The ups and downs of the 20th Lux Style Awards – Art & Culture


Celebrating a 20 year journey amid a pandemic isn’t easy. SOPs must be followed, limited guest lists must be created, and celebrities must be disentangled and encouraged to keep a “six foot gap” when huddling together for a selfie.

The Lux Style Awards (LSAs) certainly didn’t have it easy this year.

But how could 20 years of investing in shaping Pakistan’s fashion and entertainment industry not be celebrated? With shouldered shoulders, mask on, and the LSAs decided that the show had to go on. It was a show like no other LSA in the past. It turned out that Covid wasn’t the only obstacle the awards faced. More on that later.

A studio room was chosen as the venue and converted accordingly. The red carpet was laid out, a “lounge” set up with neon LSA signs and a smaller seating area for the audience with tables for one, every two meters apart. The stage was gilded in golden light, a 3D installation with spiral staircases, pedestals at both ends and huge SMD screens that flashed in the background.

What I kept hearing, however, was the announcement from show organizer Frieha Altaf: “We’re filming this!” After sitting through the ceremony for about seven hours and returning home with back pain, I even heard it when I fell asleep.

Attending an event in the “new normal” brings orthopedic complications, even if it is the most prestigious award ceremony of the year. This was not unexpected. Selected media outlets, including myself invited to the show, were informed that it would be a recorded show, which meant we saw some of the performances twice in a row. We sat through ‘Links’ and connected one segment to the other, even if the segment had already been filmed on stage. Also, we were broken down into separate segments divided into music, fashion, and television. Nominees from each segment were invited for their respective time slot in order to reduce the number of participants.

Photo: Faisal Farooqui / Dragonfly

Yumna Zaidi after winning the Best Actress Award for her role in the drama Pyar ke SadqayHe came on stage to present the Best Emerging Talent award, and host Ahmed Ali Butt asked her how it felt to be with the LSAs. She replied that it felt wonderful, especially after she won, to which Butt grinned and said, “Oh, but you haven’t won on TV yet!”

“Let’s roll again!” Frieha’s voice echoed from her point of view and her excerpt was filmed again.

The repetition may have been tiring, but for the price lover it was royal too. This was an inside look at how a star-studded show is filmed. At some point Butt changed jackets in the front row for a stage performance, to which Frieha joked from the control zone: “This is the first time that my actors in the front row change clothes!”

The off-the-record banter, paired with dance snippets, price announcements and stage commentaries, recorded and sometimes re-recorded, formed the essence of the 20th LSA. It’s amazing how the puzzle finally comes together into a single, smooth show. Show director Frieha Altaf and TV director Nadeem J should spend a few weeks in the editing room. I do not envy them.

But even in their disjointed, Covid-induced predicament, the LSAs had their heights.

There were special “LSA moments” that made the limited audience cheer. There were surprise victories that drove social media into a frenzy of comments. Enthusiastic winners happily delivered their acceptance speeches. It’s a shame that a grandiose, extensive ceremony couldn’t be planned, but it was still nice to see so many power players from fashion, entertainment and music pouring into the main hall one after the other.

The heights

What made the show particularly good was the good selection of this year’s cast and presenters. There have been awards shows in the past where the best stars turned out to be the worst hosts who couldn’t string the ceremony. However, the hosts couldn’t have done better this time. Ahsan Khan, Mansha Pasha, Mehwish Hayat and Butt were professionals on stage; joke, talk to the winners and even break into a dance every now and then. It was Ahsan Khan’s birthday and his co-host Mehwish Hayat was singing Happy Birthday to him, as was Butt.

When actor Hareem Farooq came on stage to present awards, Ahsan said she hadn’t wanted him. “Attention seeker,” muttered Butt. It’s the kind of brawl that makes you grin when you see it on TV.

Photo: Faisal Farooqui / Dragonfly

After seeing Butt on stage as a host x times, I can say that a selection ceremony just can’t go wrong. He coped with the sociable, funny host without any problems and is in his element in the spotlight. When comedian Tabish Hashmi came on stage, he joked that the LSAs always chose Butt to host so they wouldn’t have to give him an award.

Hashmi, the host of the Honestly Show broadcast on Nashpati Prime’s YouTube channel brings out a boisterous act. In the section that I could see, he was roaming the audience – six feet away, you know! – they roast. When he rose to the rap duo Young Stunners, he asked them what they would call themselves 20 or 30 years later. One of them replied that they were going to change the name to “Middle Age Stunners”, to which Hashmi said dryly: “Call yourself Faysal Quraishi Stunners, so that you fit into every age group!”

A little later, he said he heard people hug and kiss at awards shows, but the coronavirus had come and ruined his plans. “These SOPs were made just for you,” quipped co-host Mansha Pasha.

A key element in the show’s success was scripted by Nabeel Qureshi and Fizza Ali Meerza of Filmwala Pictures. The conversations were always entertaining and never politically incorrect. Hashmi, on the other hand, wrote his own special section. Also very entertaining. This comedian could become the next big darling at the awards show.

The moves and grooves

The usual spate of celebrity appearances was there – but not all of them could be seen by the media. I was told that a great LSA anthem was recorded that morning with a whopping 32 participants and although it would have been interesting to see, I was glad I didn’t have to sit through the recording. Obviously it took five reps to spin seamlessly! And while you love celebrities and the LSAs, love has its limits.

I managed to see some of the performances – twice. Resham danced beautifully in homage to Farida Khanum, followed by Ahsan Khan. Asim Azhar paid impressive tribute to the many stars who passed away last year.

Mahira Khan, Sheheryar Munawar and Butt were spectacular in the hit song from the film Parey hat love. Mahira later danced to another song from the film, the lively “More Saiyaan”. The finale, amid confetti and a brilliant explosion of colors, was also taken from the soundtrack of the same film.

And during Parey hat Love’s OST was brilliant, it’s been a while since the film was released. Other films were also released at the same time. The fact that this one soundtrack was relied on points to one of the many problems seething beneath the 20 year old LSA veneer …

Simmer under the surface

Awards performances are dependent on the film producers for copyrights to movie songs that can be used on the show. But this year ARY Digital, one of the leading television stations and film producers in the country, withdrew from the nominations. It is possible that the broadcaster refused to allow copyrights for most of its films.

Photo: Faisal Farooqui / Dragonfly

Many of the nominees were also clearly absent. It was surprising considering that a large number of stars were posting news of their nominations on social media. Those who weren’t scheduled had made derogatory remarks. The LSA nominations, which recognize only a handful in an emerging entertainment and fashion industry, certainly continue to be a big deal.

But unfortunately, the celebrity ego seems disproportionately bloated over a 20-year run. If they don’t win, they won’t show up. The only impressive exception seemed to be Ahad Raza Mir, who had two nominations for Best Actor but didn’t win. He showed up anyway, and that’s how it should be.

It was also the way it used to be. Twenty years later, the LSA is a mighty giant. The silver trophy remains coveted. But from a time when it strengthened a fledgling industry, it now encounters power games and insecurities. It cannot be denied that a large portion of the attendees for the 20th celebration consisted of celebrities recruited for the show and the media.

For those who were there, the LSA roller coaster was a lengthy one, with lots of breaks, bumps, backward movements, peaks, and dips. It was a fun night, but also a long, exhausting one. Two decades later, the LSAs have enough respect and love to shrink away the exhaustion. The back pain comes later. The show must go on.

And it’s so good that the show went on regardless of a pandemic and little celebrity egos.

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