What does India think of Momal Sheikh’s Bollywood debut?

t’s unfortunate when a local artist’s Bollywood debut gets banned in Pakistan, case in point: Momal Sheikh and her film Happy Bhag Jayegi.

The censor board agrees that the film is a “humorous movie” that provides “sarcastic entertainment”, but also insists that “it is rather anti-Pakistan.”

“There’s a scene where the characters are standing under a portrait of Quaid-e-Azam and saying ‘Aap kab tak hum se jhoot bulwayenge‘ and it was an obvious joke [mocking the Quaid],” said a source at the censor board.

“There are many such offensive hits towards Pakistan. Our security institutions are being demeaned. An average Pakistani would watch this and their blood would boil,” the source asserts.

“We do promote entertainment but not when it’s demeaning to our country. Dialogues like India ka namak pura Pakistan kha raha hai clash with our codes and regulations. There is also a lot of swearing and crass language in the film,” the source adds.

Though people here didn’t get a chance to see the screening of the film, across the border the film opened to mixed reviews. However, most critics lauded Momal Sheikh’s performance .

Here’s a round-up of what Indian publications had to say about the recently released film and the Pakistani actor’s role in it.

From the Deccan Chronicle:

“If you have been waiting for a family entertainer, ‘Happy Bhag Jayegi’ is the answer to your prayers.

Undoubtedly the actors are the strongest pillars of the film. To begin with, Abhay Deol just steals the show. Ali Fazal is funny and spontaneous as an idle college dropout. Diana Penty will surely surprise you as a brave Punjabi girl. Diana, who had debuted with ‘Cocktail’, steals the spotlight in every frame. Jimmy Sheirgill once again loses his bride, and makers have encashed this trick very well. One can’t help but feel pity for his character while stepping out of the theatre. Momal Sheikh has few scenes in the film but she is watchable as a possessive classy fiancée.”

From Bollywood Hungama:

“Despite the fact that the film’s screenplay is predictable, it’s the treatment that makes the film entertaining. The humour in the film is excellent and works magic in the first half. The second half however slows down due to multiple subplots and romantic angles, some of which seem quite forced.

Making her debut in Bollywood is Momal Sheikh whose approach towards her character exudes superlative confidence. Besides the fact that Happy Bhag Jayegi is her Bollywood debut in which she had been pitted alongside seasoned actors, the conviction with which she handles her character is highly commendable. Ali Fazal, on the other hand, delivers what was required of him in the role of a lover boy.”

From NDTV:

Happy Bhag Jayegi seeks to provide clean entertainment. The language is antiseptic, the women aren’t objectified, and the men aren’t lousy louts even when their actions aren’t particularly edifying. These are small mercies that add up to a lot.

Momal Sheikh, in her first big screen release, is a welcome addition to the growing tribe of Pakistani actresses trying their luck in Mumbai films. While Jimmy Sheirgill is treated rather shabbily by the script, Piyush Mishra gets the best lines. The latter revels in the opportunity and provides the film’s brighter moments.”

From Indian Express:

“The premise of Happy Bhag Jayegi, promises you some good chuckles, but all too soon, the pleasures of the film dwindle, and we are left to fend for ourselves, looking for something that will make us laugh, even if it is weak laughter. There is some of it, but it is far too intermittent.

Good to see Abhay Deol back in the groove after his disastrous previous outing One By Two, and the very pretty very swish-in-her-designer-threadsMomal Sheikh (a popular TV actor who also happens to be Javed Sheikh’s daughter) gives him something to work on. The third angle in this triangle is touched upon but its potential is never fully realised. And that goes for the film as a whole. When will our films be better written?”

From First Post:

What the trailer of Happy Bhag Jayegi does not reveal is that the film’s best moments have been packed into it, and there is nothing much else it has to say.

These are among the few moments of maturity in the screenplay. The others come in the atypical portrayal of the film’s Punjabis (they do not call out “Balle Balle” or dance the Bhangra at the drop of a hat) and in the writing of Zoya (Momal Sheikh). She could have easily been pigeonholed as the evil doosri aurat (other woman) in the hero’s life, but somewhere along the way, a spot of nuance enters the picture and she becomes more than that lazy stereotype. One of the film’s nicest scenes is the one in which she urges Bilal to make his own life decisions rather than bowing to his father’s wishes at all times.

Not too bad for a debut!

MQM’s Amir Khan distances party from newly-surfaced controversial Altaf speech

KARACHI: Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Amir Khan on Wednesday night distanced the party from statements allegedly made by party chief Altaf Hussain who was addressing workers in the United States.

A day after party leadership in Karachi distanced itself from Hussain’s earlier anti-Pakistan comments and decided to strip him of organisational powers for an indefinite period, the MQM chief allegedly urged US party workers to seek help from Israel, India, Iran and Afghanistan.

In the newly-surfaced audio clip, Hussain allegedly said, “If the US and Israel help, I will go myself to fight Daesh, Al Qaeda, Taliban and the Inter-Services Intelligence and Pakistan Army who created them.”

The MQM supremo while addressing “Hindus” allegedly said, “We could not recognise the British conspiracy [to divide the subcontinent] and we became part of it.”

The authenticity of the clip has not been independently verified by Dawn.com.

Speaking to journalists at the Karachi Press Club, MQM’s Amir Khan denied that the MQM had anything to do with the recently surfaced speech.

Khan was also quizzed by journalists about these statements at the Karachi Municipal Corporation building where mayoral polls were underway earlier on Wednesday, but he did not shed any light on the matter then.

Flanked by Coordination Committee Deputy Convener Dr Farooq Sattar, Khan said, “Like Farooq Sattar had disassociated the party from Altaf Hussain’s earlier speech in our press conference yesterday (Tuesday), we, the Pakistan Rabita Committee, disassociate ourselves from this recent speech.”

Khan claimed that the audio clip carries parts of a speech made by Altaf Hussain before the MQM Coordination Committee announced that the party’s leadership in Pakistan would solely run the show with full authority.

Sections of the media alleged that MQM workers had carried out an attack on the ARY News office in Karachi’s Saddar area on Monday after receiving directives in a speech by MQM Chief Altaf Hussain. One person was killed and several others injured as police clashed with the angry mob.

Farooq Sattar, Leader of the Opposition in the Sindh Assembly Khawaja Izharul Hassan and Dr Amir Liaquat were taken into custody by the Rangers and released after overnight detention.

The Rangers raided MQM headquarters Nine Zero Monday night after the protests, taking nine other party leaders into custody and sealing MQM offices. The paramilitary force also recovered weapons from Nine Zero, which will be sent for forensic tests.

The MQM supremo later apologised to the military for his ‘anti-Pakistan’ remarks and, in a statement released by MQM Spokesman Wasay Jalil on Tuesday, announced he would be handing over party affairs to the Coordination Committee in Pakistan.

Hussain has been running the day-to-day organisational affairs of the party over phone from the confines of his palatial London residence and the international secretariat for a long time, although he does not hold any office in the MQM, which is a political party registered with the Election Commission of Pakistan in the name of Dr Farooq Sattar.

It is worth remembering that it is not the first time that Hussain has been practically sidelined by the Pakistan-based MQM leadership.

In Dec 1992, Hussain announced retirement from politics in favour of then MQM chairman Azeem Ahmed Tariq. However, about three months later, he became active again, formed a coordination committee and appointed the late Ishtiaq Azhar its convener.

The Nine-Zero headquarters were opened again by Azhar and later on Tariq was assassinated in his Federal B Area home on May 1, 1993.

Italy quake toll hits 247 as rescuers hunt for survivors

ACCUMOLI: The death toll from a powerful earthquake that shook central Italy rose to 247 on Thursday, officials said, as rescuers desperately searched for survivors in the rubble of devastated mountain villages.

Hundreds of others were injured, some critically, and an unknown number were trapped under the ruins of collapsed buildings after Wednesday’s pre-dawn quake.

Amid scenes of carnage, dozens of emergency services staff and volunteers were determined to attempt to pluck more survivors from the ruins.

Rescuers had pledged to work through the night in the hope of finding people alive in the mangled wreckage of homes.

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi had earlier warned that the toll would likely rise after visiting the badly hit village of Amatrice.

Hundreds of people spent a chilly night in hastily assembled tents with the risk of aftershocks making it too risky for them to return home.

Scores of buildings were reduced to dusty piles of masonry in communities close to the epicentre of the quake, which had a magnitude of between 6.0 and 6.2.

It hit a remote area straddling Umbria, Marche and Lazio at a time of year when second-home owners and other visitors swell the numbers staying there.

Many of the victims were from Rome.

The devastated area is just north of L’Aquila, the city where some 300 people died in another quake in 2009.

Most of the deaths occurred in and around the villages of Amatrice, Accumoli and Arquata del Tronto.


Guido Bordo, 69, lost his sister and her husband after they were trapped inside their holiday house in the hamlet of Illica, near Accumoli.

“There’s no sound from them, we only heard their cats,” he told AFP before the deaths were confirmed.

“I wasn’t here. As soon as the quake happened, I rushed here. They managed to pull my sister’s children out, they’re in hospital now,” he added, wringing his hands in anguish.

Among the victims was a nine-month-old baby girl whose parents survived, an 18-month-old toddler and two other young children who died with their parents in Accumoli.

Two boys aged four and seven were saved by their quick-thinking grandmother, who ushered them under a bed as soon as the shaking began, according to reports. She also survived but lost her husband.

Renzi said it was too early to consider what might have been done to prevent the disaster.

“Today is the time for tears and emotion,” he said, vowing that his government would start reconstruction work first thing on Thursday.

Bodies in playground

It was Italy’s most powerful earthquake since the 2009 disaster in L’Aquila.

People prepare to spend the night in a gymnasium. Residents have been advised not to return to their homes. ─AP

“Half the village has disappeared,” said Amatrice mayor Sergio Pirozzi, surveying a town centre that looked as if had been subjected to a bombing raid.

The tremors were strong enough to be felt 150 kilometres away in Rome, where authorities ordered structural tests on the Colosseum.

Some of the worst damage was in Pescara del Tronto, a hamlet near Arquata in the Marche region where the bodies of the dead were laid out in a children’s park.

With residents advised not to go back into their homes, temporary campsites were being set up in Amatrice and Accumoli as authorities looked to find emergency accommodation for more than 2,000 people.

Amatrice is a hilltop beauty spot considered home of amatriciana, one of Italy’s favourite pasta sauces. It is popular with Romans seeking cool mountain air at the height of the summer.

It was packed with visitors when the quake struck at 3:36am (0136 GMT).

Three minutes later the clock on the village’s 13th-century tower stopped.

Out of the blue’

The first quake measured 6.2, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

It measured 6.0 according to Italian monitors, who put the depth at only four kilometres. A 5.4-magnitude aftershock followed an hour later.

Italy is vulnerable to earthquakes and the 2009 tremor in L’Aquila led to lengthy recriminations over lax building controls and the failure of authorities to warn residents that a quake could be imminent.

David Rothery, Professor of Planetary Geosciences at Britain’s Open University, said the shallowness of Wednesday’s quake had made it more destructive.

But he added: “Unlike the L’Aquila quake, which was preceded by swarms of smaller quakes and led to claims ─ unjustified in my view ─ that the eventual big quake should have been predicted, this one appears to have struck out of the blue.”

Brazilian coffee

HOW do you take your Olympic coffee — white, or black? In Rio, coffee is prepared from beans imported from countries across the world — Bolivia, Ethiopia, Jamaica, Kenya, Australia, even Thailand. Its percolating machines filter them, a metaphor for the transient internationalism of the Olympic Games themselves.

Never before, though, in the history of the Olympic Games has the subject of colour and race been given such inordinate exposure by sports commentators. Until Rio 2016, certain categories of sport were reserved, like the poorer seats at the back of a segregated bus, for people of colour. It has been a given that any sport requiring equipment or facilities could be pursued only by those who could afford it.

Sports such as “archery, canoe/kayak, cycling, equestrian, rowing, modern pentathlon, sailing, shooting and triathlon squads” were, as one commentator put it, “blindingly white”. Black people were good for running and boxing.

Nothing proved this point more than the statistic that out of all the gold medals won by runners, over half have been by ‘African’ athletes, and in boxing ‘Africans’ alone have won 40 medals. Or that, in the 1960 Rome Olympics, the winner of the showpiece marathon Abebe Bikila, an Ethiopian, ran his race barefoot.

Rio 2016 has changed that, irreversibly. Black is the new gold. The Western media crew of voluble sports commentators have yet to adapt to the new paradigm. A young American girl wins a gold medal in the 100 metres freestyle swimming, and she is touted as the first black/Afro-American girl ever to win such an event. Her compatriot, Simone Biles, wins four gold medals in gymnastics and the media marvels at how a black girl can break the colour bars, horse and rings. Daryl Hanes gains a silver medal in the men’s sabre fencing, and his achievement carries the addendum that it is the first time in 112 years that a black/Afro-American has won in this category.

Never before in Olympic history has the subject of race been given such exposure as was done in Rio 2016.

Almaz Ayana secures the gold for 10,000 metres long distance run, but then, she is from Ethiopia. And when a young woman, Ibtihaj Muhammad, appears — in a hijab — to compete in a fencing match, the attention of the viewers is drawn not to her skill with an épée but her decision to hide her hair.

No hijab will ever be large enough or thick enough to hide the bias of some of the more raucous elements of the reporting media. Their remarks about black/Afro-American female sportspersons remind one of Dr Samuel Johnson’s famous observation about female preachers. Told by James Boswell that he had heard a woman preach, Dr Johnson’s retorted: “Sir, a woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”

For one particular contestant — Yulia Refomiva, from cold-shouldered Russia — the Rio Olympics were another battlefield. “Rio was awful,” she lamented, “it was war.” To be booed after four years of preparation, effort, training and high-pressure performance was more than a waste of adrenalin. It was a negation, a perversion of the Olympic spirit. The spectators became judges, and the judges spectators.

If the Russians are to be believed, the United States has conspired to hamstring Russia. Whether Russia could have posed a serious challenge to the US, or for that matter Great Britain, in the medals table is now a matter of Monday morning conjecture. It would appear, though, that both Russia and China have lost interest in the Olympics. They no longer see it as an arena in which they need to prove themselves. In Beijing 2008, China could not afford to lose.

In Rio, China did not care if it did not win. That is not to say its Olympic team did not give their best. They did. But the embers of Beijing had been banked, its fire tempered. The colour of the medal no longer drove the Chinese.

India had sent the largest Olympic contingent in its history to Rio. Over a billion Indians hoped for a richer trawl of medals than one silver and a single bronze — the first for badminton and the second for wrestling. The silver came as a hard-won surprise. The latter was to be expected.

After all, India has had enough practice. It has wrestled with Pakistan for 69 years over everything — Sir Creek, Rann of Kutch, a seat in the UN Security Council, a place in the ECO, and perennially Jammu & Kashmir.

If only the statue of Christ the Redeemer above Rio could be transposed to Wagah border. With one arm outstretched into Pakistan and the other into India, who knows? He might perform the miracle for them he did for the Brazilians. They are still celebrating their soccer gold by crying into their coffee.

F.S. Aijazuddin

The writer is an art historian.

Money laundering case dropped against Axact CEO

KARACHI: A local court in Karachi dropped charges of money laundering against Shoaib Shaikh, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of IT company Axact, Samaa reported Wednesday.

According to media reports, a case was filed by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) against the Axact CEO, accusing him of sending Rs.270 million to Dubai through the illegal hundi system. However, the court, after hearing FIA officials, declared all charges against the accused null and void.

On August 15, he and 13 others were granted bail in fake degrees case. Justice Iqbal Kalhoro approved the bail plea against a surety bond of Rs500,000 each after hearing arguments from both parties.

The Axact scandal surfaced in May last year when The New York Times published a report that claimed the company sold fake diplomas and degrees online through hundreds of fictitious schools, making “tens of millions of dollars annually”.