Controversies of the year
Shaheera Anwar

It’s no surprise that the world of showbiz is home to a whole lot of hullabaloo. After all, where else would our politicians take their drama lessons from? But celebrity feuds, breakups, copyright infringements and online trolling always become the talk of the town and provide us with our daily doses of amusement. As Vidya Balan says in The Dirty Picture, it’s all about “entertainment, entertainment and entertainment.”

Now, 2018 did not disappoint in terms of entertainment. Since the very beginning, we’ve been treated to one controversy after another, shaking the very core of our entertainment industry. So we thought why not list the juiciest and most shocking happenings from the year. Admit it; you love the goss’ as much as we do.

1. Caught on camera

It began with this year’s Lux Style Awards, which took place in Lahore in February.  If you recall, the episode involved none other than Pakistan’s sweetheart Mahira Khan, Javed Sheikh and a certain viral video.

During the show, Khan came on stage to accept the award for Best Actress (surprise, surprise!) which was presented to her by Sheikh. As seen in the video, the latter tried to kiss Khan on the cheek whilst handing her the trophy but she turned away. Cue social media trolls who couldn’t get enough of making fun of the 64-year-old actor.

Later on, Khan cleared up the controversy saying, “It’s good to be aware and have an opinion but for God’s sake, don’t use anything and everything to make news.  Javed Sheikh of all people! He is a legend and a mentor to all of us in this industry. I would always vouch for him.”

2. Foot in the mouth

By now, Pakistan has become a pro at banning Bollywood productions for the silliest of reasons. First it was PadMan and Raazi that got the boot, followed by Veere Di Wedding which was apparently too vulgar for us to be able to enjoy it. Who cares if the film lent support to modern South Asian women, right?

Anyway, the ban came up in an interview that the cast of Veere Di Wedding – Kareena Kapoor Khan, Sonam Kapoor, Swara Bhasker and Shikha Talsania – sat with journalist Rajeev Masand. And during this interview, Bhasker called Pakistan a “failing state” run by Shariah law.

Understandably, this angered fans on this side of the border, who called Bhasker “misinformed.” In fact, local celebs such as Urwa Hocane and Gohar Rasheed also clapped back at the Indian actor, reminding her that she had once called Pakistan “the best country she had ever visited.” Gohar simply stated that Bhaskar’s comments were typical of someone with an “old-school mentality.” She of course, maintained her stance despite admitting that Pakistan and India are very similar to each other.

3. National duty

So 2018 also included one of the most historic elections of Pakistani history. Unfortunately, their timing coincided with the Hum Awards which were being held in Toronto at the same time. Hence, many local stars – some of whom had been urging fans to go out and vote for quite some time – happened to be all the way in Canada on D-Day.

What happened next was a like our very own little Game of Thrones of sorts. Not only was the general public upset with their idols for being absent on Election Day, there were even a couple of celebrities calling each other out on the matter. For instance, Farhad Saeed said, “All the people from my fraternity and otherwise travelling abroad at such a crucial time is so heart-breaking. Please let’s not take our country’s future for granted.”

Finally, actor Yasir Hussain and model Saheefa Jabbar Khattak came to their defense. Hussain stated, “We’re in a legal contract with the award show and our dates were already finalised” while Khattak clarified, “The election dates were announced in end May and our plans with respect to dates were almost confirmed in April. This also means that preparations for the awards started before April. Instead of appreciating the fact that we are going international, stop degrading them.”

Things got to a point that the Hum Awards team had to release an official statement eventually.  “The date of the 6th Hum Awards was decided at least six months in advance as an event of this magnitude requires a lot of planning and preparation,” it read. “Also, since a lot of resources have to be committed for the event it is not possible to change the date. It is worth mentioning here that many of the artists participating in the Awards have cast their votes and then left for the Awards. However a few had to leave earlier as they were required for rehearsals.”

4. The brutal murder of #MeToo in Pakistan

This particular event, controversial as it may have been, was probably for the best. After all, it sparked the #MeToo movement here in Pakistan and God knows, we really needed that.

It all began when a girl came accused Patari’s former CEO Khalid Bajwa of sexual harassment. Soon after, singer Meesha Shafi publically claimed that pop icon Ali Zafar had sexually harassed her on multiple occasions as well. While the matter is still in court, Shafi actually inspired many of our female celebrities and non-celebrities to open up on sexual harassment in Pakistan and call out their abusers.

This gave birth to another controversy wherein supermodel Sadaf Kanwal stated that victims of sexual abuse should speak up at the time of the incident and not later on. “You know, when you have a #MeToo incident, say it then. Why are you remembering it later? I think when it happens you should say it,” the 25-year-old had said.

Unsurprisingly, Kanwal ended up ticking off a whole lot of women. Shafi also clapped back at her saying, “Strong eyebrows don’t make a strong backbone.” Even the Chalay Thay Saath actor Mansha Pasha called out Kanwal for her ignorant remarks. However, things took another turn when the model said that she can teach Mansha how to dress while she teaches them how to talk. And there it was: one of the most prolific movements in Hollywood, reduced to nothing but bickering.

5. The ‘Ko Ko Korina’ conundrum

While the subpar standard of this year’s Coke Studio warrants the status of a controversy’ in itself, Ko Ko Korina made all hell break loose. Or perhaps Pakistanis finally woke up from daydreaming about the two cuties in the songs, who knows?

Either way, Momina Mustehsan and Ahad Raza Mir’s preppy version of the iconic 60’s classic was hated by everyone, to put it simply. It was so bad that even Shireen Mazari apparently didn’t want to dance to it. If anything, she fulfilled her duty as the minister of human rights and tried to spare our ears from having to listen the song.

Mazari blatantly called Coke Studio’s Ko Ko Korina a “horrendous” version of the original. This irked Momo dearest. And so, two more prominent Pakistani women got involved in a Twitter spat which went on for so long that even BBC ended up covering it. Entertainment, I guess…

Anyway, what was particular funny was when Mustehsan accused the politician of “cyber-bulling” her… SAY WHAT?! Then actor Sajal Aly – who is rumoured to be dating Mir – came to his defence and asked people to stop spreading hate. She further said that Pakistan should focus more on other pressing matters… Guess she wasn’t wrong.

Finally, Mir spoke up, admitting that he was happy his song was noticed by Mazari, even if she didn’t have very nice things to say. “We should learn to be kind, even in our criticism. It goes a long way,” said the Yakeen Ka Safar star. “Our song was a cover and it is meant to deviate from the original. Let’s respect our artists.” And then they all lived a happily ever after…

… until Rabi Peerzada chimed in. A few days into the controversy, Peerzada decided to try and make herself relevant by releasing a song titled Tu Jo Sath Nahi, Hathon Mein Hath Nahi claiming that it will “help people recover from Ko Ko Korina.” LOL at that.

And finally, when things seemed to have died down, another artist Jigar Jalali launched his own version of Ko Ko Korina as a part of a Sindhi web channel’s Goth Studio, which, surprisingly was very well-received by the audience.

Suffice it to say that 2018 was a complete entertainment package. And since us Pakistanis are such champs at all things controversial, we’re sure 2019 won’t fall short either. Till then, that’s all folks!