Umar Anwar - From Gloom to Glam

His music videos introduced us to Jal and to EP, and ever since then Umar Amwar has not looked back. Shooting commercials and music videos alike, he is known for bringing his unique touch into all of his videos.

And this time he brings it to Call's new video ‘Ho Jaane De.’ Colorful, bright, funny and energetic, although these are some of the things you won't expect from Call or Umar Anwar, it brings about an interesting turn for both the band and the director. It has been over a year for the director since his last music video, having been busy with commercials since and he expressed his anticipation upon getting the opportunity to direct one after such a break.

Anwar is known for his moody videos; most notably Jal's ‘Aadat’ and EP's ‘Waqt’, both reflect abstract concepts with an almost gritty approach to the final result. But we see none of that here. "Since the song is very fun to listen to and very catchy," Anwar says, "the concept has to reflect that." And although Call used to be grim, gritty and a very loud rock sound, they have changed their styles recently.

This change can be attributed to its trips across the border and contribution to Bollywood. “It’s a pop song, it’s a very awami song from a band that is known for doing rock songs,” says Anwar. “The key was to finding the balance of the style of the song and the style of the band.”

But isn’t this style something that contrasts to what he’s done before? “It is a contrast to my style, but I’ve brought in a few of my signature shots – especially the corridor one.” He also cites the current climate, political and economical, as a factor in making the video. “These days people don’t want to see something abstract or gritty, they’re more interested in something colorful and happy.”

In the video we see the Call, Sultan , Xulfi & Junaid, as college friends, enjoying life and being happy go lucky. Then comes the love interest, and pretty soon we see a sort of competition between Xulfi and Junaid. The both of them soon vie for the attention of the model, who probably has the weakest role in all of this – stand by and look pretty. For a change, it’s interesting to see a band like Call actually enjoy themselves in one of their own videos rather than scream and sulk around. Granted, Call was about rock’n’roll, but here they’re all about pop.

The set design and production are very well executed, almost indistinguishable from any standard Indian videos that we see. Anwar is confident that such designs and the look and feels can be achieved right here at home. “If you work hard,” he said, “and follow the processes involved in making a video, then you can achieve anything. And we can make better quality videos than India, we just have to make sure that we do our homework.”

So what’s next for the virtuoso director? “Well, I’ve been trying to make this video for Strings since last June, and finally we’re about to start shooting very soon. It’s a song from their last album, ‘Keh Diya’ and we’re going to shoot it right here in Pakistan.”

The Luminous Actress – Natasha Richardson

Natasha Jane Richardson was born on 11 May 1963, the daughter of the actress Vanessa Redgrave and the director, Tony Richardson. Entertainment was part of Richardson's heritage, her maternal grandfather was Sir Michael Redgrave, who himself was a well-known English stage and film actor, director, manager and author.

Richardson's father was producer Tony Richardson. Her aunt is actress Lynn Redgrave, with whom Richardson along with her mother appeared in the 2005 Merchant Ivory film "The White Countess." Her sister Joely Richardson is an accomplished actress in her own right, starring in the hit TV series, Nip/Tuck.

Though she may have been overshadowed by the very public profiles and successes of her family members – in particular her mother's – she too garnered some respect and praise for her own performances.

Her relationship with success was not limited to famous family members. Her first marriage was to producer Robert Fox in 1990 lasted only for two years. During the filming of Nell in 1994, she met and fell in love with Irish actor Liam Neeson. They were married and went on to have two sons.

She was also known for her humanitarian efforts, especially raising millions of dollars in the fight against AIDS. Her father, director Tony Richardson, died of AIDS-related causes in 1991.

Richardson was actively involved in The American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR), becoming a board of trustees member in 2006, and participated in many other AIDS charities including Bailey House, God's Love We Deliver, Mothers' Voices, AIDS Crisis Trust and National AIDS Trust, for which she was an ambassador. Richardson received amfAR's Award of Courage in November 2000.

Though her career was not illustrious as some of her relatives', she did have some shining moments on the silver screen. Richardson portrayed author Mary Shelley in the 1986 film Gothic, an adaptation of Frankenstein directed by Ken Russell. The following year she starred opposite Kenneth Branagh and Colin Firth in A Month in the Country, directed by Pat O'Connor. Director Paul Schrader signed her for the title role in Patty Hearst, his 1988 docudrama about the heiress and her alleged kidnapping. Her performances opposite Robert Duvall and Faye Dunaway in The Handmaid's Tale and Christopher Walken, Rupert Everett, and Helen Mirren in The Comfort of Strangers (directed by Schrader) won her the 1990 Evening Standard British Film Award for Best Actress.

In 1994 she appeared in Nell opposite Jodie Foster and future husband Liam Neeson. Her marriage to Neeson brought with it more Box Office friendly movies, such as The Parent Trap (1998) with Lindsay Lohan and Dennis Quaid, and Maid in Manhattan with Jennifer Lopez. Additional film credits include Blow Dry (2001), Chelsea Walls (2001), Waking Up in Reno (2002), Asylum (2005), which won her a second Evening Standard Award for Best Actress, The White Countess (2005), and Evening (2007). Her last screen appearance was as headmistress of a girls' school in the 2008 comedy Wild Child.

On 16 March 2009, Richardson sustained a traumatic head injury, while taking a skiing lesson at the Mont Tremblant Resort in Quebec, Canada. Paramedics which responded to the accident were told they were not needed. Although she returned to her hotel room about an hour later was taken to Centre Hospitalier Laurentien after complaining of a headache, and was transferred from there to the Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montréal in critical condition. The following day she was transferred to Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, where she died on 18 March.

An autopsy conducted on 19 March 2009 by the New York City Medical Examiners Office revealed the cause of death was an "epidural hematoma due to blunt impact to the head," and ruled her death an accident.

Following her death, there was an outpour of grief and tributes from her friends, family and close friends. Actor Kevin Spacey, the director of London's Old Vic, said: "There are no words to express how tragic Natasha Richardson's untimely passing is for the theatre community." Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes, who worked with Richardson in a Broadway production of Cabaret, added: "It defies belief that this gifted, brave, tenacious, wonderful woman is gone." Ken Russell, who directed her in 1986's Gothic, praised her "ephemeral delicacy and intelligent beauty". Dame Judi Dench said she had a rare "luminous quality", and that Richardson still had great work ahead of her.

Natasha Richardson died in a New York hospital, close to the home she shared with Neeson and their two sons.


Simply Shallum

Amidst the hustle and bustle of one of Karachi's busiest high streets, tucked away in a studio apartment, hidden from prying eyes, Shallum Xavier is hard at work on his solo project. Though it is completely nondescript from the outside, inside Shallum has been laying down the final touches to the album, which is his personal pride and joy.

During the past few months he has been hard at work, collaborating with various musicians from across Pakistan. And now the hard work is about to pay off."This is the first time I'm putting my name on a project—just my name," he says, enthusiastically. The soft spoken guitarist, also one of the founding members of Fuzon, has been at work on this particular project for some time now. "I guess it began around the time Fuzon was starting off. I had done a particular instrumental track and released it online. But because the band was just taking off at that time, we were everywhere and I couldn't get enough time to concentrate on this."

And indeed it is true, since Fuzon burst on to the scene they have quite literally been all over the place – but in a good way. Whether it is traveling to India and performing there or performing locally, the astounding success of Fuzon meant that Shallum just didn't find enough time to concentrate on his own work—until now.

Although the current conditions aren't so good for the music industry in general, a fact that Shallum himself reiterates, there is one opportunity that has arisen for the statuesque guitarist. Free from distractions, concert engagements or any other thing, this downtime has give Shallum the opportunity to finally work on his album.

Speaking on his reason to venture out as a solo artist, Shallum said, "There are lots and lots of reasons, though one seems to be the most predominant one. A lot of people think that I'm just a guitar player or a decent guitar player. That's because I've never tested myself or pushed myself into being something more than that – even though I've composed songs for Fuzon and other people alike. This is a test for me to show people that I'm a musician through and through. I've come a long way from when I started with Najam and all, I used to see them produce and compose, and through that I picked up a lot of things along the way. So far the results have been quite rewarding."

The first thing on Shallum's to do list was to construct his own studio, which he has, and once that was done, he quickly began work. The process is now just over two years old, with seven tracks, either complete or in the final stages of completion and when asked what the album was about, Shallum's reply was, "I think you should listen to it."

The first track we hear is something he's done just days before. It starts off – naturally – with a guitar cord that sounds almost like a sitar or some other stringed eastern classical instrument. It sounds like a call to a journey, and as the track continues it's almost as if we're drawn into a story of longing. "I've played every instrument in this track myself," says Shallum, "even the backing vocals that you hear."

The second track features vocals by Zara Madani (Khuda Key Liye and Kolachi Quartet) and echoes more of the Fuzon sound than the first one. It is charming and enchanting, thanks to Zara's vocal and combined with Shallum's unique guitar play it turns out to be a pleasant listening experience. The first time you listen to this you think obviously that's Gumby on the drums. "Nope," corrects Shallum, "that's me."

The third track was the result of a collaboration with a musician from Faisalabad, a vocalist by the name of Manan Khan, on a Norwegian project. It starts with an almost Arabic beat to it, something different for the musician.

The fourth track bursts in with heavy riffs amid the same desi tone of the album so far. The vocals here are particularly interesting provided by Manan Khans, accompanied with Shallum's riffs and a Bull Horn.

Though some tracks on the album are instrumentals to the listener, Shallum prefers otherwise. "I think they aren't instrumentals as such," he says. "I haven't finished them as yet, so I don't know what they'll be in the end."

Another common factor with all of the tracks is the collaborators so far, who are either unknown or not as relatively known so far. "I haven't used anybody that is common in the industry, I opted for fresh talent." Any particular reason for that? "They put in that extra effort and plus the stuff that they do is very original and fresh."

It has been an interesting experience for Shallum working solo. Is it difficult having the final say of things? "Yes but I love doing this. I stay here in the studio most of the day, I make music, and it’s a very challenging experience. This whole experience has given me a lot of confidence, I mean I may be dedicating my time to this effort but I'm working on other things as well."

One of those things includes working on Fuzon's next album. "I had a meeting with Emu the other week, and we're going to get that ball rolling soon."

As for his own effort there is some time before we'll see his album on the shelves, "In another couple of months, after the mixing and mastering, hopefully this album will be released."

Whether it is a particular instrument or it’s a particular style of composition, Shallum has set out to prove that he's more than just a guitarist. The tracks are unique in their own way and fresh to listen to. The untitled album so far sounds promising, it echoes with a musician who is constantly testing himself and his art, and at the same time hoping that it will be appreciated by those that listen to it.


Who watches the Watchmen?

Published the same year as Miller's Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen was a year long, twelve part, epic graphic novel published from 1986 to 1987. It tells the story of an alternate earth, where although the year is 1985, Richard Nixon is still the President of the United States of America, a country locked in a bitter cold war with the amassing power of the Soviet Union, and there are masked heroes running about fighting crime. The times are bleak and the future is looking even worse as these two giants stare each other down with tremendous nuclear weapons on either side.

It is in the midst of these dark times that Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) discovers that the recent murder of one of his comrades (otherwise known as Watchmen) isn’t as simple as it seems to be. Rorschach discovers that somebody is out to kill the remaining Watchmen, Silk Spectre II (Malin Akerman), Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), Ozymandias (Matthew Goode), and Nite Owl II (Dan Dreiberg).

The idea of adapting Watchmen started in the early 90s and there were many casting rumors attached to it. These included Robin Williams as Rorschach, Jamie Lee Curtis as Silk Spectre, Gary Busey as the Comedian, and both Richard Gere and Kevin Costner considered for the role of Nite Owl. The project underwent numerous rewrites under director Terry Gilliam but it was eventually shelved. Gilliam declared that the project was unfilmable as a feature production and instead was interested to direct it as a five hour miniseries.

However, as time went on, another director, Darren Aronofsky was attached to the project. Aronofsky did express interest in the project, but found the original story dated. He opted to adapt the story to recent times and make changes accordingly. But the studio was uncomfortable with the direction Aronofsky wanted to take so Zack Snyder was hired to helm the project instead.

Snyder is known for his faithful adaptations, he has done it twice before, with Miller’s 300 and with George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. Both movies reflect their original works and yet at the same time have enough originality in them to make them stand on their own. Snyder’s attention to detail and commitment to the source material has made him a hit with the fans: and with the Watchmen it was no different.

Production began with casting in July 2007 for look-alikes of the era's famous names for the film – all of whom appear in the graphic novel – including Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, Annie Leibovitz, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Fidel Castro, Albert Einstein, Norman Rockwell, John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy and Andy Warhol to name a few.

But these are all background characters, to give audiences a feel of the times and the era. It is however, the main characters, that drive the story and in the case of Watchmen, the title characters are as colorful as they can get.

Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) can best be described as Detective Columbo on drugs and with every single psychological problem you can imagine. Dressed in a fedora, trench coat and pin striped trousers; this masked vigilante leaves no stone unturned and no criminal unpunished. To him, every iota of society has become degenerated and desolate.

Nite Owl II (Patrick Wilson) can best be described as the domesticated Batman. Though as eager as Batman to fight crime, somewhere along the line, Nite Owl or Dan Dreiberg, he quit. Wilson described Dreiberg as a soldier who had returned home after a war, unable to fit in society again.

Adrian Veidt or Ozymandias (Matthew Goode) was believed to be the most intelligent man alive. He retired as a superhero and set up a business empire worth billions of dollars. Veidt’s demeanor – completely nonchalant to the happenings around him –surprises many of his teammates.

The Comedian (Jeffery Dean Morgan) is one of the most important characters in the movie. He is the only one who realizes who the real mastermind is but is unable to tell his comrades in time. He is cruel, harsh and sometimes downright sadistic; a sight which is interesting to see considering Morgan’s claim to acting fame has been TV series such as Supernatural and Grey’s Anatomy.

Silk Spectre II or Laurie Juspeczyk (Malin Åkerman) is a second generation super heroine, and the only female in the group of super powered heroes. The love triangle between Laurie and Dan and Jon, reflects the choice of Laurie between the man she used to love and the man she could have loved. Her relationship with her mother, the original Sill Spectre (Carla Gugino) is volatile especially when Laurie discovers a dark secret.

Dr Manhattan or Jon Osterman (Billy Crudup) is the only proper superpowers in the group. Transformed into an almost omnipotent being by an experiment gone wrong, his teammates often feel that the Osterman the man slowly gave up his humanity and became more of an almost alien like being by becoming Dr Manhattan. His relationship with Laurie (Malin Åkerman) – like many of his past relationships – is slowly crumbling as he becomes less and less human.

At almost 162 minutes, watching the Watchmen can prove to be a tedious experience for some cinemagoers, considering most of the movie is actually told through intricate and inter-twining flashbacks which often end up being quite confusing if you haven’t read the original graphic novel.

There will be obvious comparisons to last year’s The Dark Knight, although to be fair, both movies have their edges. The Dark Knight had Heath Ledger’s memorable last performance in a motion picture. A feat only overshadowed by his unfortunate demise, a drum that Warner Brothers – the studio that produced the movie – regrettably continues to beat. Watchmen has tremendous visual effects and an impeccable soundtrack to go with it. Every moment on screen is carefully in sync with music from

Nat King Cole, The Times They Are A-Changin’, Simon & Garfunkel, Janis Joplin, KC & The Sunshine Band, Philip Glass, Leonard Cohen, Jimi Hendrix and Nina Simone.

The Watchmen is truly an incredible piece of cinema that will surely be remembered for time to come. For now, though, its fate lies with audiences that continue to go to the cinemas to watch it and thanks to them it has already earned over $80 million dollars worldwide since its opening. Proving that there are people out there who are watching the Watchmen.
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Everything that Glitters isn't worthy of Oscar Gold

Every year, the Oscar buzz hits Tinsel Town, and Hollywood celebrates the best of the year's movies.

Though we hear of the best, what about the worst? That's the same question John Wilson asked himself and in 1981 he created the Golden Raspberry Awards (also known as the Razzies), an annual ceremony dedicated to celebrate the worst in Hollywood. It is intended to counterpoint the Academy Awards by honoring (or dishonoring) the worst acting, screenwriting, songwriting, directing, and films that the film industry had to offer.

Bill Cosby, Tom Selleck, Paul Verhoeven, Tom Green, Ben Affleck, and Halle Berry are just some of the stars who have come up to accept the awards in person, and nearly all of them have done so with much vigor and enthusiasm unlike many of their fellow thespians, writers and directors, who totally ignore even the existence of the awards.

But the Razzies are persistent. Each year, they host the awards in a modest ceremony, attended by people of the press mostly. And this year was no different, while we saw Slumdog Millionaire sweep aside The Curious Case of Benjamin Button at the 81st Annual Academy Awards, at the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre just a day before the Oscars, the 29th Annual Golden Raspberry Awards were handed out. And this year, it was The Love Guru that was the worst of them all.

Worst Picture: The Love Guru

There's no doubt about it, Mike Myers attempt to create another character after Austin Powers falls flat on its face.

Worst Actor: Mike Myers in The Love Guru

Although Mike Myers has established himself as a sort of character actor, this Razzie will surely prove otherwise.

Worst Actress: Paris Hilton in The Hottie and the Nottie

Socialite Paris Hilton is clearly better at doing nothing than acting.

Worst Supporting Actor: Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia!

If you've seen the movie, then you realize that Brosnan clearly made a mistake. Though he had enough of being a spy, becoming the co-star in a musical based on ABBA was clearly not a good idea.

Worst Supporting Actress: Paris Hilton in Repo! The Genetic Opera

Two Razzies for Paris have clearly sealed her fate as a proper actress, but knowing Hollywood, we haven't seen the last of Miss Hilton yet.

Worst Screen Couple: Paris Hilton and either Christine Lakin or Joel David Moore in The Hottie and the Nottie

Just goes to show that either coupling wasn't good enough to save this movie.

Worst Director: Uwe Boll for 1968 Tunnel Rats, In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, and Postal

Uwe Boll is a director from Germany who is notorious for making movies about videogames. Actually, to put it more clearly, he is notorious for making BAD movies about videogames.

Worst Screenplay: The Love Guru written by Mike Myers & Graham Gordy

Though Myers is an alumni writer from Saturday Night Live, and the Austen Powers movies, his flare for writing is clearly fading away.

Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-off or Sequel: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

There can be no doubt that Indy's last outing left a bad taste with everyone who saw it. Granted it was filled with adventure, but watching a geriatric archeologist's computer generated body double jump around from place to place, didn't bode well with cinema goers.

Worst Career Achievement: Uwe Boll ("Germany's answer to Ed Wood")

Uwe Boll is such a bad director that he has been honored with a prestigious award for Worst Career Achievement and being ranked right up (or down?) there with Ed Wood as one of the worst directors of our time.

The Razzies are a refreshing award show, clearly showing us that not everything that glitters on the silver screen is worthy of Oscar gold.

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