Khayaal – Festival of Arts & Literature 2013

This was Khayaal’s first cultural endeavor which was termed a great success by all those attending in the hundreds, on each of the two busy days.

The festival brought together a variety of prominent and accomplished speakers belonging to the fields of literature, art, music, dance, architecture, journalism, film, television and theatre, primarily to showcase the myriad of talent present in Pakistan, and bring them all together on one platform, to initiate lively, informative and educational discourse.

On the first day, 2nd November, an inaugural session was held from 10am to 11am in Hall 1 with Syed Babar Ali giving the keynote speech and officially opening the event. This was followed by an enthralling performance by the Mekaal Hasan Folk Ensemble, a 5 member instrumental ensemble that plays folk tunes from across Pakistan. “Loved, loved, loved the Mekaal Hasan Folk Ensemble’s instrumental performance at @Khayaal_Fest & how it played on familiarity and nostalgia” tweeted one ecstatic attendee of the performance.

From 11am to 12pm a session titled “Publishing in Pakistan: Challenges and Solutions” was held in Hall 1. Speakers included Ameena Saiyid, Neelam Hussain, Zaheer Salam, Ali Kamran, Ayaaz Ahmed moderated by Nabiha Meher. Simultaneously, Hall 2 was holding a session titled “The Power of Art and the Limitations of Writing on Art” with speakers Salima Hashmi, Mian Ijaz ul Hassan, Quddus Mirza, Farida Batool, Abdullah Qureshi moderated by Laila Rehman.

“The Road Less Travelled: Wanderings Through Pakistan” came next in Hall 1 from 12pm to 1pm, with speakers Wajahat Malik, Salman Rashid, Tahir Jahangir moderated by Masood Hasan. During the same time, “Shrinking Space for the Performing Arts in Pakistan” was taking place in Hall 2 – speakers Madeeha Gauhar, Sara Zaman and Zain Ahmed were moderated by Omair Rana.

A lunch break was followed by one of the most well attended sessions titled “English Fiction and the Pakistani Imagination” by Mohsin Hamid and moderated by Mira Sethi, being held in Hall 1 from 2pm to 3pm. Simultaneously, “Mazah Paray” was held in Hall 2, with Gul I Naukhaiz Akhtar , Dr Ashfaq Ahmad Virk and Khalid Masood participating as speakers. One of the most well received and appreciated sessions titled ‘Main Manto’ with readings by Sarmad Khoosat and Salman Shahid, came next in Hall 1, from 3pm to 4pm.

Sarmad Khoosat did a 20 minute presentation on Manto’s life, how he struggled and what people say about him. “Gut wrenching, powerful” said attendee Abbas Hussain, about the session. During the same time, Hall 2 featured the session “Micro Narratives” with Musharraf Ali Farooqi in conversation with Dr. Ali Mehdi Hashmi. “Literature & Culture; a discussion between Khalid Ahmed and Intizar Hussain” was held next in Hall 1 from 4pm to 5pm with Khalid Ahmed and Intizar Hussain as speakers. In Hall 2 “Uncut” with Feryal Ali Gauhar in conversation with Raza Rumi took place during the same time.

The last session of the day titled “Lights Camera Action” was a full house, held in Hall 1 from 5pm to 6:30pm, featuring the production team and actors from Main Hoon Shahid Afridi and Waar, including Vasay Chaudry, Javed Sheikh, Kamran Lashari, Bilal Lashari and a surprise visit by Shahmoon Abbasi. At this very popular session, Bilal Lashari was hit with some pretty harsh questions from the audience, which he managed to tackle with ease and poise. Fans attending the session took as many pictures with the stars as possible.

The first day of the festival ended with a bang when “Mera Rang Day Basanti Chola” by Ajoka Theatre, was performed by them in Hall 2 from 6:30pm to 8pm, pulling in a huge crowd which resulted in a packed house.

Day two of the festival, held on 3rd November, began with three sessions being held simultaneously in the three halls of Alhamra. “Lahore and What the Future Holds for its Heritage” was held from 10am to 11am in Hall 1, with speakers Nayyar Ali Dada, Dr. Ajaz Anwar, Majid Sheikh and Kamil K. Mumtaz moderated by Rafay Alam.

Simultaneously “Buri Aurat Ki Katha”, with speaker Kishwar Naheed and moderator Yasmeen Hameed was held in Hall 2. In Hall 3, speakers Ira Hasan, Naila Tiwana and Ayesha Husain headed the session “Talking Shakespeare”, which was moderated by Zainab Omar. From 11am to 12pm Hall 1 featured Ayesha Siddiqa in conversation with Raza Rumi at a session aptly titled “A Conversation”.

Hall 2 held a ‘Talk with Zeba Bakhtiar’ moderated by the equally dazzling Juggan Kazim left many star struck. Zeba talked about Pakistani films, saying that in her opinion “Pakistani films should be shorter”. Hall 3’s “Wanderings” with adventurist-come-daredevil Moin Khan was packed with delighted fans of his motivational journeys throughout the world, on nothing but his bike– quite motivating! Moin admitted that he has a fear of public speaking and was quite nervous before his session “I don’t know what I’ve gotten myself into…” he tweeted a day before his session.

However, right after his session he tweeted “Had a great time at the Festival of Arts and Literature”. From 12pm to 1pm “What our Daughters Deserve” was held in Hall 1, with speakers Nighat Rizvi, Samar Minallah, Baela Jamil and Zareen Rasheed who were moderated by Nasreen Shah. Simultaneously, “An Artist Talks” by Rashid Rana, and moderated by Sanam Taseer, was a refreshing session for aspiring artists and art lovers alike.

“A Tribute to Samina Qureshi” by Kamil K. Mumtaz was being held at the same time in Hall 3. Following the lunch break, “Prevalent Themes in Pakistani Television Dramas” was held in Hall 1, from 2pm to 3pm. For this session, Haseena Moin, Sarmad Sehbai and Asghar Nadeem Syed were moderated by Sarmad Khoosat.

Enhancing the possibility of different forms of speaker communication with audiences at festivals, Khayaal set up a video conference session, sponsored by Wateen, with Riz Khan in the US. During the session, the audience in Pakistan could see, hear and interact with Riz via a large projector placed on the stage, and vice versa. The session, held in Hall 2, was a huge success as Riz also answered audience questions.

Hall 3 in the meanwhile, had two young budding writers speak on the topic of writing, to a young audience. From 3pm to 4pm the session “Pakistani Cinema Today” was held in Hall 1, with Farjad Nabi, Mazhar Zaidi and Meenu Gaur of Zinda Bhaag [which has been submitted to the Oscars in the ‘Best Foreign Film’ category] was moderated by Abdur Rauf, and attended by a big crowd. Speaking about the inclusion of music in the film, director Farjad Nabi explained “songs were part of the narrative of the film, something we consciously did”. At the same time in Hall 2 the session titled “Dissent in Media” was held with Ayesha Siddiqa, Ali Dayan and Saroop Ijaz.

From 4pm to 5pm, the session titled “Delhi by Heart: Impressions of a Pakistani Traveller”, saw author Raza Rumi in conversation with Aitzaz Ahsan and Madeeha Gauhar about his book. The said book was exclusively launched by Raza at the festival, via this particular session, in which Madeeha Gauhar read passages from it while Aitzaz Ahsan gave his take on the book’s subject matter and writing style. Simultaneously, Hall 2 saw “A Performance of Dance” by the graceful Nighat Chaudhry. The session created a lot of buzz as she gracefully performed a wonderful katthak number, dressed in a vibrant red.

The session everyone was anxiously awaiting, “The Love Song of Pakistan”, featuring the legendary Farida Khanum in conversation with Ali Sethi, was a treat for everyone. Not only did Farida sing, but she also spoke to the audience briefly paying tribute to the late Reshma who died recently. Farida Khanum also recalled that as a child she was not very fond of singing, whereas the interest arose later on life with help of her singing teachers. Ghulam Ali was invited on stage from the audience, to be a part of the session also. At the same time, “Faiz” by Mira and Adeel Hashmi was being held in Hall 2 – it was a beautiful tribute of sorts to the great Faiz Ahmed Faiz.

The night and the festival, came to a beautiful end with an energy packed performance by talented upcoming Pakistani band Poor Rich Boy, who include in their performances the use of various instruments, some laughs and great story-telling.

The ‘Festival of Arts & Literature’ had a strong lineup of speakers and the sessions were received as extremely informative by those attending. Although the festival was OPEN TO ALL, it managed to draw in a good crowd of people belonging to various fields, who felt they benefited greatly from attending the sessions. The festival also offered live music, delicious food, shopping of handicrafts from organizations such as Daachi, and a chance to mingle and network with like-minded people. Public Relations & Communications for the festival were taken care of by Pitch Media Inc., whereas event management was done by Brand Bridge.

Lahore once again became the hub of culture related activities in Pakistan, with the Khayaal ‘Festival of Arts & Literature 2013’ successfully held at Alhamra Arts Council.

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