Much has been said and written about the inaugural Lux Style Awards. The stream of criticism doesn't seem to stop flowing. The reason for this constant onslaught, perhaps, is the amount of mistakes – in fact, blunders - committed by the management committee, the jury and the sponsors of the awards. Every look at the awards reveals a new point of contention.
Various reasons call for a neutral inquiry and assessment. As opposed to the common notion held by many people, we should not take the awards very seriously. Before the precedent to accept all wrongs is set and becomes a tradition, like all rotten things in Pakistan, we must try to correct it. Fashion, style, design and lifestyle are industries which provide a livelihood to millions of people. An international organisation such as Lever Brothers Pakistan (LBP) has graciously recognised the movers and shakers of these industries, therefore credit should go to deserving people. LBP's decision to initiate the awards is a giant leap in the right direction, but we'd only like it to continue if the awards intend to be just and transparent.
The culture of patronising and nepotism should be brought to an end, at least in the creative arts field, which self- righteously claims to have more conscience and enlightenment than the rest of society. It's time we tried to rise above our personal biases and pettiness. To begin with, the nominations left a lot of names to be desired. The main criterion for selection was the works produced during the year 2001, Naheed Chaudhry, Senior Brand Manager – Lux, announced at the launch ceremony. Later Frieha Altaf, the producer and conceptualiser of the awards confirmed the criteria to me in person. Participants, presented by Lever Brothers and Frieha, were to earn at least three votes from the 11 member jury in order to garner a nomination.
Marina Khan was nominated as the Best TV Actress and she was quoted as saying, "I have not done anything in the year 2001, apart from 'Marina's Kitchen.'. Her words are a good indicator as to how seriously the jury and proposers were taking their responsibilty. It also reveals their awareness about the industries which they were going to recognise.
Sadia Imam was gifted The Best TV Actress award. It was supposedly a viewers' choice award which was decided through polls via various media. According to a member of the jury, who requested anonymity, Sadia did not get the most votes, but was given the award to reconstruct her image after her alleged involvement in an embezzlement scandal. So much for transparency and fairness!
The cinema categories decisions truly reflected the state of the film industry in Pakistan. Shehzad Gul of Evernew Films won the award for the Best Producer on his film 'Ghar Kab Aao Ge.' However, according to Evernew Films, the film was released on January 9, 2000 and not in the year 2001. Is it a case of ignorance or a case of nepotism; Sajjad Gul, brother of Shehzad Gul and a film producer himself, was one of the judges? Freiha Altaf's reasoning sounds a little odd, "Ghar Kab Aao Ge was considered because it is still running in theatres." Using that as a yardstick, Indian cinema classic, 'Sholay,' should appear in every Indian cinema awards show because it has been running in a theatre in Gujrat since its release in 1976.
That brings us to another interesting story. Nabila was considered for a nomination in the Best Stylist category. She submitted her portfolio on one condition; that her Hair Show 2000 production, held in November 2000, be a part of the work that she was being judged by. She was refused, on the pretext that only work produced in 2001 were being considered. She pulled out gracefully. Isn't it a case of decision dichotomy?
The Best Bridal Designer and Best Female Model award decisions left every one completely floored. The former was shared by Bunto Kazmi and Faiza Sami, while Vaneeza and Iraj shared the latter. Sharing the award in each category undermined the work of both winners. This novel method was invented and adopted because, according to a reliable insider at LBP, a judge had insisted on awarding Faiza Sami as well or threatened to walk out. Has anyone ever heard of an excellence award divided in half? How is a tie-decision possible with an 11 member jury? That shows the awards was a game for the parties involved instead of a serious business.
In the fashion section, one important category was completely ignored. Choreographers play an important role in the construction of a fashion show. At the press conference, LBP proudly stated that it had, in show of support for the industry, sponsored the first fashion shows of Maheen and Sana & Safinaz. This fact seems enough to illustrate the unexpected exclusion of the category. Perhaps it was Frieha's insecurity because she would have been a contender or again, a lack of seriousness?
According to Frieha Altaf and Fifi Haroon, co-organiser, the jury sat on February 07, 2002 to review the portfolios and make decisions. "They began at 10 a.m. and got up at 3 p.m.," said Frieha. Excluding five viewers' choice categories, two Lifetime Achievement award and the Icon of The Year decision, there were 76 nominees in 17 categories. We did the math and it seems that the judges spent roughly four minutes on each portfolio. This leaves one's head reeling, if we think of the speed with which they assessed the nominee portfolios.
Here's another glaring example of their inconsistent implementation of the judging process. Shaheen Saeed, sent her portfolio to Lever Brothers offices at 10 a.m on Feb 07 but was phoned at 7 p.m by Frieha to inquire about the whereabouts of her portfolio. Despite the fact that the jury seemingly had nothing to evaluate Shaheen by, she was nominated in the Best Stylist category.
When Frieha and Fifi were contacted separately to comment, they both declined giving the secrecy clause as a reason. "The jury's decision is the final one and could not be challenged," said Freiha and Fifi. "It happens all the time. Even Oscars are open to debate," Fifi continued to explain. Credentials of the jury members are subject to debate and they proved utterly insufficient to judge various categories. For instance, one would like to know how Yousuf Mirza Baig, Sajjad Gul and Satish Anand are deemed competent to judge fashion, art or architecture.
The incompetence of the jury became evident when Shamoon Khan of Khaadi was given the Best Menswear Designer Award. He is a textile designer who has, without a doubt, revolutionised hand-weave in Pakistan, but he's definitely not a fashion designer. A well-deserved award in the wrong category meant a gross undermining of his contribution.
A look at the presentation reveals confusion, chaos and thorough lack of planning and coordination. First of all there was no build-up to the Lux Style Awards event. Categories mindlessly followed each other. The impact of bridal category along with a fashion sequence became diluted by the opening of dinner. Also, the Humanitarian Award along with the Icon and Lifetime Achievement Awards were announced during dinner. Definitely an insult to the legends.