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PISA stars upbeat ahead of thrilling extravaganza in Dubai

Michael Gomes
Filed on February 5, 2020
PISA stars upbeat ahead of thrilling extravaganza in Dubai

What would you expect when five top stars from the Pakistani entertainment fraternity come together on one stage? A thoroughly entertaining encounter? That's exactly what happened when the artistes participating in Pakistan International Screen Awards (PISA) dropped into the Khaleej Times office on Tuesday. Not only did they showcase their light side, but they also kept us engaged with stories about their fave food, where they will be dining out in Dubai, among other tales about the industry.

Veteran actor Adnan Siddiqui, who has been nominated in the Best Actor Critic category; screenwriter, actor and filmmaker Vasay Chaudhry;  actors Ayesha Omar and Eshal Fayyaz and reality TV host and content creator Waqar Zaka, are in Dubai for the star-studded event that will be held on February 7 at the Coca Cola Arena. The celebrities gave us some insights into Pakistan's nascent entertainment industry. Here's what they told us:

Appreciation from fans is all that matters: Adnan Siddiqui
Adnan Siddiqui is one of Pakistan's most successful actors. "You know I'm the highest-paid actor," joked the salt-and-pepper haired star, who is considered one of Pakistan's best-looking actors. Though he found tremendous success through Mere Paas Tum Ho, one of Pakistani TV's biggest hit dramas, there's a lot more to Adnan, who rose from the ranks of modelling to the big screen. "I started my career as a model and went on to become an actor. Actually my screen career started in reverse!" said Adnan.

"First, I did Hollywood (A Mighty Heart), then went to Bollywood (Mom) and finally I landed in Tollywood."
The much-loved veteran, however, is not afraid to speak his mind when asked to talk about the state of Tollywood.

"In Pakistan, TV is a much larger and popular medium than films. But I didn't have a good experience in Tollywood. You know one of my roles in a drama was greatly chopped."

Talking about the resurgence of Pakistani cinema, he said, "Things have changed a lot lately and the pace is picking up in the industry. New cinema is progressing and doing well. I too have turned a producer and my first movie titled Dam Mastam will be out soon."

While being connected with your audience on social media is a norm these days, Adnan does not seem to be convinced about the power of the online medium. "I may not have many followers on social media, but I can guarantee you that I'm making the most money," he laughs, stressing that success has a lot to do talent, not the number of followers on social media.

The actor played a negative role in Mere Paas Tum Ho, which received much backlash over its controversial dialogues and storyline. Talking about the drama, Adnan praised director Nadeem Baig and writer Khalil-ur-Rehman Qamar.

"When I took on the drama, I did not know how it (the drama) would turn out to be. Luckily, I did not get any bashing (from critics and viewers). Credit goes to Nadeem for guiding us throughout the drama in such a wonderful manner. And talking about Khalil-ur-Rehman Qamar, he wrote such beautiful dialogues. If you adlib or interpret his lines, you will miss the pun and the essence of the dialogues will be lost. I laud Nadeem for investing in me - creating my looks, my dresses, and also helping me in my dialogue delivery."

Lead star Ayeza Khan was bashed by fans on social media over her role in Mere Paas Tum Ho.  But Adnan comes out in defence of the actor. "Ayeza Khan should get 100 marks for accepting such a challenging role. Though she went underground following the controversy, she should be applauded for the wonderful work in the drama. Hats off to her."

Adnan doesn't believe in awards and rewards. "Appreciation from my fans is all that matters to me, not awards. I thank them for giving me so much love."

Talking about his role in PISA, he said, "I'm here to host the show, this is my second time as a host within a month."

In his message to his fans in Dubai, he says: "Thank you for having us here. I'm an entertainer and it's my job to keep you all entertained, that's the reason I'm here. Inshallah, we are all going to enjoy this show (PISA) together."

I'm looking forward to meeting our fans: Vasay Chaudhry
Writer-actor and filmmaker Vasay Chaudhry considers himself old school when it comes to social media. He is against the idea that online following determines an artiste's path to success. "I don't believe in this school of thought at all," retorts the award-winning writer of Jawani Phir Nahi Ani.

"I believe talent should be applauded, not your status on social media. Newcomers in the industry, who are jumping the bandwagon and achieving success due to their social media following, are simply commodities for brands. They are lacking in talent and they have no body of work to show. Your following should be determined by your performances, not by the pictures you post on Instagram. It's important to know whether you are aspiring to be an actor or you just want to be a (popular) face. And if it's a face that you're promoting, then you're going to be replaced very soon, no matter how pretty you look," he said.

Talking about juggling careers between TV and cinema, he said, that it's a trend followed in the Hindi film industry where actors work exclusively in films or television.  

"But in Hollywood and the British film industry, it's common to find crossover artistes who straddle between cinema and television. The Pakistan industry follows that style where you will find actors working across all mediums."

According to him, some actors also switch over to other mediums due to boredom. "Once you're bored, you move on. We have freedom of creative choices and we can move to any medium of our choice," he added.
Pakistan cinema has undergone a major transformation in recent times, says Vasay.

"We've witnessed a resurgence in the last six years. We make about 15-20 movies per year and those numbers are increasing. But the kind of topics our cinemas are touching upon is commendable," he said.

Pakistani stars are very hard working: Ayesha Omar
Ayesha Omar is an actor, host and YouTuber who has been nominated at PISA.   

"This is the first time that an unbiased award show of this stature is taking place. PISA did not nominate artistes based on the brand or the channel they represent," said Omar.

Talking about the challenges in the industry she said.  "We are multi-tasking our own logistics. We are our own managers, stylists and make-up artists. So I can easily say that Pakistani entertainers are the hardest working lot. Our industry is still in the establishing and struggling stage, so we have to do pretty much everything ourselves," she said

According to her, actors should be valued for their talent, not their following on social media. "But these days, when you are being cast, your social media standing is taken into account first. Brands want to see your reach, that's what the game is all about these days," said Omar.

Ayesha hopes she can meet fans' expectations at Friday's event. "It's a huge honour to be here and please get your tickets and come to the show."

I'm very passionate about acting: Eshal Fayyaz
Eshal is among the new generation of stars. She is fairly new to the industry, but that does not mean she can take things lightly. She started her career  in Khalil-ur-Rehman Qamar's Kaaf Kangana. "It's good to be here (Dubai). I'm a newcomer and have been in the industry only for three years, but yes, that does not mean that the pressure does not get to me. There's a lot of responsibility thrust upon us. The competition in the market has increased a lot and I have to do my best to stay in the reckoning. Even though I feel the pressure, I love my job and I'm very passionate about acting so that's what keeps me going."

Despite being from the new brood of actors Eshal admits that she's not so social media savvy. "Frankly, I'm very bad with social media! My PR team is always asking me to be active on social media, but I keep on delaying things. I'm not so up-to-date with my posts..."

I'm honoured to be part of PISA 2020: Waqar Zaka
Waqar Zaka, who  has a massive online following firmly believes in the power of social media. "Brands only look at your following. In fact, Facebook and YouTube approached and hired me not because of my work on satellite television, but due to the massive following, I had on social media."

Talking about PISA he said. "The best thing about PISA is they are recognising social media artistes. This is the first time they are being honoured. There is some amazing category of awards in PISA."

Fakhar-e-Alam excited to perform here
National award-winning film actor, Fakhar-e-Alam who is also a television host, VJ and singer, best known for introducing the bhangra-rap fusion genre of music in Pakistan, is super jazzed about performing at the first Pakistan International Screen Awards in Dubai  on Friday.    

The actor took to Twitter to share his excitement with his fans, "I will be performing music after 15 years on stage. Helping out are my old pals Nadeem Jafri & @sohailjaved1 also Saad Hayat has some amazing new sound production. Don't forget to join us 7th Feb at Coca Cola Arena,"  Fakhar posted on his Twitter account.
We can't wait for him to set the stage on fire!

PISA is going to be one of the best award ceremonies: Jawed Sheikh

"The glam quotient has just hit the roof," announced Lokesh, as he welcomed more than a dozen top artistes from the Pakistani entertainment industry on the dais. The City 1016 RJ, along with his colleague Meghna, were the presenters of the press conference for the inaugural Pakistan International Screen Awards (PISA) in Dubai.

Jawed Sheikh, Adnan Siddiqui, Vasay Chaudhry, Waqar Zaka, Ayesha Omar, Hira Mani, Hareem Farooq, Sara Loren, Umair Jaswal, Sarwat Gillani and Meera were among a host of celebs who attended the press conference at Palazzo Versace Hotel yesterday.

Veteran star and PISA jury member Jawed Sheikh led the conference saying, "I have attended so many film functions before, but this is going to be one of the best awards event for the Pakistani entertainment industry.Faisal Khan has done a great job by bringing together so many artistes. I am happy that PISA is taking place in Dubai because it's like my second hometown."

Seasoned actress Meera was there to support the fraternity. "I'm star-struck seeing the number of top artistes gathered here! Congrats to Faisal Khan for organising such a wonderful show, it's truly a great achievement for Pakistan."

The show, scripted by Chaudhary, is high on entertainment. "There is always pressure to create a show of this magnitude, but I focused on making the show entertaining for the audience." PISA will also be honouring legends from the film and TV industries like Babra Sharif, Nadeem Baig, Mustafa Qureshi as well as iconic singers like Abida Parveen, Ghulam Ali, among others.

"Everyone in the industry is being honoured, that's what makes PISA so different," said Adnan Siddiqui, while actress Hareem Farooq echoed Adnan's thoughts: "I like the fact that PISA is acknowledging and honouring our legends. They are the essence of the Pakistani entertainment industry," she said.

Faisal Khan, the brain behind the show, thanked the stars for making PISA possible. "They positively responded to my request to be part of the show in about 5 minutes."

Mustafa Khan, Faisal's 16-year-old son and singer, is going to be performing a medley of songs on stage. "I feel so honoured and humbled to perform at the event. It's a huge opportunity for me to share the stage with these luminaries."

Singer Umair Jaiswal is all fired up for the big day. "We are going to present a selection of songs in a  fresh and fun way. I can't wait to go on stage," he said.

A special message
While the stars were looking forward to hosting their fans at the event, Adnan Siddiqui gave a special shoutout to Suhail Galadari. "You're a fan and a friend too, you're a wonderful host as well. I am so happy to see your success and I'm proud of you." Ayesha Omar added; "Thank you so much Suhail Galadari for hosting us and having all of us here. We are honoured and humbled. We are all here thanks to Mr Galadari."  
   "Please keep on doing what you're doing for the betterment of our country and supporting our industry," said Eshal Fayyaz.

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