Series featuring top Pakistani actors premieres at Series Mania Festival 2023

(L-R) Writer and director Asim Abbasi, Sanam Saeed, producer Shailja Kejriwal, actor Franco Giusti and production designer Aarij Hashimi of Barzakh attend the opening ceremony of Series Mania Festival 2023 on March 17, 2023. (Photo courtesy: Instagram/Zindagi)
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Updated 19 March 2023

Series featuring top Pakistani actors premieres at Series Mania Festival 2023

  • “Barzakh” (meaning barrier) has been helmed by producers from India and Pakistan
  • Top Pakistani actors Fawad Khan and Sanam Saeed star in the series’ leading roles

KARACHI: A series by producers from India and Pakistan that also feature top Pakistani actors Fawad Khan and Sanam Saeed, had its world premiere on Saturday at the prestigious Series Mania Festival 2023 in France.

Series Mania is a festival that spotlights international TV series since 2010. Titled “Barzakh” the series has been produced by Pakistani producer Waqas Hassan and his Indian counterpart, Shailja Kejriwal, for Zindagi, a subcontinent focused programming block on OTT platform ZEE5.

It has been written and directed by Asim Abbasi, a critically acclaimed director who also directed Zindagi’s first Pakistani original “Churails” and the feature film “Cake.”



A post shared by Asim Abbasi (@a_abbasi)

The first two episodes of the series premiered under the International Panorama section at the Series Mania Festival 2023 on Saturday evening, with Saeed, Abbasi and Kejriwal in attendance. Barzakh’s screening took place at the UGC Cine-City in Lille, France, followed by a question-and-answer session.

The series was the only work of art from South Asia selected for screening at the prestigious festival this year. Barzakh is competing among 12 titles for the best series, director, actress, actor, student jury and audience awards.

“[Barzakh is] a project that brings together India and Pakistan, shot in Karachi and the sublime landscapes of the Hunza Valley,” reads the information on Series Mania Festival’s official website.

“Combining realism and fantasy, Barzakh gives us a family story that looks like a fairy tale, in which spirits rub shoulders with the living, and the reunion of a family is marked by the crazy decision of a patriarch who has never been able to recover from the loss of his first love.”

Series Mania opened on March 17 and will run through till March 23. Barzakh will be screened again on March 20 at Le Majestic, Cine-City, Lille in France.

“World premiere of the first two episodes of our series #barzakh a @zindagiofficial original,” Saeed wrote on Instagram. “It was such a privilege and honor to be representing South Asia here at the incredible @seriesmania festival. A melting pot of talent, creativity and inclusion,” she added.

Khan, who according to media reports is playing the role of a single father in the series, shared the official poster of Barzakh prior to its screening at the international festival.



A post shared by Fawad A Khan (@fawadkhan81)

Saeed and Khan both starred in leading roles in the 2012 Pakistani drama series “Zindagi Gulzar Hai” which became a critical and commercial success in Pakistan. The series was also one of several drama serials that gained popularity and enthralled viewers in neighboring India as well.

‘Magical, light-hearted’: Three Pakistani TV dramas to watch out for this Ramadan

Updated 21 March 2023

‘Magical, light-hearted’: Three Pakistani TV dramas to watch out for this Ramadan

  • Ramadan shows have a huge audience, all eyes are set on them, says Pakistani actor Hamza Sohail
  • One of the shows, ‘Chand Tara’, features real-life celebrity couple Ayeza Khan, Danish Taimoor in leading roles

KARACHI: With only a couple of days left till the holy month of Ramadan kicks off, Pakistani writers and actors said on Monday that viewers will be enthralled by “light-hearted” TV dramas that are produced specially for the holy month.

Muslims in Pakistan and around the world fast during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, from dawn to sunset, abstaining from food and drink. Over the past couple of years, Pakistan’s showbiz industry has provided millions of viewers across the country with entertainment in the form of avidly watched television game shows and Ramadan-themed TV shows.

This year is no different, as at least three projects, particularly produced for the holy month, are going to be aired on TV to give the audience a break from the regular TV dramas that revolve around tragic topics such as family disputes, extra-marital affairs, divorce, and others.

Arab News spoke to a few writers and actors to find out more about these dramas.

‘Chand Tara’


A post shared by Ayeza Khan (@ayezakhan.ak)

Starring real-life celebrity couple Ayeza Khan and Danish Taimoor, Chand Tara is written by Saima Akram Chaudhry, a seasoned writer who has written critically acclaimed Ramadan TV dramas such as Suno Chanda, Suno Chanda 2, Hum Tum, and Ishq Jalebi.

“My Ramadan plays are family-oriented, feature family members of all age groups, and encourage a joint family system,” Chaudhry told Arab News.

Chaudhry said she watched dramas on Pakistan Television (PTV) with her family, hence she ensures her dramas can be enjoyed by families and are filled with messages at the same time.

“The joint family system has its pros and cons. The system isn’t bad but we need to give space to people,” she said. “This is the central theme of Chand Tara in addition to small messages in every episode.”

Light-hearted plays aired during Ramadan get more traction compared to the rest of the year, Chaudhry said, adding that viewers follow them regularly as they air each day.

“It’s easier to convey messages in a light-hearted way,” she explained.

Chaudhry revealed that she has tweaked a few things in the narrative of Chand Tara after she was criticized for her past projects. The male and female lead in the play are not related to each other, Chaudhry said, and their love story doesn’t start with fights.

Directed by Danish Nawaz and produced by Momina Duraid, Chand Tara also stars Rehan Sheikh and Saba Faisal in prominent roles.

‘Fairy Tale’

One of the much-anticipated comedy plays to be aired this Ramazan is Fairy Tale, written by Saira Majeed and directed by Ali Hassan.

“It’s a beautifully written story on how destiny plays its cards not just in love, but in every aspect of your life. The idea here is to take viewers on a magical, dreamy, light-hearted, and entertaining ride. Hence, a ‘fairy tale’,” actor Hamza Sohail, who stars as entrepreneur Farjaad Khan in the play, told Arab News on Monday.

“There’s no denying the fact that Ramadan shows have a huge audience and all eyes are set on them.”

Sohail, who plays the role of the male lead in Fairy Tale, told Arab News he is “excited” to showcase his work, hoping to deliver good family entertainment to viewers.

Sohail stars opposite actress Sehar Khan, while the drama has an ensemble cast that includes actors Ali Safina, Saleem Sheikh, Adnan Raza Mir, and Salma Hasan.

‘Rukh Ma Roshan’


A post shared by Muneeb Butt (@muneeb_butt)

Adding to the list of Ramadan-special plays is also Rukh Ma Roshan, a story that revolves around a couple and stars Pakistani actors Muneeb Butt and Komal Meer.

“The play is about a couple who keep fighting with each other. They have funny chemistry with each other. It’s romantic, sweet, and innocent,” Butt told Arab News on Tuesday.

“It’s a situational comedy that will run during Ramadan. Its content is enjoyable for viewers since it is not the typical saas-bahu (daughter-in-law, mother-in-law) misery. It has very light content that people usually like to watch during Ramadan. Audiences will really like the fresh feel it [offers].”

The plot of Rukh Ma Roshan incorporates some issues that the two lead characters resolve together, which brings them closer to each other.

In addition to Butt and Meer, the play also features veteran actresses Shamim Hilaly and Zainab Qayyum in key roles.

Will Smith jets to Saudi Arabia to attend AlUla Camel Cup

Updated 19 March 2023

Will Smith jets to Saudi Arabia to attend AlUla Camel Cup

  • Smith was snapped with Beatz who attended race to watch competitors from his Saudi Bronx team
  • Will Smith and Beatz were seen sipping the Arabic coffee, which is an essential in the Saudi culture

DUBAI: Hollywood actor Will Smith was spotted in Saudi Arabia this week attending the inaugural AlUla Camel Cup. 

The star was spotted watching the race with Grammy-winning record producer Swizz Beatz, the first American to own a camel racing team in the Kingdom. 


A post shared by Swizz Beatz (@therealswizzz)

Smith was snapped with Beatz who attended the race to watch competitors from his Saudi Bronx team in action at the venue.

In the series of pictures posted on Saudi Bronx’s Instagram, Smith and Beatz were seen sipping Arabic coffee, which is an essential in Saudi culture.

“Today at the first annual Alula Camel Cup, I had some surprise guest that came to support my team,” Beatz captioned his posts with Smith on Instagram. 

Aiming to bridge divides, Karachi art exhibition brings together 100 painters from across Pakistan

Updated 19 March 2023

Aiming to bridge divides, Karachi art exhibition brings together 100 painters from across Pakistan

  • The exhibition is taking place at the Ahmed Parvez art gallery at the Arts Council of Pakistan 
  • It features artworks of a diverse lineup, including Anwar Maqsood, Ijazul Hassan, Zulfiqar Zulfi 

KARACHI: As the National Art Exhibition 2023 kicked off at the Arts Council of Pakistan (ACP) in Karachi this week, its organizer shared the exhibition aimed to bridge the ethnic, political, and sectarian divides by bringing together painters from all over Pakistan. 

The three-day exhibition is being held at the Ahmed Parvez art gallery and is a collaboration between the ACP and the National Artists Association of Pakistan. 

The exhibition features artworks of a diverse lineup, including Anwar Maqsood, Ijazul Hassan, Zulfiqar Zulfi, Farrukh Shahab, AS Rand, Moin Farooqui, Shahid Rasam and Abbas Kamangar. 

“Despite cultural diversity, there is a lot of ethnic, political, and sectarian divide across Pakistan,” ACP President Mohammad Ahmed Shah told Arab News on Saturday. 

“To bridge that, we are holding National Arts Exhibition that features works of prominent painters from all four provinces.” 

Paintings made by artists from all four provinces of Pakistan on display during the National Art Exhibition 2023 at the Ahmed Parvez Art Gallery at Arts Council of Pakistan Karachi, on March 17, 2023. (Photo courtesy: ACP)

While Punjab was the hub, Shah informed, the ACP received artworks from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Balochistan and Sindh. 

“The purpose is to create national integrity through culture and art,” he said. “All these colors [in the paintings] are depicting their respective cultures.” 

The exhibition first took place in Lahore over a month ago after which it is being organized in the southern port city of Karachi, according to the organizer. 

Those who weren’t part of the Lahore exhibition are also showcasing their work at the Karachi show. 

“Artists can make an effort to work toward reducing the ethnic divide,” Quddus Mirza, an art critic, told Arab News. “Any creative act brings people together irrespective of their differences.” 

Veteran artist Ajab Khan said art had never had boundaries. 

“The field of art is associated with love,” he told Arab News. “An artist is only able to produce colors on the canvas with love.” 

Shah said the gallery is often visited by art collectors. 

“The art exhibition is a welcome change,” Sindh Governor Kamran Tessori said as he inaugurated the exhibition on Friday. “Social evils were born in the country when poets, intellectuals and painters had been silenced in the past.” 

Lance Reddick, ‘The Wire’ and ‘John Wick’ star, dies at 60

Updated 18 March 2023

Lance Reddick, ‘The Wire’ and ‘John Wick’ star, dies at 60

  • Reddick died “suddenly” Friday morning

NEW YORK: Lance Reddick, a character actor who specialized in intense, icy and possibly sinister authority figures on TV and film, including “The Wire,” “Fringe” and the “John Wick” franchise, has died. He was 60.
Reddick died “suddenly” Friday morning, his publicist Mia Hansen said in a statement, attributing his death to natural causes.
Wendell Pierce, Reddick’s co-star on “The Wire” paid tribute on Twitter. “A man of great strength and grace,” he wrote. “As talented a musician as he was an actor. The epitome of class.” “John Wick — Chapter Four” director Chad Stahelski and star Keanu Reeves said they dedicating the upcoming film to Reddick and were “deeply saddened and heartbroken at the loss.”
Reddick was often put in a suit or a crisp uniform during his career, playing tall, taciturn and elegant men of distinction. He was best known for his role as strait-laced Lt. Cedric Daniels on the hit HBO series “The Wire,” where his character was agonizingly trapped in the messy politics of the Baltimore police department.
“The Wire” creator David Simon praised Reddick on Twitter: “Consummate professional, devoted collaborator, lovely and gentle man, loyal friend. Could go on, but no, I can’t go on. This is gutting. And way, way, way too soon.”
“I’m an artist at heart. I feel that I’m very good at what I do. When I went to drama school, I knew I was at least as talented as other students, but because I was a Black man and I wasn’t pretty, I knew I would have to work my butt off to be the best that I would be, and to be noticed,” Reddick told the Los Angeles Times in 2009.
Reddick also starred on the Fox series “Fringe” as a special agent Phillip Broyles, the smartly-dressed Matthew Abaddon on “Lost” and played the multi-skilled Continental Hotel concierge Charon in Lionsgate’s “John Wick” movies, including the fourth in the series that releases later this month.
“The world of Wick would not be what it is without Lance Reddick and the unparalleled depth he brought to Charon’s humanity and unflappable charisma. Lance leaves behind an indelible legacy and hugely impressive body of work, but we will remember him as our lovely, joyful friend and Concierge,” Lionsgate said in a statement.
Reddick earned a SAG Award nomination in 2021 as part of the ensemble for Regina King’s film “One Night in Miami.” He played recurring roles on “Intelligence” and “American Horror Story” and was on the show “Bosch” for its seven-year run.
His upcoming projects include 20th Century’s remake of “White Men Can’t Jump” and “Shirley,” Netflix’s biopic of former Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm. He was also slated to appear in the “John Wick” spinoff “Ballerina,” as well as “The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial.”
The Baltimore-born-and-raised Reddick was a Yale University drama school graduate who enjoyed some success after school by landing guest or recurring roles “CSI: Miami” and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” He also appeared in several movies, including “I Dreamed of Africa,” “The Siege” and “Great Expectations.”
It was on season four of “Oz,” playing a doomed undercover officer sent to prison who becomes an addict, that Reddick had a career breakthrough.
“I was never interested in television. I always saw it as a means to an end. Like so many actors, I was only interested in doing theater and film. But ‘Oz’ changed television. It was the beginning of HBO’s reign on quality, edgy, artistic stuff. Stuff that harkens back to great cinema of the ‘60s and ‘70s,” he told The Associated Press in 2011.
“When the opportunity for ‘Oz’ came up, I jumped. And when I read the pilot for ‘The Wire,’ as a guy that never wanted to be on television, I realized I had to be on this show.”
Reddick attended the prestigious Eastman School of Music, where he studied classical composition, and he played piano. His first album, the jazzy “Contemplations and Remembrances,” came out in 2011.
He had a recurring role as Jeffrey Tetazoo, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, on the CBS series “Intelligence.” On “American Horror Story: Coven,” he portrayed Papa Legba, the go-between between humanity and the spirit world.
Reddick is survived by his wife, Stephanie Reddick, and children, Yvonne Nicole Reddick and Christopher Reddick.
His death was first reported by celebrity website

Saudi animation series ‘Masameer County’ returns with a new tale to tell

Updated 16 March 2023

Saudi animation series ‘Masameer County’ returns with a new tale to tell

  • The new six-episode season of ‘Masameer County’ follows the adventures of the county’s mischievous citizens while shedding light on the evolving social and cultural scene in the Kingdom in a light-hearted manner

JEDDAH: Netflix has released season two of the hit Saudi animation miniseries “Masameer County” following the success of its debut season in 2021. 

The show is ranking No.3 in the Kingdom following its release early in March.

The six-episode season, created by Abdulaziz Almuzaini and Malik Nejer, follows the adventures of the mischievous citizens of Masameer County, while shedding light on the evolving social and cultural scene in the Kingdom in a light-hearted manner. 

Almuzaini, founder and CEO of Saudi animation studio Myrkott, told Arab News that “we are no longer discussing any issues here; we are making stories.”

He said: “Netflix allowed us to broaden our content. The platform has given us more freedom. The script was bold and people loved it, and we made sure we reflect the same in the second season.”

The new season follows the escapades of Saad, Saltooh and Trad the dog, which include a daring 24-hour mission, an unexpected ride in an elevator, and a rocket launch.

Nejer directed the second season and also lent his voice to the characters in the show.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Nejer revealed that he has been developing his voice since childhood, and enjoys performing a range of characters. 

The voice artist believes that necessity is the mother of invention. Initially, 140 episodes of the series were streamed on YouTube after 2011 to highlight the Kingdom’s culture. 

“(When) the series was only displayed on YouTube, at first there was not enough budget to hire a voice actor and that led me to perform almost all the voices. Using my talent, it worked out. I loved it and I continued afterward, even after we became a Netflix series,” said Nejer, who has performed for many other TV shows and cartoon series.

“I continued doing that for the next 10 years because I loved it and felt that am good at it; and, most importantly, it helps us to save the budget.”

Speaking of his experience as a director, he said: “Masameer cannot be compared to any other Arabic or foreign content; it is different.” 

The second season of the series is available on Netflix in 190 countries, with audio translation into Arabic, English, Portuguese and Spanish, and subtitles in over 30 languages.

In 2020, the platform streamed “Masameer: The Movie,” co-created by Faisal Al-Amer and Nejer, in more than 190 countries and 30 languages. 

“We, as Saudis, tell a story, our story, and as filmmakers or creators don’t need to sugar-coat or create a flowery image of our society,” Al-Amer told Arab News in a previous interview.

“This is us; we don’t create movies for the approval of the West, we make them express ourselves.”

Season one of “Masameer County,” released in 2021, saw the Masameer team engaging in a long-standing tribal feud, media war and a health craze gone too far. 

Almuzaini said that the opening season gained more views than the movie and was No.1 on Netflix’s top 10 content in the region for one month, beating international works including “Stranger Things” and “Lupin.”

The series is part of Netflix’s five-year exclusive partnership with Saudi animation studio Myrkott, signed in 2020, to bring viewers Saudi-focused shows and films.