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Aarij Hashmi at the ‘Dhabba’ for Expo 2020 Dubai.
Aarij Hashmi at the ‘Dhabba’ for Expo 2020 Dubai.

An architect, who is not fond of straight lines, Aarij Hashmi has a magical skill to transform any space into a visual master piece

By Ghazala Tikki Zaman and Tabassum Vally

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Published: Thu 23 Mar 2023, 11:59 AM

An architect by profession, Aarij Hashmi is a true collaborator of modern and traditional space designs. After acquiring a degree in architecture, from Cornell University, Hashmi worked with an architectural firm in New York for almost seven years. While working in New York, Hashmi had the opportunity to work on many projects including the famous Freedom Tower. Later, he acquired a degree in finance from Columbia University and worked in the highly competitive corporate world of busy New York City.

After spending almost nine years in New York, Hashmi decided to return to Pakistan, a country that was much missed by him. Though he enjoyed his years in New York, he missed his cultural heritage, and his friends and family back home in Karachi.

Hashmi came to Pakistan without any predetermined career option. In many ways it was a step into unchartered territories, as he knew little of how his life would unfold. Interestingly enough, his first assignment in Karachi was given to him by his family. He had to design an event for his cousin’s mehndi ceremony. He combined his knowledge of space design, with his creativity and the arrangement turned out exquisite. Designing a space for a social gathering involves creating the right mood and atmosphere for the attendees and this was successfully achieved by Hashmi at the given event. The success of this event was a turning point in his career as he later formed his own company as an event designer and in no time gained prominence in the field.

The job of an event designer is by no means easy. The process of creating a vision for an event and then using designs for the visual details in transforming spaces and tying it all together is a daunting task. However, Hashmi enjoys the challenges, and has a positive attitude even when he has to work under tight time constraints and demanding clients.

Hashmi as an event designer has an intrinsic understanding of human nature which helps him to understand what his clients want. His flair for colours and an eye for detail is reflected in his work, and when one walks away from the events designed by him the ambience and the visual artistry long remains with us.

The set of ‘Parey hut love’
The set of ‘Parey hut love’

A regular visitor of Art Dubai, Hashmi speaks of his days in Dubai when he worked on the famous ‘Dhabba’ for Expo 2020 Dubai.

Hashmi’s creative genius was an integral part of the ‘Dhabba’, the much visited restaurant at the Pakistan pavilion Expo 2020 Dubai.The choice of pastels and his well-chosen theme of exotic birds attracted many visitors. Hashmi had a task of incorporating truck art as a common theme running through the pavilion. Hashmi made clever use of the colourful birds painted on the trucks by the artists. These birds are an essential part of truck art, as they are the only companions of the drivers on their lone and sometimes dangerous journey. As the drivers spend long days and weeks away from home, they think of the beautiful landscapes they leave behind. The birds painted on the trucks remind them of the companionship they have with these beautiful creatures on their tedious journey. Be it, the stealthy falcon or the fragile ‘bulbul’, with its delicate chirp, they are the only living companions for the truck drivers for days at end. The murals at the pavilion were carefully designed and Hashmi created a haven of tranquility with the use of these beautiful birds. One almost felt their movement and it transported us in a magical world of distance, space and delightful sanctuary of colourful rhapsody of exotic flora and fauna of Pakistan.

Hashmi has also been behind the set designs of movies like ‘Parey hut love’ and ‘Cake’. Both movies were aired in the UAE and the audience to this day can recall the brilliance of the set designs which added so much vitality to both movies. As much as the cast is important, it’s the set design that actually breathes life into scenes. An isolated antique table, a painting on the wall, a lone chair all draws the audience into another time frame. Any movie without the detailed set designs and props cannot create a gripping narration of a story. As a production designer, Hashmi oversees visual effects, in order to create a world that does not exist.

Hashmi’s designs are not only restricted to movies, brands and events. He has also worked on set designs for web series. His creative genius was reflected in the set design of the famous series ‘Churail’, which was enjoyed by the audience within Pakistan and across borders.

Hashmi has recently worked on the much awaited Asim Abbas web series ‘Barzakh’. It required him and his team to stay for months in the wonderful valley of Hunza where he enjoyed working with the cast. ‘Barzakh’, a compelling story, dotted with gripping scenes, transcends between the real and the virtual worlds.Fawad Khan and Sanam Saeed will be seen together in this gripping web series. ‘Barzakh’, without a doubt brings a magical realism to a supernatural fantasy. It is a story that touches every aspect of human emotion, love, loss, reunions and reconciliations.

“Working on Barzakh, has been challenging as we felt isolated at times in the remote valley of Hunza. However, the beauty and scenic landscapes of Hunza kept us going and at the end something beautiful was created,” said Hasmi.

‘Barzakh’ will premiere at the Series Mania festival this year. It is the only selection from South Asia that will be screened at the event in France.

“The web series will be screened as part of the international panorama line ups, 12 title competitive section. It is also nominated in several categories such as best series, best director, best actress and actor as well as the student jury award and the audience award,” he added. ‘Barzakh’ is much awaited by the audiences throughout the UAE.

“I am a true Pakistani and I enjoy working with my dedicated team. The assignment in Dubai was a great opportunity to introduce the world to the colourful flora and fauna of Pakistan. The remarkable reinterpretation of truck art through the trails of exotic birds, attracted almost two million visitors. Indeed a proud moment for Pakistan and the team behind that made it happen”.

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