LLF & more

Sabahat Zakariya's roundup of the week's cultural zeitgeist

LLF & more

Around town:

The LLF is back again, and contrary to my expectations I am looking forward to it. Having imagined myself up to here with pretentious conversation by and for the same 25 people who all know each other and from within whose ranks all creatives ultimately seem to spring (occasional outsiders with definite potential {read a Guardian/Granta/New Yorker stamp} are appropriated so soon it is hard to tell they weren't a part of the circle to begin with), I was surprised by the relative enthusiasm the LLF programme elicited in me. Two words: Vikram Seth! Also Mira Nair, Shobha De, Rajiv Sethi; that is quite a coup as far as the glamour quotient of the event is concerned (aren't literary festivals essentially fashion shows of the literati with an intellectual veneer?) Though the coup d'état the organizers were planning, namely Mr. Orhan Pamuk headlining the event, didn't work out. Lots of meat in this year's line-up anyway. See you there!



A fun read -- an accusation you cannot level at most Pakistani English writing -- Saba Imtiaz's 'Karachi, You're Killing Me' weaves muggings, bomb blasts and assorted dangers into a fluffy chick-lit sensibility (complete with an airport scene finale). Its escapist heart owes itself not just to the central romantic relationship straight out of an (adultish) Sweet Dreams romance but also to the assurance that for all its acute insight into a certain kind of Karachi nothing will go so severely wrong in its fictional universe as to throw the beachside reader off kilter. I am all for aspirational literary fiction but it is great to have voices like Saba and Shazaf Fatima Haider bringing diversity to the Pakistani English fiction writing scene. Now I wish both 'How it Happened' and 'Karachi, You're Killing Me' are turned into television serials for some respite from the continuous melodrama infesting our screens.



If you still haven't caught Disney's Frozen now is your last chance to see it in 3D cinema in Lahore. While it played for all of two days at DHA (a fate most animated movies meet with at the DHA cinema) the newly opened multiplex (Lahore's first) at Vogue Towers on M. M Alam Road is still showing it on one of its screens. John Lasseter's magic touch means this is a Disney movie so progressive (and absorbing) you can show it to your young daughter without infesting her minds with the Disney Princess nonsense us 90s kids were raised on. I hear too many parents say, 'Oh, my son didn't want to see it because it seemed so Princessy'. Well, I never heard a girl complain she didn't want to watch Harry Potter because it seemed so wizardy. Take the whole family and go watch Frozen.



Speaking of television plays, Mahira Khan is hosting a 'Koffee with Karan' ripoff these days by the name of 'TUC, The Lighter Side of Life'. Comfy sofas and a slick set do not a hit show make. There's only so long one can admire a beautiful woman and her designer wardrobe. After the first fifteen minutes (at least my) brain cells start crying out for greater engagement. Laid back charm, rapport with the stars, wit, chutzpah, Mahira has none of what makes 'Koffee with Karan' such a watchable show even for non Bollywood buffs. Whoever thought an upgraded Khirad would work in such a format needs to be minus one job.



It says something about the collective deterioration of our tastes when more than five Pakistanis on my Facebook newsfeed share a new Ali Zafar song that is so bad the only place it could be considered acceptable is in the Bollywood item number universe. Let alone the sophistication of his first two 'Pakistani' albums, 'Total Siyaapa' doesn't even have the catchiness of some of Zafar's earlier Bollywood efforts (think Madhubala from Meray Brother ki Dulhan). What a waste to have Atif Aslam and Ali Zafar make good money but not good music from the other side of the border.



In a milieu where those with surface knowledge of things are considered experts on every topic under the sun, the most heartening sight is that of an attempt at true intellectual endeavour. If you are concerned about the state of Pakistan's scientific education your help is requested to support this initiative launched by the Eqbal Ahmad Centre for Public Education which in its own words "seeks to foster the use of science and reason to understand nature and society and so better enable citizens of Pakistan to participate fully in the political, social, economic, and cultural life of their society; to exercise their democratic rights and responsibilities; to value human rights, democracy and the rule of law; to promote cultural and religious diversity; to raise awareness of global issues and the natural environment; and to advance the goals of international peace and justice.

The immediate aim is to produce and promote, equally in Urdu and English, 6-10 minute videos on important social, political, and scientific issues. One new video will be uploaded every week on the following website:


The current video list:

1. Why ideology? (Nazariyyeh Ki Zaroorat?) Many people never ask, never question. They simply believe. Could this be because of human biology?

2. A clash of civilizations?  (Tahzeebon Ka Tassadum?) Many think that Islam and the West are at war with each other. True? Let's have a second look.

3. Rich countries and poor countries. Why? (Ameer Aur Ghareeb Mulk -Akhir Kyon?) Culture is critical in deciding between poverty and progress. But which aspects of culture?

4. The downside of nationalism (Qaum Parasti Kay Muzir Asrat) The world is integrated economically and yet torn apart by nationalist  fervour. Why? After all, you and I had no choice in choosing our parents  or country.

5. Nationalist movements? Good or Bad? (Kya Qaum Parast Tehreekon Ki Himayat Ki Jaey?)  Thousands have been killed in the separatist struggles against the  central authority of various nation states in South Asia. Whose side should one be on?

6. The big bang - just a myth? (Big Bang - Mehz Aik Nazariya?) Every culture and religion has its own version of creation. But here is the evidence that science offers.

7. Swindles in science (Science Kay Double Shah) A car that would run only on water enthralled Pakistan. How can we save ourselves from such embarrassments in future?