Friday, 26 March 2021

Not the Butt of all jokes: Ahmad Ali Butt on being more than just a comic actor


Oscar Wilde once said, “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh.” And for any man with the audacity to speak the truth and the decency to not be off-putting, that stands true. But aside from being a saviour in times of confrontation, having a funny bone can do a lot more, especially for actors who wouldn’t be considered for many roles otherwise – and not because of ‘sub-par acting’. Ahmad Ali Butt is not any different.

“I don’t think I’m more than just a comedy actor, I know I am,” Butt told The Express Tribune in a recent tête-à-tête. “I started off with theatre back in ’94, started my own theatre company in ’96. We mostly did English plays and some Manto here and there. But from there, I started doing comedy.”

Butt recalled how one of his plays, Jutt and Bond, was then adapted into a sitcom for television. And because he was ‘quite overweight,’ he started receiving offers for comic characters. “They’d be like, ‘oh this person is fat, so he can be funny,’” remarked the rapper-cum-actor.

Acknowledging how artists are stereotyped world over based on their body types, Butt wasn’t too surprised. “It’s not restricted to Pakistan, you see John Candyor, Seth Rogen, or Jonah Hill, all of these people did serious work twenty years after doing comedy.”

He added, “If a man is short, tall, or fat, he can only get certain kind of roles, and we're bound to be okay with that because we’re in the showbusiness. What we show becomes our business.” remarked the Jawani Phir Nahi Ani actor.

Adding insult to the injury, Butt shared how that wasn’t even the bigger problem. “In our industry, more than body shamming, there is colour shamming. Everyone is obsessed with the gora rung. And sadly that’s the way things will remain.”

Accepting his fate, Butt knew he’d have to excel in whatever’s being offered to him, and learned to be grateful for that. Off the screen, however, comedy became his defense mechanism.

But the consequence of being hilarious all the time is that people stop taking you seriously. So for Butt and many others, that unquestionably becomes their pitfall. “Even though you’re doing something 90% of the actors can’t, people will appreciate the talent of the actor who can make everyone cry, instead of someone who can make them laugh,” he said.

“We don’t take laughter seriously! It’s psychological. And so many actors, because they are typecast into comedy, are not taken seriously,” he remarked. To name a few, Butt stated, “You can look at Adnan Shah Tipu. I think he’s a fantastic actor who is mostly offered comedy roles because no one takes him seriously. Similarly, you can look at Ayesha Omar or even Hina Dilpazeer – such a versatile actor – who’s been limited to comedy because of her Bulbulay image.”

But after being typecast for so long, the comedian turned compassionate with his recent stint in Jhooti, where he was offered a serious role after a decade. “I did one ten years ago on PTV, but not many people notice that. And even though my character lasts 12 episodes in Jhooti, it gave me the space to prove I was more than just a comedy actor,” explained Butt.

A versatile actor

The grandson of director Shaukat Hussain Rizvi and Queen of Melody, Noor Jehan, Butt explained how he transformed himself for his serious performance in the Iqra Aziz-starrer. “Comedy is very up-tempo, it’s loud, quick – it has its timing. So yes, while doing the serious role, I had to really dial it down.”

Butt’s performance in Jhooti was irrevocably impressive, despite the problematic narrative it followed. So after his shape-shifting skimp, he was roped in for a Punjabi film in the UK with Indian actors including Gippy Grewal, Neeru Bajwa, and Annu Kapoor among others.

But before going to the UK, the actor went through a serious weight-loss journey. “My weight loss was simply a consequence of me realising I’m not in my twenties anymore. I am about to hit my forties and I need to develop healthy eating habits. So the lockdowns were a blessing in disguise. My routine upended, I wasn’t eating food from outside anymore. Six to seven months in, I lost 15 kilos. And I’ve nabbed two new projects because of that since people were surprised by my transformation.”

As for his upcoming Punjabi film Phatte Dinde Chakk Punjabi, which will mark his international big-screen debut, Butt revealed, “In the film, my character charms Bajwa’s character so it’s more believable now that I’ve lost weight,” he quipped. “But even if I hadn’t lost weight, the makers had roped me in for that. Of course, they were happier when they saw me in person. But my character is very naïve and in love. My father is Kapoor sab, and the film also has a comic Punjabi touch to it.”

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Friday, 19 February 2021

The Legend of Maula Jatt: Ammara Hikmat sheds light on the Punjabi dialect

Based on a 1979 Punjabi classic, The Legend of Maula Jatt is one of the most anticipated big screen projects to come out of Pakistani cinema in recent times. The film, unfortunately, has been in the works for the past five years, marred in controversy, and we can only hope that it hits the screens sometime soon.

But that hasn’t stopped producer Ammara Hikmat from hyping up her upcoming project. The film-maker recently spoke about the ethnic languages of Pakistan, adding on her Instagram stories that The Legend of Maula Jatt is made her realise how rich Punjabi language is, in terms of expression.

“Being from a Pashtun background, I can’t relate to why Punjabis don’t own their language proudly and pass it on to the next generations,” began Hikmat on her social media. “It has been reduced to a language only spoken to communicate with domestic help. I hope all Punjabis do know that being multilingual is ‘cool,’ way cooler than raising kids who can only speak the third mostly and widely-used English.”

Using the hashtag #OwnYourLanguage, Hikmat concluded, “Not even Urdu? You are denying your next generation not only diversity but a chance to inherit one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. The language is poetry; a cultural treasure, i.e. Punjabi.”

From the creators of hit blockbuster Waar, the star-cast of The Legend of Maula Jatt includes Fawad Khan, Mahira Khan, Hamza Ali Abbasi, Humaima Malick, Gohar Rasheed and Resham.

Saturday, 6 February 2021

Aamir Liaquat to make acting debut with pandemic comedy


The colourful PTI MNA known for his Ramzan transmissions is expanding his repertoire to include acting. This will be his first time dipping his toe into the acting world if you don't count the teaser for his 2016 Pak Ramazan in which he played a martyred soldier.

He's going to be starring in Bas Corona, a made-for-TV comedy on the pandemic. Talking to Images, Liaquat said it's "about the problems and children that sprung up" during the lockdown.

Actress Nausheen Shah will be playing his wife in the movie while veteran actor Qavi Khan and Saba Faisal will play his parents.

Bas Corona is being produced by Gold Bridge Media and will premiere on Express Entertainment.

The film has been written by Syed Sajjad Haider Zaidi but Liaquat has also written a few of the lines for the movie himself.

He described it as an interesting movie about the "private and domestic" situation created in a home during the pandemic.

The couple also know what it's like to be cooped up at home together during the pandemic because they tested positive for the coronavirus in November.

Thursday, 21 January 2021

Mahira Khan Admits She Misses the Small Screen


Apart from being an actor Mahria Khan has become an icon in Pakistan with notable performances in projects such as Humsafar, Shehr-e-Zaat and Sadqay Tumhare, graduating on to films with roles in Superstar, Bin Roye, Raees, Verna and Ho Mann Jahaan, to name a few.

Representing Pakistan on a local as well as international level, Mahira has swiftly reached to top tier of the media industry, with 3 new films coming out this year, including The Legend of Maula Jutt! On HUM TV's 16th anniversary celebration, the Bol actor admitted she would love to return to the small screen.

“I want to come back to dramas. It’s truly been magical for me with Hum TV. Humsafar is why I continue to receive so much love in my personal life and in my career,”

In the show hosted by Kasoti Online's Ahmad Ali Butt, celebrities featured included Sarah Khan, Humayun Saeed, Farhan Saeed, Vaneeza Khan, Usman Mukhtar, Bushra Ansari, Sonya Hussyn, Ali Zafar and Hamza Ali Abbasi.

Mahira, who is still known for her breakthrough performance in Humsafar, discussed her difficult ordeal with COVID-19, although she did share that this give her and went on to say that she would love to come back to the drama world, after several successful films added to her career.

Friday, 15 January 2021

Our society is patriarchal to begin with: Ayesha Omar


Known for her eccentric style statements, fashion-diva Ayesha Omar is not only a popular actor but is also a host, a model, and a famous VJ. The star, who has proved her mettle in films such as Karachi Se Lahore and Yalghaar, Omar is also known – and often criticised - for her rather ‘bold’ personality, that at times conflicts with societal norms, usually in her Instagram comments.

Talking about her outspoken persona, Omar spoke about the aforementioned topic rather candidly as with Mira Sethi.

Societal Norms

Upon question from Sethi, the Bulbulay star divulged on how her persona as perceived by the society and what that specific word means. She started with, “Our society is patriarchal to begin with, so the norm set by society for women is to remain ‘suppressed’ with less confidence than men and shouldn’t be self-assured.”

Judging by what she has experienced, Omar continued, “It’s what I have seen on television all my life that any woman of any age must remain or appear subdued and not too outspoken either. So, you see the term ‘bold’ contradicts with all that I think the word itself means. To me, being bold is being confident, brave and outspoken.”

Reason of Strength

Being raised by a single mother, Omar revealed that all her life she has been surrounded by her mother. The actor shared, “My father died when I was not even 2-years-old, so we shifted from Karachi to Lahore. A nucleus family like mine did everything together, which is why my mother had to be extremely hands-on and self-sufficient. She had to work, had to take care of the house, had to look after the kids, finances and almost everything. As a child, I saw my mother hustle through so much, without any financial means. Which is why she is my strength and always will be.”

The starlet went on to add that her father was a businessperson who left too early for her mother to fight all the family battles that comes after somebody’s death.  Omar shared, “My mother got preoccupied in these struggles that she decided to move away for a fresh start despite of her family being in Lahore and lending a shoulder.”

Journey to Success

Omar also revealed that she was lucky enough to score merit scholarship in a renowned school in Lahore when everything else was falling apart. She remarked how life was different there as she pursued to be an artist later in life. “Painting was my life. I graduated from art school with only one motive in life; painting. But life had different plans and I got into acting. I used to do a sit-com back in college called Kollege Jeans and that was the base of what I’m today. Many offers came along, so as an actor who works 14 hours a day, the painter moved farther away.”

As a style Icon

Inspired by her style sense and way of carrying herself with utmost ease, Omar has always made her way into the best dressed category with sophisticated suave. When Sethi asked for her secret, Omar said, “I think it’s the artistic aesthetics that has cultivated over the years that just translated when I wear something. Although, I don’t pre-plan my outfits, it’s just a last minute thing that just does it every time. But I shall also confess, there is always pressure to remain on top of the game. Be it red carpets or any other party, bloggers, fashion journalists and critics are all waiting for you.”

To Omar, it’s all about how she sees herself, and not the audience. “Look, I have come to the conclusion that I don’t dress for people, I dress for what makes me feel comfortable, small percentage of that is according to the occasion,” she said. “Likewise, around the world there are divas like Jennifer Lopez who could own their vibe and style and not be bothered about public opinion in order to give their 100%.”

Friday, 11 December 2020

Mahira Khan and Fawad Khan Wrap Up Filming of 'Neelofar'


The Bin Roye star Mahira Khan shared behind the scenes footage from set, writing:

“I take with me a piece of you.. leaving a bit of my soul with you. My darling Neelofar I shall miss you, oh so much."

Mahira's latest reveal has left fans curious and excited about her and Kapoor and Sons Fawad Khan reuniting on screen together after the pair's iconic super hit Humsafar is still incredibly popular in Pakistan today. The audience is still anticipating Mahira and Fawad's second on screen project with Pakistan's highest budget film The Legend of Maula Jutt, directed by Bilal Lashari.

The film is expected to release in 2021, having been written and directed by Ammar Rasool, and produced by Qasim Mehmood.

Tuesday, 8 December 2020

Mahira Khan, Atif Aslam, Aiman Khan make it to 'Forbes'


Three Pakistani celebrities have made it to Forbes’ list of Asia's 100 Digital Stars. This includes renowned artists from across the continent like Bollywood biggies such as Shah Rukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Anushka Sharma, Katherine Langford, KJ Apa, Keith Urban and others.

Mahira Khan was the first star to be named in the list, which seemed to be in no particular order. According to the publication, the Raees star was to be a part of the much-awaited action drama The Legend of Maula Jatt, which is touted to be Pakistan’s most expensive film to date. "Khan uses her social media presence — nearly seven million Instagram followers and over four million on Facebook — to raise awareness about mental health issues, violence against women and breast cancer," the description for the actor read.

Atif Aslam also made it. Forbes shared, "Released in May, his song Asma-ul-Husna recites Allah’s 99 names to encourage hope during the pandemic and has over 22 million views on YouTube. Aslam urged his 20 million Facebook followers to stay home to curb the spread of the coronavirus."

Aiman Khan, the older of the popular Khan twins, who is Pakistan's most followed celebrity on Instagram, also received a mention in the prestigious list. "With nearly eight million followers, Aiman is the most-followed Pakistani celebrity on Instagram. She and twin sister Minal run the clothing site Aiman Minal Closet, with 249,000 Instagram followers. Last year, she was nominated for Best Actress at Pakistan’s Hum Awards for roles in TV shows Ishq Tamasha and Baandi."

Congratulations to the celebs!

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Saturday, 5 December 2020

Maya Ali feels 'blessed' to be working with Shoaib Mansoor


It was earlier announced that renowned director Shoaib Mansoor will be working on a feature film with Maya Ali and Emmad Irfani. The film was expected to go on the floor in December.

Now, Ali has shared a candid picture of herself with Mansoor, marking the beginning of their venture together, with the two appearing engulfed in the project. Taking to Instagram on Thursday, the Teefa in Trouble actor wrote, "First day on the set of #ABG, blessed to have gotten a chance to work with the great Shoaib Sahab."

Ali's cohorts also shipped the maven and the starlet’s affiliation. "Aaaah! Best of luck Maya! You’re working with the best," commented Mahira Khan, who’s worked with Mansoor numerous times. "Best of luck Maya," added Minal Khan. "All the best Maya," remarked Zara Noor Abbas.

At present, not much is known about the film. But it will mark the first time Irfani plays a prominent role in a feature. The Jalan actor had expressed his excitement over the prospect of working with Mansoor earlier.

“I'm really excited and looking forward to working with someone of the stature of Shoiab sahib (sir). To me, it is an opportunity of a lifetime as he is a colossus when it comes to modern Pakistan cinema,” Irfani had told The Express Tribune. Irfani also shared how he felt about working with Ali, “Maya is a very good actress and I'm sure we will make a good team under Shoaib Mansoor’s captaincy.”

Ali was last seen in Parey Hut Love alongside Sheheryar Munawar, while, Irfani made a cameo in 7 Din Mohabbat In. Mansoor’s last film was Khan and Haroon Shahid's Verna.

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'Waar' brought Pakistani cinema close to Hollywood: Shaan Shahid


Popular actor Shaan Shahid in a recent tweet shared the trailer of his 2013 film Waar.

While doing so, the actor relayed why he holds the Bilal Lashari directorial so close to his heart. "#Waar, always close to my heart.. as it brought Pakistani cinema close to #Hollywood," tweeted the Yalghaar actor on Wednesday.

Last year, the producer had hinted at a possible sequel of the blockbuster. Taking to Twitter, the Operation 021 actor shared the poster of the Hamza Ali Abbasi, Ayesha Khan and Shamoon Abbas starrer and wrote, "The Game Changer. It was indeed first of its kind for Pakistan."

In May 2015, it was revealed that Hassan Rana, the writer of Waar 2 would also be directing the sequel. The film would also include Ayesha Omer, Agha Haris Durrani, Bilal Ashraf and Aleeze Nasser. Whereas Waqas Rana would be serving as the producer and Director of Photography of the film

The release date of the film is yet to be announced.

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Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Mansha Pasha 'lucky' to have Jibran Nasir

 Mansha Pasha has been quite vocal when it comes to praising her fiance, Jibran Nasir. The Laal Kabootar star has often taken to social media and gushed over the love of her life. 

Recently, Mansha was responding to a fan, who was lauding Jibran for standing up for MDCAT students. The tweep shared, "You are lucky to have this man."

To this, the Mohabbat Tujhay Alvida star shared, "Yes, I am Slightly smiling face." She went on to add, "Alhamdulillah, God has been ever so kind."

Mansha then expressed gratitude for the outpour of love from the students. "Many thanks to all the students messaging in," she wrote, adding, "I do feel truly proud and pray that Allah gives you all the strength to continue to stand for what is right always."

Earlier, in an interview with Iffat Omar, the actor shared how the couple fell in love. "It just happened. We were good friends and after some time we developed an understanding. Both of us were into it, so it happened," Mansha had put it simply.

Talking about what specific traits of the social activist pulled the actor towards Jibran, she revealed that while there are many, one, in particular, triumphed all. " He (Nasir) doesn't make false promises. This is very important to me. By the grace of God, whatever he has promised me as of yet he has fulfilled it," the star exclaimed.

Additionally, Jibran has also been very much supportive of her career, to the point that at times he would want Mansha to take every challenge.

"He's very supportive, Alhamdulilah.  In fact, we are always discussing prospective projects for me. A lot of times he wants me to take up everything. I eventually have to stop him," she chuckled. "All in all he is very supportive. He enjoys it. The stuff he is unable to see, he ends up listening about it from me."

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An abuser cannot be a hero: Mahira Khan

Pakistan's arguably biggest superstar Mahira Khan has never been the one to care for the lists. However, she always finds herself in one or two almost every year. This year, the Raees star was named in the prestigious BBC 100 Most Influential Women of 2020. And she is very humble about it. Khan took to Instagram and expressed her gratitude over the mention among the likes of Jane Fonda. 

"In a year of incredible change, it is only fitting that we acknowledge the female leaders who have helped us weather the storm," stated the outlet while releasing the names As for the reason why Khan was shortlisted, the network acknowledged that she "speaks up about the causes and issues that matter to encourage change."

"Khan is no ordinary actor – she is outspoken against sexual violence, refuses to endorse skin-lightening creams and supports the fight against racism," claimed the outlet. It went on to relay the Bin Roye star's determination to "tackle social issues in her native Pakistan by changing the narrative in films and on TV."In a recent interview with the publication, Khan shared her not-so-easy journey over the years. 

Not joining bandwagons

"I've been approached from the beginning of my career, not just as an actor - even when I was a VJ - I was approached to do a lot of fairness cream products, skin whitening products. It doesn't make sense to me, it never made sense to me," she said in the three-minute clip. "So, I am endorsing an idea that a darker girl, a man is not as attractive as someone with a fairer complexion? It just didn't make sense to me."

First accolade

Khan rose to fame for her portrayal as Khirad in blockbuster show Humsafar, which also starred Fawad Khan. The former won a Lux Style Award for Best Actress, making it her first-ever award win. "This is my first award as an actor, for a drama (Humsafar) that really launched me, in the year that I was launched," she said as she holds the accolade. "I won many awards after that but this remains very, very special," she shared.

The good work

The Verna star was appointed as the UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador for Pakistan in 2019. The actor had earlier shared few pictures from a refugee camp she had then visited on Instagram. Showing the same picture, now in a frame, adding, "Let me tell you about this photograph. This was the first time I went as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador to one of the camps, one that was in Karachi. We make passing comments on refugees, let's say Afghan refugees in Pakistan. There is a certain idea of what the Afghan refugees have brought into this country. We are there to raise awareness for that."

Of changing narratives

While attending the protests at Karachi Press Club against the motorway rape case, Khan made a point of changing narratives in pop culture. She went on to share how imperative it is for our masses to be educated over sex education. 

"Something happens, there is a lot of noise about it. Everybody gets on the streets, everybody talks about it on the media, and then what? And then it dies out. Another news comes out, another story comes out or another rape happens! Then that is just another name or another hashtag attached to it," she said now. "The problem is that we are not ready to educate our public or create programs that educate children, we are not ready to talk about it openly and I think we need to change that narrative while taking responsibility for it."

Khan lamented, "I am a big part of the media of this country. I feel that our films, our television serials, we have to change the narrative," Mahira asserted. "We can't just show a woman being assaulted (by a man) and then falling in love with him and show him to be the hero. A hero cannot be someone who is abusive. So, I think somewhere even we have to take that initiative."

She concluded her candid chat by skimming through the pages of a diary she had kept since before she had her baby boy, Azlan. "I have been writing before he was born," she smiled. "These pages are filled for him, there are few flowers too. As you can tell, I'm very sentimental about this."

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Zindagi Tamasha is Pakistan’s official Oscars entry

Sarmad Khoosat’s Zindagi Tamasha has been through the ringer but hey, there’s a silver lining.

The movie is all set to be submitted for Oscar consideration in the International Feature Film Award category for the 93rd Academy Awards, final nominees for which will be announced in February 2021.

This year’s Oscar committee was chaired by filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and includes Faisal Kapadia, Asad-ul-Haq, Hamza Bangash, Syed Muhammad Ahmed, Mehwish Hayat, Hasan Shehreyar Yasin, Asim Abbasi, Arshad Mahmud and Jamal Shah. 

Directed and co-produced by Sarmad Khoosat and Kanwal Khoosat and written by Nirmal Bano, Zindagi Tamasha’s cast includes Arif Hassan, Eman Suleman, Samiya Mumtaz and Ali Kureshi.

According to the official synopsis, "the film is an intimate portrait of a family as well as a scorching political commentary on little gods on this earth who police our private passions.”

Everything said, it's a little sad how it's a movie Pakistanis themselves haven't gotten to watch yet. Zindagi Tamasha was slated to be 2020's first Pakistani film release, meant to hit cinemas on January 24. However, it has been stopped from being released, despite being cleared by multiple censor boards twice and it's fate still hangs in the balance.

Speaking about the selection, producer Kanwal shared, “The announcement surely proves that we in Pakistan are ready to tell stories close to the heart. We are ready to represent our people. I cannot stop feeling proud of my team. We have worked countless hours to tell a truly Pakistani story. Many thanks to the committee for recognising our efforts and acknowledging our film."

“All the heartache that Zindagi Tamasha gave me has somehow restored my faith in the power of art too: the sheer, almost physical power of art to make life imitate it. This announcement, for me, is a very bright light shining at the end of this dark tunnel of a year. I made this film in Pakistan and foremost, for Pakistan, for my people and the misfortune that my people have remained deprived of it weighs quite heavy on my artistic conscience.

Some pride is slowly kicking in though and no matter how far we go with this official selection, Zindagi Tamasha will be representing all of us - our ‘Pakistan’. I feel honoured on behalf of my entire team and I am extremely grateful to the committee for finding it worthy enough.” said director Sarmad.

Islamabad to have drive-in cinema


An open-air, drive-in cinema is planned to be built in the federal capital to help provide residents with some entertainment in a safe manner during the ongoing novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

This was disclosed on Wednesday by officials of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) who know of the project.

They said that with the government allowing outdoor gatherings in limited numbers and stringent conditions amidst the second wave of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, an outdoor cinema will help people enjoy movies safely. It will be built per international standards and have parking for up to 1,000 cars.

The CDA will choose a location for the project with sufficient parking where residents can watch movies while sitting in their cars. CDA Chairman Aamer Ali Ahmed will personally oversee the project, officials said.

Friday, 27 November 2020

Kubra Khan and Goher Mumtaz are shooting a romantic thriller in Kashmir

 Titled Abhee, the romantic thriller is being locally shot against a backdrop of the beautiful landscapes of Kashmir and will revolve around the theme of nationalism. Lending their vocals to the title track are the very popular Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Aima Baig.

The star-studded cast includes Saleem Sheikh, Usman Peerzada, Mahmood Aslam, Ehtesham-ud-Din, Yasra Rizvi, Hina Bayat and Asif Raza Mir.

The movie is being directed by Asad Mumtaz and produced under the banner of an international UK-based company Daniel Johnes Productions, which is all set to dive into its very first venture in Pakistan.

The story is drafted by Gohar himself with Shoaib Rabbani behind the screenplay.

No release date has been announced yet but the movie is expected to come out early next year.