Hanging in Balance

December 14, 2014

The fate of the Lux Style Awards hangs in precarious balance as the once grand show is compressed to a high tea announcing winners

Hanging in Balance

An eighteen-hour plane and bus journey deposited us at the footsteps of Genting Highlands’ sprawling hotel range, where the Lux Style Awards reception desk extended their very best hospitality. 400 of the industry’s top entertainers were flown out to Malaysia, a fraction of them on a special chartered plane. That was 2007 and an unforgettable year for the Lux Style Awards. It’s when Atif Aslam descended on a flying carpet and gave screaming fans a live concert after the show. Ali Zafar performed with Reema and Nilofer Shahid danced the dhamaal at the after-party in one of the hotel’s clubs. Then how can one forget the hue and cry that arose in Dubai when Priyanka Chopra (the one and only) and Sonu Nigam were invited to be part of the LSA show, stealing the limelight from local artistes who were being honoured in 2004? The second LSAs were scaled down in 2003 but a three-hour ceremony hosted by the Moeen Akhtar at his comic best was more than what one could even hope for today.

I remember tears when Atif Aslam brought Reshma on stage and dedicated a heart-breaking ‘Lumbi Judai’ to her. Fawad Khan wasn’t the star that he is today when he delivered his very first live dance performance, that too with Sain Zahoor after winning an LSA for Khuda Kay Liye. Then there was Shaan’s unprecedented performance with the flawless Saima. A montage of Nazia Hasan’s very best hits, celebrated in song and dance by Anoushay Ashraf and Ali Kazmi (also featuring a then unknown Ayesha Omar) in 2006.

Mehdi Hassan’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Naheed Akhter’s comeback, Runa Laila on stage, Meera’s many medleys and a tribute to Mahnaz, just a couple of years before she passed away. LSA memories are stuff very grand dreams are made of.

Losing that signature pomp, all that show and ceremony, the 13th annual Lux Style Awards were almost unrecognizable this year. It was as if Shakespeare had compressed The Tempest into 140 characters on Twitter.

The Awards, honouring excellence in 2013, were reduced to an announcement of winners, celebrated at the Movenpick Hotel over high tea. "Not even dinner!" some people shockingly exclaimed. Large portraits of the winners framed an elegant ballroom with their awards resting on little mantles. They were ‘announced’ as they entered, photographed and then photographed some more. It all looked very elegant and as some winners diplomatically expressed, "intimate".

There’s just so much one can write in honour of the style at the event or the dessert table that flaunted two perfect croquembouches. The long stemmed roses held their heads high in honour of the victorious and the cameras clicked dutifully, documenting the moments. But were there enough moments to document? Not really. In fact the House of Lux dinner held in September (for no apparent reason) was more happening and better attended.

Fawad Khan predictably stole the spotlight when he walked in to receive his Best Actor award for Zindagi Gulzar Hai. Aamina Sheikh (Best Actress, Film for Seedlings) looked stunning in Shehla Chatoor as did Cybil Chowdhry (Best Model) in HSY and Sanam Saeed (Best Actress for Zindagi Gulzar Hai) in Misha Lakhani. Ahmed Bham won his first Luxie for Best Menswear and the Zinda Bhaag team walked away with most of the trophies in the Film category. Pleasantries were exchanged and the evening ended as uneventfully as it had began.

Did hosting a high tea do justice to the 12-year legacy that the Lux Style Awards has created, most of which is available on YouTube as evidence of the show’s past grandeur? No.

It was certainly better than not having an event at all, which is what nominees for 2013 had resigned to believe when the ceremony continuously got pushed back this year. Usually held in summer, which is also too late, the LSAs fell under the axe of time-mismanagement. An official statement released by the Awards Office justified that the LSAs were not time bound. But they should be because not holding them in the first three months of the year renders them irrelevant.

"The Lux Style Awards are a celebration of local talent and the creativity that is unique to Pakistan," Azka Waqar, Brand Manager Lux shared with Instep. "It is important that a number of elements fall into place if this celebration is to be all inclusive and reflective of all the talent that Pakistan has to offer. Bringing all of this together is a challenge that we gladly undertake each year and this year round it took a little longer."

In response to why the show was scaled down, she furthered, "There were a number of factors that went into this decision. That said, we are very proud to have launched a pioneering platform that has celebrated style icons for the past 13 years and wanted to ensure the great work done in 2013 was celebrated."

So wedged somewhere between the year when winners were taken for a studio shoot in Korangi (that didn’t even register) and the sit-down dinner in 2010, this year’s event managed to pull together a dignified evening but it fell drastically short on expectations. This was not the award show that millions across Pakistan had come to love and look forward to. It also forced one to question: how long would the fate of the LSAs hang in delicate balance?

The Lux Style Awards were a brilliant initiative taken by Unilever in 2002. The soap has historically been associated with film stars and this was one way of honouring Pakistan’s biggest stars every year. But the sporadic step-treatment meted out to the LSAs in 13 years unfortunately casts a very dark shadow on Unilever’s commitment to Pakistan’s talent. This very long shadow, unfortunately, then also extends to other initiatives taken by the corporation. The Pond’s Miracle Women, for example, is a campaign that has been advertised through the year and projects 100 outstanding women. They will be celebrated at a huge affair at the Mohatta Palace this month. But then what? Is it a one-time affair or will 100 women be selected and celebrated every year? What was the purpose, one wonders, of the House of Lux dinner held in September? The only consistent and steadfast commitment appears to come with Sunsilk for the PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week, and that too because it is regularly held twice a year, on schedule and with commitment. Sadly Unilever has not been able to award that same level of commitment to the Lux Style Awards.

It’s understandable that the LSAs cannot achieve the magnitude of Malaysia every year (though why not, you may ask?) but they need to achieve some kind of consistency. If feasibility is an issue then a decision needs to be taken to regularize a ‘Winner Announcement’ and perhaps have the grand shows for landmark years. In that case the ‘Luxie’ – as the silver statue is lovingly referred to – will undoubtedly lose its position as the country’s most distinguished award to other bigger and better (albeit not credible) shows, which will be a pity.