The show must go on!

July 11, 2021

High on energy and excitement for bringing stars and celebrities out after a year of lockdown, the Hum Style Awards may have had its lows but was a much needed breather after a suffocating year.

The show must go on!

Following a year of caution and quarantine, the 5th annual Hum Style Awards took place in Lahore last weekend. To those who attended – including artists who had suffered and survived the coronavirus in the past one year and were now vaccinated – it was a gasp of oxygen following a suffocating year. The event this year was slightly simpler and perhaps not as extravagant or elaborate as it usually is, but it was sufficiently star studded and exciting all the same.

To have actors meeting up with stylists to decide upon red carpet looks, to get sneak peeks into rehearsals and BTS footage of scripts being written and winners being tallied all brought back nostalgia of a feeling that was part and parcel of the entertainment industry until the pandemic hit us. Camaraderie. That’s what was missing for the past one year and that’s exactly what the Hum Style Awards brought back.

July is never the best time for an award show in Pakistan; the mercury rises to an upward of 40 degrees, which is uncomfortably hot. But the onus of the ‘indoor atmospheric temperature’ (to be very literal) rested on the mismanaged shoulders of the Pearl Continental, which kept switching the air conditioning off. As a venue for high profile events, the Lahore PC should definitely be written off as a summer option.

The red carpet, then, generated its own kind of heat. While style savants like Ayesha Omar, Mushk Kaleem, Mehreen Syed, Hasnain Lehri, Shamoon Ismail, Urwa Hocane, Fahmeen Ansari and Maya Ali dressed to impress, not many others did. Ill fitted clothes and especially frumpy off-shoulder gowns made one wonder whether our design community had forgotten how to cut a gown or whether the stars had forgotten how to wear one.

The show must go on!

The bigger issue, and one that played out excessively on social media, was that should Pakistan’s events even champions ‘gowns’ as red carpet staples. At a time when the world and its fashion sensibility is looking for cultural identity in clothing, when appropriation and misappropriation, inclusion and relevance are subjects of discussion, why do Pakistan’s cultural brand ambassadors have nothing to show as their own? It’s a tough one, because between western gowns and traditional clothing that ends up looking like wedding wear, you need true couturiers to come up with the right red carpet look. Those couturiers do exist, but they were obviously not available or interested.

The show began with introducing Ali Zafar and Urwa Hocane as hosts; this was an important evening for Ali Zafar, it being his first official return to the entertainment arena ever since allegations of sexual harassment were leveled against him in 2018. And he proved to be the life of the party, entertaining the audience with the flair, wit and charm that comes naturally to him.

The evening was also studded with four performances that were diverse and were received with just as assorted reactions.

The first, featuring the young and acclaimed singer/song writer Abdullah Siddiqui (who made it to Forbes’ 30 under 30 this year) and Risham Faiz Bhutta (who made a high octane debut) began with a ‘Roar’. The energy was just right and it set the mood for what the Hum Style Awards have established as their USP – an appreciation for upcoming talent. HSY and Resham brought a desi thumka to the show, their performance as bright and cheery as classic Nur Jehan songs go. HSY, or Sheru as he is fondly known, is like a chameleon on stage and transforms to the beat. Resham belongs to the generation of Pakistani film stars that embrace performance with evident ease. Her footwork and body language had the effortlessness and elegance that was not to be seen again on stage that evening.

The show must go on!

Aima Baig, performing to a medley of her own songs, has outstanding vocals but her performances have rarely lived up to her sonic hype. Her voice has vigour, but her segment fell flat. It didn’t help that she was dressed in what looked like embellished spandex, hardly an appropriate look for the stage.

Ali Zafar, with his years of experience and exposure, then brought life back to the evening. This tribute to Teefa would have gone down the Te Quiero Mucho route had it not been for him; Alizeh Shah was not as deflated as Aima but she was awkward nevertheless. Why Maya didn’t perform on her own songs or any female actor known to be a good dancer (like Faryal Mehmood, Srha Asgr, Mehar Bano or Sohai Ali Abro) wasn’t roped in for this segment, is anyone’s guess. Alizeh sadly did not cut the mustard and was a mismatch.

It was, however, an award show and the excitement revolved around winners. In undefined terms, it has been established that the Hum Style Awards have acquired a reputation for supporting the young and upcoming, which is why a lot of debutants and relatively new, undiscovered or under-appreciated talent was lauded. Breakout star of the evening was 21-year old Khushhal Khan, who picked up an award for Rising Star 2020, and it was evident in the love and appreciation he got, that he is a hot favourite and will go far. Khushhal recently featured as lead in the controversial web series Midsummer Chaos, but we’ll try not to let that get in the way of his potential success.

Some random musings. One would need some clarity on the USP of the awards. Are Hum Style Awards given on merit of performance or on merit of personal style? If the latter (as is commonly assumed) then is there a different set of rules for the fashion categories, which seem to be decided on merit? Also, two sponsored awards were unnecessary and could have been avoided. More significantly, while the evening celebrated rising stars, one would have hoped for a moment of silence or respectful mention of all those stars that had passed on this year; Hasina Moin, Sumbul Shahid and Farhad Humayun especially though not only.

All in all, despite the high fives and low blows, and the hot and cold shoulders, the Hum Style Awards managed to bring the show back in business. They made the effort and the intention to celebrate and validate talent, which – at the end of the evening - overshadowed the short comings.

The backlash, therefore, was unfair and myopic. Every show has its ups and downs and the only thing you can take for granted, is that it must go on!

The show must go on!