself…”

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During this Literary Festival I was honored to have received the Certificate of Appreciation from Captain Dr. Attaullah Memon, Director Research and Development, NUST, Pakistan Navy Engineering College (PNEC) Karachi. I also met Cazi Mazharuddin Taric, who wrote and published through Daastan “ Anokhay Jahan ki Anokhi Sair.” Also at the occassion I met a young writer, Hassan Mir, whose book “Unbroken Bonds” was among the finalisists in Daastan’s The Stories Untold competition.  

Along with Syed Ommer Amer, Founder and CEO, Daastan, I would like to thank NUST’s Farrukh Aqil, Yusra Shah and the entire organizing committee of NUST Literary Festival for giving us writers a platform to share our thoughts with the audience.

The unpredictability of ‘LIVE’ reporting

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Reporting for a news network – print or electronic – enables the reporter to experience the news first hand. However, the perils of reporting for a television news channel are much higher for the reporter along with his/her cameraman must be present at the site of the incident or the site which holds significance for a news story. A few years ago, a reporter of Pakistan’s Dunya News became viral when people around him kept interrupting him in hilarious ways. The same reporter is back with a footage that may be painful for the cameraman accompanying him, but it has generated much viral reach over social media.

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The reporter was at a certain place in Karachi getting ready to report news that we do not know the category of. However, while getting ready to record the news or maybe go LIVE from the site, he spots a cow running towards them, followed by someone who may have been the cow’s owner. Casually and without showing any panic, the reporter tells the cameraman “Abbey, gain arahi hain bhagti hui!” (A cow is running towards us!) As the cameraman is taking a shot of the cow, the reporter says, “Yeh hum main hi na ghuss jaye akay” (The cow may hit us). Within seconds, the cows hits the cameraman, the footage becomes blur and ends.

The kind of serenity the reporter showed while the cow was hurtling towards him and the cameraman is commendable. Perhaps this is the lesson all reporters must learn that they should keep calm and have their nerves under control when reporting.

The “Anday Wala Burger” video that made this reporter famous!

Will “The Mountain Between Us” reach to the top of viewer’s expectations?

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Disaster movies are always a challenge to produce because of the life-threatening scenes along with emotions that run around characters. However, the actors of such movies also add value to the narrative. The upcoming movie The Mountain Between Us could be an appealing actor for it stars Idris Elba, who plays Dr. Ben Bass, a surgeon by profession. He will share the screen with Kate Winslet as Alex Martin, a photojournalist. Winslet was last seen in Collateral Beauty (2016) alongside Will Smith. However, this is the first time Winslet will be seen with Elba on the big screen and this duo will be the one to watch for their diverse acting skills.

The movie will show Idris Elba and Kate Winslet play complete strangers on board a small charter plane, which crashes on an icy mountainous terrain in the Arctic region. Idris Elba is considered to be one of the charismatic actors in Hollywood with his deep voice and facial expressions. It is expected he will create magic on the screen along with the damsel in distress, Winslet, who too has a personality that blends in various roles. According to the official trailer of the movie, there are three people who comprise majority of the on-screen time of the movie including Elba, Winslet and the Beau Bridges, who plays the role of the plane’s pilot.

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A movie with two or three character with a compelling story always attracts the attention of the viewers for there is less distraction as the number of characters and viewpoints is less and focus on the plot is strong. Viewers will expect action, drama, thrill, suspense, wildlife, and danger looming over the characters as they struggle for survival. Will Idris Elba do justice with his role and will Kate Winslet create an on-screen chemistry with Elba is yet to be seen. I am personally waiting to watch this movie.

Daastan: Spearheading Pakistan’s literary revolution; one book at a time!

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It is an admirable example of teamwork at Daastan, with the Board of Directors working in unision with the Editors, Creative Team and the Marketeers, in providing a platform for authors to showcase their work to the world, while also facilitating Daastan in achieving its vision and mission of touching literary excellence.

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What do you get when you combine vision to begin a literary journey, the mission to provide aspiring writers with opportunities to get published and an idea to create an online self-publishing platform that can also monetize the author’s work? You get Daastan, the literary revolution that began in 2015 by Syed Ommer Amer. He was fortunate to have the company of like-minded friends, including Nauman Shahid, Managing Editor, Daastan, who shared and owned his vision and mission of bringing a literary revolution in Pakistan.

What Ommer and his team of literary activists began from their humble origins is reaching new heights and touching milestones which they would not even have imagined at the time of Daastan’s inception. Now that this platform is a reality, more writers are having their work published through Daastan’s MeraQissa initiative.

Daastan has been holding it’s The Stories Untold – theme-based story writing competitions. Three such events have been held so far. The theme for The Stories Untold – 1 was Imperfect Perfections; the theme for The Stories Untold – 2 addressed issues of Youth Radicalization and their affect on society. However, the recently concluded, The Stories Untold – 3 competition, invited stories based on magic.

Fortunately, I have been part of all three editions of The Stories Untold competitions as an author and I must say the qualities of stories, as I guessed from their blurbs, have been increasing with each competition. Moreover,  the cover designs of these stories, which are designed in-house by Daastan’s amazing team of designers, have evolved in terms of aesthetic sense and detailing to highlights that must be part of each book’s cover. The editors of both English and Urdu, including Aimen Siddiqui, Sidra Amin, Safwa Mir, Zahra Akbar, Bushra Mustafa and Tehreem Hassan, have been working deligently with authors in improving their stories’ writing expression and style. It is a teamwork at Daastan with the Board of Directors working in unision with the Editors, Creative Team and the Marketeers to provide a platform for authors to showcase their work to the world while also facilitating Daastan in achieving its vision and mission of touching literary excellence. Many media outlets have covered Daastan’s rise to glory. Dawn.com posted an exclusive, detailed story on Daastan. I personally want to congratulate the entire team at Daastan for moving forward with their vision and on holding their third consecutive The Stories Untold competition.

Apart from Ommer and Nauman, Daastan’s team includes the following members, as per the details available on Daastan’s website:

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Board of Editors 1

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Board of Marketeers

Muhammad Omar Iftikhar is a Karachi-based columnist, author, short story writer and blogger at Express Tribune Blogs. He has over 300 articles publsihed to his name in leading English-language newspapers and magazines of Pakistan including Dawn, The News, Daily Times, Pakistan Observer, Frontier Post and South Asia Magazine. He has been a three-time finalist at Daastan’s The Stories Untold – Nationwide Story Writing Competition. For more info: www.facebook.com/moiwrites

Characters’ similar quest – to find love!

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Book Review: This House of Clay and Water by Faiqa Mansab
Publisher: Penguin Random House India (22 May 2017)

It takes an effort to write a sentence and a whole lot of struggle to write a novel. Authors and novelists – either writing fiction or non-fiction – have to dwell in their mind to unearth the thoughts that create sustenance for their passion of writing and the food for avid readers’ hungry minds. In addition, in that process, the author creates a magnum opus that defines their creativity and provides an impetus for their writing career to grow rapidly. Faiqa Mansab, a promising author from Lahore, in her debut novel, This House of Clay and Water, has touched new heights of creative thinking by highlighting the very intricate details of our society that are hidden behind curtains or evident in plain sight.

 

This House of Clay and Water reveals the story through a number of characters. There are a number of voices narrating the story, therefore, making the reading experience enriching and distinctive. There are Nida and Sasha, two women who are lost in their respective worlds. Where Nida is the wife of a politician and seldom makes an effort to look good or feel good, Sasha, on the other hand, lives amidst brands and satisfying the opposite sex. Then there is Zoya, Sasha’s daughter who is lost between her world and that of her mother and fate leads her to a dark path from where she may not return only because she had been craving for her mother’s love. Then there is Bhanggi, a transgender living at a Dargah in Lahore who experiences a unique spiritual relationship with Nida. Because of Nida never finding true love, she finds solace around Bhanggi – an association not finding any place to blossom in this society for obvious reasons.

I personally fell in love with Faiqa Mansab showing the world her characters lived in. The simplest of facts such as the morning sky, the sunset, the tree, or the surroundings were shown with the writing concept of ‘show don’t tell’ to such an extent that I had to read and reread it multiple times to savor the written words. A few excerpts from the book below are a few examples:

“The sky hung listlessly over Lahore, looking faded as if it had been washed one too many times with cheap detergent.”

“There was the mystical, the colonial, the historical Lahore that had had countless marauding armies storm its legendary gates. Gates that lay in ruins now, like thirteen distorted maws, frozen in a mute scream, echoing mine.” 

“She walked over to the huge banyan tree, the bargadh. The tree was ancient, an increasingly rare sight in Lahore. The ground around it was broken and cracked, and the roots had broken out, like the gnarled fingers of a subterranean monster struggling to get out.”  

Many parts of the book made me feel the walls built around women in this society, by this society, are too harsh. It suffocates them. It hurts them. Nida has been living a life where she never experienced love from her mother, mother-in-law or husband. Nida has been neglected and made to feel insecure and insignificant by the people around her – akin to how Bhanggi feels – which connects them both emotionally and spiritually. However, in their relationship and how they feel, lies the reason for such emotional mishaps – our society is male-dominated and men want to exercise their hegemony over the opposite sex. On the other hand, Sasha, who always broke social norms and spent hours with other men in search of love but never saw a man blaming her for the life she chose. Faiqa’s way of explaining the lives of Nida, Sasha and Bhanggi is quite interesting as every character has a different life, varying problems and altering mindsets. Through Nida, Faiqa reveals the male-dominated society women live in Pakistan and how they are forced to abide by their husband’s orders. Through Bhanggi, Faiqa shows the Hijra community of Pakistan, especially of Lahore, and how the society terms them an outcast while the influential ones use and abuse them at their will. Through Sasha, Faiqa narrates the life of a lost soul who slowly transforms into a hijab wearing woman. Sasha remained dominant while she pleased men or when she turned into a religious woman – for in both of her persona she was in control. This was another delicate social predicament Faiqa looked upon in her story. Narrated with a combination of calmness and rage, Faiqa Mansab takes her readers on a journey where each character evolves in their own domain, eventually reaching the climax which itself sends the reader into introspection and retrospection.

The man with a hundred faces bids adieu: RIP Jerry Lewis!

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At age twelve, I watched the first movie starring Jerry Lewis. It was The Disorderly Orderly. Unaware of the genre of slapstick comedy, Jerry Lewis instantly became my favorite actor because of his amusing talking style and hilarious actions. A few years later when Jim Carrey inspired me with his acting skills, Jim and Jerry ruled over my heart, for I am also a propagator of humor and believe that it is extremely difficult and challenging to make people laugh. However, Jerry Lewis did it without breaking a sweat. The actor who became part of my comic consciousness passed away on August 20 2017. He was 91.

Nothing much can be said for Jerry, no words can describe him. He explained his entire life to us through his many movies. He showed us that spreading laughter makes you famous, it makes you a legend – the challenge is to bring something original every time. And he did! The Nutty Professor is close to my heart. Jerry portrays the role of that crack job professor who cannot do anything right. Whether it is The Ladies Man, The Errand Boy, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, The Family Jewels, or Boeing Boeing, Jerry Lewis knew how to add humor and wittiness in his facial expressions and dialogues. He was a method actor, his one-liner statements were too good and he had the ability to exquisitely blend his body language to his dialogues meanwhile changing his tone of voice to suit the scene.

Beginning his career with Dean Martin, with whom he appeared in a number of movies, Jerry’s solo career did wonders for him. Do check out his video clips from movies on Youtube and indulge in the comic life of Jerry Lewis, the man who had a hundred faces but behind each face was a serious human being, who served a major part of his life raising funds for those affected by muscular dystrophy. Rest in peace, Jerry!

Celebrities have been sharing their thoughts on Twitter following the passing away of Jerry Lewis.