Landmarks that will go down in history as an integral part of popular culture, mainly stemming from film, television and a speckling of music, in the past one year.
It’s not been the best of years, but it hasn’t been the worst of times either. The year 2019 can be best described as ho-hum, where films took a dip in their state of rising and television more or less reprised its role as entertainment royalty but without any monumental elevations in value. There are productions and there are people, however, who kept pushing to raise the bar, impressing with their talent or vision. Here’s a look at everything and everyone who we’ll remember 2019 for; the A to Z of entertainment in the year that was…
TV serial Alif, an adaptation of Umera Ahmed’s novel of the same name, directed by Haseeb Hassan and featuring Hamza Ali Abbasi, Sajal Aly, Manzar Sehbai, Kubra Khan and Ahsan Khan in lead roles, went on air in October but will go down in history as one of the landmark projects of 2019. Tackling the subject of spirituality, its real meaning and how it affects our lives, Alif is being appreciated for the sensitively handed narrative, effective direction – which effortlessly handles two time zones in two countries at the same time – and of course, performances. Alif will no doubt turn into a classic for all times.
When it comes to characters, Imran Ashraf gave life to the mentally challenged and yet exceptionally intriguing Bhola in Ranjha Ranjha Kardi. Credit goes to the way his character was written – it presented him as a well-rounded human instead of a caricature of a human being – but the trophy goes solely to Imran Ashraf, who immortalized Bhola with his superb performance.
Grand qawwal Amjad Sabri, who was assassinated in 2016, will forever remain in our memory but his music was immortalized, once again, in popular culture by Coldplay. A sample from Sabri’s ‘Jaga Ji Laganay’ featured on Cold play's ‘Church’ from their latest album, Everyday Life and reminded us of what a treasure we had lost.
“There’s two cool other singers on that one. There’s this guy who was a Pakistani singer, called Amjad Sabri. He was sadly murdered by people who didn’t like what he stood for,” Chris Martin said in an Interview.
Durj was a 2019 landmark simply because it stepped out of the romantic comedy comfort zone and profiled cannibal existence in Pakistan.
While ISPR funded films didn’t fare too well at the box office –Project Ghazi, Sherdil and Kaaf Kangana were not a patch on the agency’s previous hits like Waar and Parwaz Hai Junoon–Ehd e Wafa, which went on air in September, made up for all the shortcomings and immediately clicked with viewers. Featuring Ahad Raza Mir, Osman Khalid Butt, Ahmad Ali and Wahaj Ali and revolving around the lives of the four friends, Ehd e Wafa gently portrays life at the Pakistan Military Academy while building upon individual stories of all four friends. Written by Mustafa Afridi and directed by Saife Hassan, it is a light hearted and feel good watch, which is more than can be said for most serials that aired this year.
We didn’t get to see Fahad Mustafa on the big screen in 2019 but he was all over 882,000km² of Pakistan via his hit show, Jeeto Pakistan, which the public was addicted to especially in Ramzan.
The year did belong to independent musicians, one of them being Gentle Robot. After the breakthrough single, ‘Slow’, Gentle Robot, an independent musician based out of Lahore, confirmed that the single is part of the album, Breathe. The title track ‘Breathe’ was released in the second half of 2019 and is just as sublime as its predecessor while the rest of the two tracks will drop with the EP, with the possibility of a third single releasing first.
Usually up against a firing squad for his highly politicized and often controversial theories on just about everything, Hamza Ali Abbasi made headlines this year for his video announcement of retirement from the entertainment industry, his wedding to Naimal Khawar and then of course, Alif, in which he plays the protagonist Qalbe Momin, a fictional albeit real reflection of Hamza himself.
Whether it was for her personification of the progressive Noori in Ranjha Ranjha Kardi, the hot headed Jiya in Suno Chanda or her most widely discussed proposal, made by beau Yasir Hussain at the Lux Style Awards, Iqra Aziz ruled the airwaves with her presence and diversity. The year ended with Iqra making headlines, this time for her star studded wedding.
Yasir, Uzair and Umair all made it to the prominent forefront in 2019. Yasir directed ‘Sajni’ the psychedelic video for Strings’ ‘Raat Shabnami’ from the album 30and ‘rockstar with the unmistakable growl,’Umair Jaswal performed the hugely successful ‘Chal Raha Hoon’ for Coke Studio Season 12, making it the first time he performed an original, solo on the program. Uzair collaborated with Momina Mustehsan for ‘Hamesha’ that went viral as soon as the single was dropped. A special mention also goes out to Saba Jaswal for ‘You and I’, her debut single with Abdullah Siddiqui that should have gotten more attention than it did.
Equipped with experience at Coke Studio and directing music videos for some highly popular acts (including the award-winning ‘Ho Jao Azaad' by Zoe Viccaji), Kamal forayed into mainstream cinema with crime-thriller Laal Kabootar and hit it out of the park. Featuring Ahmed Ali and Mansha Pasha in lead roles, this Karachi-based tale of grunge and grime got rave reviews and ultimately was selected as Pakistan’s official submission to the Oscars for the Foreign Film category. Furthermore, Kamal collaborated with Sharmeen Obaid to write and direct the Home 1947 series, recreating the experience of partition for generations that may not be lucky enough to hear the stories first hand from ancestors.
The longest standing award show in the country, Lux Style Awards was the usual school for scandal, making headlines for one controversy after the other, but stood uncontested as the only award show that celebrated style and entertainment across the industry, without channel influence.
A simple tale of love and betrayal, Mere Paas Tum Ho brought back the era of nationwide obsession over a TV drama. Written by Khalil ur Rehman Qamar and directed by Nadeem Baig, MPTH delivered award winning performances from Humayun Saeed, Ayeza Khan, Adnan Siddiqui and everyone in the story and had people hooked.
With Pakistani film and television playing it quite safe with content (that promises to change next year), Netflix came to the rescue for those who wanted something more experimental. Netflix originals like The Crown, Orange is the New Black, Stranger Things,You 2, Witcher were super popular and of course, we’re all anticipating Messiah, airing on January 1, 2020.
Azaan Sami Khan, with his work on Superstar and Parey Hut Love – two of the most successful films of the year – revived the grand Pakistani film sound track, which one had previously witnessed way back in Khuda Kay Liye and then never again until now.
Directed by Asim Raza and written by Imran Aslam, Parey Hut Love was an extremely well composed symphony of life, love and loss in Pakistan. Defined by superb cinematography, well-choreographed songs and a multitude of cameos that have now become norm for an Asim Raza film, PHL definitely did deserve the appreciation and applaud it got.
Qurram Hussain aka Q, has been making solo music waves. After appearing on two seasons of Cornetto Pop Rock, Qurram re-emerged with a ballad called ‘Dastaan’ in 2019 that is an instant reminder of the earlier years of Josh. It’s a good love song and time has not robbed Q from the capability of making such songs.
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call Ranjha Ranjha Kardione of the best TV serials of 2019. Starring Imran Ashraf as a mentally challenged young man Bhola and Iqra Aziz as Noor, an extremely (and rarely portrayed) progressive female protagonist, the production brought several taboo issues to the small screen without being patronizing or preachy about them. Written by Faiza Iftikhar and directed by Kashif Nisar, RRK was entertaining, enlightening and left a lasting impression.
Billed as the highest grossing film of 2019, Superstar starring Mahira Khan and Bilal Ashraf in the lead, managed to rake in over 300 million in domestic and overseas collections. Directed by Mohammad Ehteshamuddin, the film’s Screenplay was written by Azaan Sami Khan and amongst all its strengths, it introduced newcomer Alizeh Shah to the scene. It was also critically appreciated for giving one of the strongest performances by Mahira Khan and Bilal Ashraf.
Presently studying abroad, Turhan James, DJ and producer made a great splash in Pakistan, playing at Solis Festival shows in multiple cities in Pakistan as well as opening for FDVM in a gig presented by Salt Arts and before that playing another Salt Arts event, which also featured local EDM act, Some What Super.
Superstars Mawra and UrwaHocane made waves throughout the year, majorly for their fashion label, UXM that they launched as a reflection of their personal style. While many celebrities have gotten into clothing in the past, this venture was more organized and involved the celebrities in more than lending their name and star power to it. More power to the girls!
This list is of course endless. There are people who made headlines and couldn’t be accommodated individually. Sajal Aly, Humayun Saeed, Adnan Siddiqui, Ahad Raza Mir, Sheheryar Munawer, Mahira Khan, Bilal Ashraf and an endless list of great actors. Then in music we’d have to give a shout out to FDVM and the organisers of Solis, Shamoon Sultan for being the breakthrough act of the year and all the independent acts that made it to the limelight.
International chief of Studio Ponoc, Geoffrey Wexler, in a historic first, brought two films from Ponoc: Mary and the Witch’s Flower and Modest Heroes to Pakistan as part of Pakistan International Film Festival (theme ‘animation’) - in collaboration between Mano Animation and Karachi Film Society. His sessions, followed by Q&A were sold out; he also held a workshop.
Impressive from the start, Xarb, made it to the top two, losing to Bayaan in Pepsi Battle of the Bands in 2018. But the band had made its mark; with one album to their credit, they are producing what will be their first post-PBOTB album themselves. Qamar Parvi, the vocalist, is their greatest weapon.
Okay, so this is a bit of a cheat. But Y or WHY isn’t and ‘WHEN is The Legend of Maula Jatt releasing’ was the most frequently asked question through 2019, especially since the teaser released, leaving fans over-eager to witness the magic on the big screen. It was a bit of a let-down that the year has ended without any inclination or scheduled date of release. We feel cheated.
Zara emerged strong in 2019. The fiery actress made a debut in Wajahat Rauf’s Chhalawa and then featured prominently in Asim Raza’s Parey Hut Love. She appeared on television in some not so popular serials but then also the hugely popular Ehd e Wafa. Zara was also signed up as Brand Ambassador for Craft Stories, an initiative by designer Huma Adnan, in collaboration with the UNHCR, for the economic empowerment of refugees in Karachi.