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Archive for August 19, 2012

Mosaic Festival 2012: Day 3: Saving Face.

Happening adjacent to Square one, is also Mosaic Film Festival, with an impressive line up of select and Award winning films being screened, from all over the globe.

I had marked in my calendar, long before the festival began, to sneak out of my volunteer arena and watch one of the two Premiered movies in the current festival, Saving Face..

The Mosaic audience is fortunate to be the only Canadian audience to have been treated to a full 54 minute director’s version of Saving Face, instead of the usually running 25 minute short film.

My interest was not just its Academy Award (Oscar Award) crown, but also the issue it highlights, of acid burns in Pakistan, or to be fair in the rest of the subcontinent too.

The ease of availability of the strongest of acids, at no price, and the super speed with which it disfigures the life of the victim, both literally and metaphorically, makes it a handy tool in the hands of its ego-bruised perpetrators. As bluntly put by Dr Jawad,

Guns need a licence, but acid throwing needs none.”

The film revolves around the real stories of two unfortunate, yet courageous women, Zakia and Rukhsana, for whom the roles they performed were scripted ruthlessly by none other than their own husbands. Almost near psychopaths that these men  were, they did not even appear to have any remorse on their actions, in retrospect. Perhaps, had they been in possession of even a streak of humanity, they would not have resorted to this premeditated act.

On the other hand were the two courageous women, who despite of all their miseries, decided not just to live with their heads held high, but to carry on with their missions.

Zakia, after being severely disfigured, came out to get justice, and to fight for legislation against the perpetrators of acid burns. The severity of her burns, had made the reconstruction of her face impossible, as Dr Jawad stated the limitations of plastic surgery,

“After all we are not Gods”.

However where there is a will, there is a way.

Not only was the legislation passed on the punishment for acid throw, and she even saw her husband get two life imprisonments. The reward in return to her was a new lease of life through a  prosthesis, which gave her a new face, at least for the outside world.

On the other hand, like majority of helpless women and mothers, Rukhsana, after all the trauma, had chosen to patch up and return to her husband. However, her generous forgiveness was returned back with a brick wall being built between her and her children. Despite the series of misfortunes that destiny had offered her, she chose to continue on with her new pregnancy, and postpone her surgery until delivery. A hope to start a new life with a new baby, rekindled a new desire in her love to live.

I could not hold back tears, when Zakia walked out on the street, for the first time after years, with face revealed and saying, “There is hope in this life again.” Or when Rukhsana holding her new baby boy remarked: “I want him grow up to be a doctor like you, and not like his father.”

I salute them both, for being a true embodiment human resilience, in the face of worst of tortures, and still bouncing back to life with hope. It is this hope that has kept this world revolving for centuries.

Hats off to Dr Jawad,  Shairmeen Obeid Chinoy, Daniel Young and the entire team, for saving their own faces too, and for inspiring a passion in others,  to come forward and help, in millions worldwide.

The appeal for donations for the cause, by the Festival organisers, saw many signing off cheques and pledges for the cause, at the end of the film.

Perhaps we all need to save our own faces, and do our own bits for this cause and for women abuse at large, whether by screening this film, writing about it, or simply teaching one’s own sons to treat their women with dignity as they grow up.

Mosaic Festival 2012: Day 3: Shafqat Amanat Ali ~ an electrifying concert

Towards evening, as the time for Shafqat Amanat Ali’s concert approached on the third day of Mosaic Festival 2012, there was a visible increase in the hustle bustle in the Celebration Square. Before he could even come, the lawns were full.

Dressed casually, Shafqat walked on the stage amidst cheers, after being e introduction by none other than Sohail Rana.

The first song ‘ankhon ke sagar, le doobe humein ‘, was enough to drown the crowd into a Shafqat frenzy.

Then followed the khamaj “mora sayyan mo se boley naa,” which  transformed the mood of an excited crowd into that of a sombre ecstasy.

Having talked to Shafqat in the waiting room, prior to the show, he had mentioned of his conviction for Indo Pak cross cultural exchange.
He had promised, “As such we artists contribute a great deal towards that, but I would consider myself very fortunate to support anyone who works towards making it into a reality.”

Carrying on that conviction in the crowd, he dedicated the third song, Ye Hausla, towards “India Pakistan Peace” amidst an uproar of applause for his dedication. By just this  third song, the crowd had been immensely electrified. The words were powerful and seemed to reiterate his promise even more strongly.
Ye hausla kaise jhukey, ye arzoo kaisey rukey. Manzil mushkil to kya, dhundla ye saahil to kya…”

I noticed a lady, sitting on the front most rows, reciting every song of his, verse by verse.

“You seem to be his diehard fan?” I asked.

Pat came her reply, “Yes, I love the imagination with which he brings fusion of different genres in his music. Though many of them are coming from Bollywood, but are yet not cliché’ Bollywood. It touches the strings of the heart. “ Sapna, as she introduced herself, is a new immigrant from Delhi, and takes pride, that she knows all the songs he has sung so far.

In the conversation earlier, Shafqat had told about his family’s experimentation with different kinds of music. He mentioned of how his father Ustad Amanat Ali Khan, excelled in Ghazal singing despite being earlier dissuaded as not deemed suitable to his classical background of Patiala gharana. He referenced the experimentation of his brother, Asad Amanat Ali’s with various forms, including Punjabi.
A soft spoken Shafqat Amanat Ali, to me was contrary to the image I had of him through his “Rockstar Ustad” image. I had expected I would meet a loud, talkative, rock star personality. Diametrically contrary to my image, he was extremely soft, and sombre not just in voice, but expressions and body language too.

Most of my questions, some serious, and some not so serious, were mostly answered by him with a uniform sobriety, with just a slight smile on the question, “Why did you take up a degree in Political Science?”

The smile followed with a simple answer, that “he was the first one to go to the University, from his family, and hence, without much direction being given, he followed, what his friends chose to study.”

Being a musician, to him was inevitable, as this is how kids in his gharana are trained from a very early age. “They are left with little choice to do anything else.”

If he is not doing music, what does he do? “I watch a list of movies, and sleep”, replied Shafqat.

We had been told by his manager that he loves food, especially desi food. So came my obvious question: “What’s your favourite food?”
“Biryani Saag” , was the instant reply, but with a quizzed expression on me, he preferred to explain, as “a relative unknown dish, being his favourite dish. It is cooked on occasions and in special deghs, by the cooks.”

The manager also revealed Shafqat’s love for nature. He reminisced of the time, when due to a beautiful foggy weather in Malaysia, they went for a walk, and during that stroll composed one of his most beautiful songs.
“Tell us something in this blog that you have never shared before, but would wish to.” I asked.

With an expression of hurt he shared, “ I was a rejected singer on PTV, and ….” .

However it hurt me too, to have asked that, so I switched instantly to, “What special message would you give to Mosaic Festival?”   And his instantly opened arms and a flying kiss towards all the Mosaic volunteers standing around, did all the talking.

Back to the concert, each song that followed, further mesmerised the crowd . Half way through the concert, the jam packed crowd was completely electrified. The radiation of enthusiasm could not hold back an interactive Shafqat’s energy too, and he chose to come down into more proximity to his fans, shaking hands, giving them hugs and sharing the mic with them to sing.

Before he began the folk song “Main nai jana pardes biharwa’, he paid a tribute to Tufail Niazi, the great folk singer, considering himself fortunate to have re sung the song.

After almost a dozen melodious renditions, and with time to close, the crowd was too charged to let him go that easily. Amidst almost everyone screaming “one more” and “Eid Mubarak”, a bunch of threesome fans near the stage were screaming:

“Shafqat tussi great ho”…and out of modesty with no smiles he replied “Eidi chahiye?”

They were right behind me, so I turned and asked, “Any specific reason you say so, or is it just for more songs?”

Each one of the young girls, Chhavi, Saumya and Esha had different replies, which they literally had to scream out, due to the cheers all around.
“He’s versatile and very powerful.”

“Most soulful singer.”

“Kudos to him for bringing classical back to the youth.”
To convince the crowd, that it was time to leave, he even tried to parody “Aaj gaane ki zid na karo, dekho pit jaoge, aisi baatein kiya na karo”, but the verses fell unheard on the screaming crowd.

As I tweeted and posted a picture of the crowd on the face book :

Ilmana Fasih ‏@ZEEMANA
Electrified crowd at #ShafqatAmanatAli concert #MosaicFest2012

Almost instantly came a reply tweet from Pakistan:

akeelchaudhry ‏@akeelchaudhry
One of the finest singers I must say “@ZEEMANA: Electrified crowd at#ShafqatAmanatAli concert #MosaicFest2012

Just the way how an incredibly electrifying evening should come to a close, the last song, which he chose to sing, did actually help to pacify an emotionally charged crowd.

It was perhaps the most touching of his songs, I had ever heard. After hearing it live, at the close, meant, it would linger much longer in the head.

And as I walked back home after the concert, and unknowingly, I kept humming it all the way.

“Kuch ajab khel kartar key, morey Saeen Gharib Nawaz key,
Ek ko deeno mulak khajaney, ek bhikaari anaaj key. “


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