Busy Speech-Preparing

Busy Speech-making

Preparing, before I have to go on stage

I had the extreme privilege of speaking at the exhibition of Amina Art Ansarti. Below is a quick preview of my speech at Amina Art Ansari’s Exhibition at TV Apex on March 10th, 2013.

Check out her work at:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Aminaart/104443940431?fref=ts

 

“Assalam u alaikum and Good evening ladies and gentlemen. We have all gathered here to celebrate the talents of a wonderful young woman known as Amina Ansari. My name is Maheen Nusrat and I am the chief coordinator of Pearl Education Foundation.

They say that:

“Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.  ~Henry Ward and I think Amina’s art is no exception.

I have known of Amina because of her artwork and been acquaintances for quite some time. Over the years we had lost touch with one another and only recently reconnected. As is probably obvious from my accent, I am not from around here. Life had plucked me from the rolling mountains of Vancouver, Canada and thrust me into the hustle bustle of New York City  only to uproot me once  again bringing me to stand in front of all of you here today in London. Call it destiny, fate or pure fortune, but it is here that my paths crossed with Amina.”

 

 

 

 

It is kind of a funny story

I just watched It is kind of a funny story starring Keir Gilchrist, and Zach Galifianakis. It isn’t the typical laugh out loud Galifianakis movie, it is heart-warming, comical, and very human. It showcases the inner workings of the minds of an institutionalized person. The movie beautifully portrays the social outcasts, the weirdos and focuses on just how human they really are. You can’t help but feel for every single character in that movie. They were all once ordinary people, dealing with the daily S*** of life and somehow, somewhere it got too much and they lost it and became “insane”.

The main character in the movie is a teenager going through depression and almost commits suicide. But instead of going through with it, he gets himself admitted into an institution, where he is supposed to stay for the minimum 5 days requirement. During the 5 days, there are new levels of realizations that he achieves. There are activities for the mentally insane to keep them busy. There is arts and crafts, and music. It feels kinder gardenish to sit and draw. But, through those activity classes, Gilchrist realizes how he is amazing at drawing. During music class, everyone grabs an instrument to play and he becomes a vocalist because no instruments were left for him to play. So he sings under pressure. As he sings, the movie gets into his head. He is dressed up as rock star singing, with the rest of the cast is his band. We have all had that feeling at some point in our life; the desire to dress like a social outcast (rockstar) and to be loved for it, to sing from your heart, and dance like no one is watching. I watched the movie and related to each and every character of that movie.  It made me think of the fine balance between sanity and insanity and how any moment the equilibrium of that can slip. It is possible to completely lose sight of all that you have in life, and become too afraid to even get out of bed.

Life doesn’t always give everything to you in a hand basket. You have to work for it. You are given the chance to wake up every morning and have a choice to live, and live you must. The movie touched my heart and made me realize that life is too short to miss out on the smell of the roses, that it is too short to miss out on happiness:).

Release your inner rockstar!! Happy Saturday everyone!!!

What the Oscars mean for Pakistan and Iran

When the name of Asghar Farhadi was called out as the winner of the prestigious award in the category for Best foreign film, for his film ‘A separation’, I texted my best friend who happens to be Iranian congratulating her, while doing a little dance of happiness for a fellow Muslim country’s achievement. Many of my Muslim friends on facebook immediately updated their statuses, even if they were not Iranians. When Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s name was called from Pakistan, in the category best short documentary for her film “Saving Face”, my entire facebook feed was flooded with Pakistanis across the globe cheering with joy. I can only imagine how many other Iranians or Pakistanis across the globe relished in this victory. I know my heart was definitely jumping with joy on both counts. To many, the Oscar represents an elite award. Much anticipated as a night to see many of your favourite stars, dressed in the fanciest of garbs. The Oscar represents the highest level of excellence achieved by professionals in the film industry, including directors, actors, and writers. Year after year, we see big names getting nominated and winning for their performances. But the categories for foreign film, documentary, debut films, and short films come as an opening door for many aspiring artists. For some it may just be the recognition for their talent, but for a few the Oscars transcends beyond a personal gain and is a matter of national pride. For nations like Iran and Pakistan, this opportunity has meant a new beginning, a reason to hold up your head high amidst very bleak political turmoil.

Pakistan and Iran have shared a long history of friendship, but also similar fates in their share of media negative limelight in the recent past. Ironically enough both countries also shared a moment of great pride at Oscar night. Pakistan is dealing with issues on so many fronts, from national issues of security, home-grown terrorism, energy crisis, international scrutiny for her role with Al-Qaeda, to the very suspicious discovery of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan’s very backyard. Needless to say Pakistan does not have the honour of the best reputation on the global front. Sharmeen Obaid-Chiony’s win last night comes as not just a matter of National pride, but also as a much needed relief for Pakistanis who are having difficulty having pride in their identity as a Pakistani.

The film documents the journey of a British Plastic surgeon who tries to repair the horrific damage done to women’s faces with Acid by their vindictive or jealous husbands. Although, the subject matter of the documentary brings to the forefront a deep dark and harrowing part of the fabric of Pakistani society, showcasing the ugly face of patriarchy damaging the lives of many Pakistani women, Ms. Obaid-Chinoy’s film also focuses on the courageous lawyers and legislators who introduced a strict law last year that mandates a sentence of life in prison for those convicted in acid attacks. In this way, the Oscar is a symbolic win for all those working to eliminate this heinous act.

The Oscar means this and much more for the people of Pakistan. As Obaid-Chinoy hopes her Oscar would inspire other Pakistani filmmakers. “This shows that someone from their ranks can do it,” she said. The story of the document itself symbolizes the perseverant nature of Pakistanis and the very history of Pakistan and provides hopes to desperate Pakistanis all around the world that we will survive even with the odds piling up against us.

Similarly, when Iran’s Farhadi came up to receive the Oscar, every Iranian probably screamed with joy because finally Iran’s name was in the media for something other than the sanctions or its nuclear program. Farhadi capitalized his opportunity in the speech and said what probably every Iranian wanted him to say: “At this time, many Iranians all over the world are watching us and I imagine them to be very happy. At the time when talk of war, intimidation, and aggression is exchanged between politicians, the name of their country, Iran, is spoken here through her glorious culture, a rich and ancient culture that has been hidden under the heavy dust of politics.” This provides the much needed breath of fresh air for the people of Iran and sends a message to the global community that Iran too has a lot to offer to the world and is a multi-faceted country.

Farhadi’s win couldn’t have come at a better time, as Iranian cinema faces a brutal cracking down by its government on its film industry. The House of Cinema, an independent guild that supports filmmakers, was shut down in early January. The government shut down the House of Cinema, claiming the guild didn’t have the proper paperwork to operate but the reality is that some conservative media outlets had bashed the guild and claimed it was a front for foreign plots. Farhadi’s win hopefully thwarts these unnecessary attempts to silence the brilliant voices of Iran and sends a message of hope to those aspiring film makers to continue doing their work and to not lose hope.

Both Farhadi’s and Obaid-Chinoy’s win brings hope to the many talented and aspiring film-makers, artists, activists, writers and many others to dream the big dream, and to not let the tainted image of Pakistan or Iran around the globe be a deterrent to achieving their dreams. Their win sends the message that by doing the work that you love, you too could rise to the top echelons; and can contribute towards dispelling the negative stereotypes of Pakistanis and Iranians around the globe. All Iranians and Pakistanis should be proud of their heritage and continue to celebrate the works of such great talent and to not lose hope against adversity, because good work seldom goes unnoticed. Here is a hearty congratulation to both these film-makers and the People of the Republic of Iran and Pakistan and a hope that both these countries will rise against such negativity and prosper as great nations.