Meet Hashim Ali: The story-teller who has high hopes for art direction’s emerging future in Pakistan
Recently Team ProperGaanda reached out to Hashim Ali (@hashimali90), an art director and a stylist based in Lahore who likes to call himself a story-teller, “I grew up reading a lot of books, it was sort of a get-away from all the bullies I faced at my all-boys school. The first ever story that I read was ‘The Beauty and the Beast,’ and I still think that it is very theatrical.” The artist credits his degree in Visual Communication Design from National College of Arts, Lahore for his sense of visualising. Hashim further added that he mainly works in fashion, but every now and then he likes to take over fun projects that include music videos and films, “I won’t really categorize myself into one thing, as I believe that in today’s age, anyone can do literally anything.”
Why did you choose to be an art director?
Hashim wasn’t aware of art direction before, the artist reminisced about his boyhood and how he would always want to watch something that was visually stunning; mainly fantasy, “I was and I still am a huge Harry Potter fan, I have all the books in different versions. As an 11 year-old, I wondered how they created this entire thing, that’s where the fascination came from.” He also has a knack for puppeteering and has been collecting them since he was 7, “I would turn shoe boxes into sets for my puppet shows and make little finger puppets,” the artist believes that this is how his interest for developing small sets kept blooming. Hashim was 12 when his father was transferred to Italy, “My art teacher over there polished me into thinking that art really is ‘something,’ and made me believe that one should follow their dreams and passion. I love her.“ The artist would also create sets for his projects and plays in school and university, respectively.
The most fun projects that you’ve worked on:
When we asked Hashim to mention the most fun project he has worked on, he replied, “I think it will be unfair to say that there is just one.” The art director listed three of his favorites where he talked about a music video for Bayaan and how it included a revolving set, “It’s funny because back in NCA, I directed a play based on ‘Corpse Bride’ and it required a revolving set, but then something happened with the producers, the money fell off, and we staged it without the set. Mind you, this was 10 years later now and the music directors, Hamza Bin Tahir and Awais Gohar approached me and said that they wanted to do a revolving set,” Recalling the Bayaan project as ‘emotionally exhausting,’ Hashim shared how once again he was unable to pull a revolving set together because the motor wasn’t working, “Just a day before the shoot they told us that we can’t do this anymore, and the moment we decided that we were done, the set started turning, it was amazing.”
Hashim also shared how he designed a palace set for a women’s public wear, “They initially wanted to shoot in Russia but couldn’t due to the expenses, so we shot it in Pakistan. For this project, I recreated a palace just like I did for an English Literature project back in O’Levels,” the artist reminisced about how the set he made in school was about 2×2, “When the video was shot for this one and I saw that grand visual coming to life, it was so overwhelming.”
Besides all of the projects, Hashim specifically told us about a set he designed for Zeb Bangash, “She called me and discussed how she wanted to do three songs for a music video, inspired by afghan musicians. I was the director and the art director for it and this time we decided to document the entire process behind it.” Disclosing the details of the memorable project, Hashim went on about how he wanted to show a common element between the sub-continent countries, and created a Mughal-inspired courtyard. “There was a pomegranate tree in the middle of it and the two singers just sat opposite to each other, it looked just like one of those Mughal miniature paintings. All the three songs were shot at different times of the day, setting the mood for each of it.” Once the music video was released, the Kabul situation happened which led to Hashim and his team paying homage to Afghanistan, “In collaboration with The Colony, Lahore, I curated an exhibition, ‘Love Letters to Kabul,’ and placed the same tree used for the shooting in the gallery space, we added real leaves and grass beneath it, and invited people to write love letters for the torn city and put that on that tree.” Hashim also praised Amna Zuberi and Daniyal Hasan for documenting the entire process behind the music video and the exhibition in a book called, “Shadaab-e-Justuju.”
Hashim recently worked with Coke Studio’s upcoming Season 14, “I did six songs for them and each song was amazing to work on, I can’t speak much about it right now, but when you’ll see, you’ll know.”
Thoughts on art direction in Pakistan:
Hashim is pleased to see the youth’s keen interest in art direction, “When I got into this field, I noticed that it was a very thankless profession, people don’t respect us as they don’t realize how hard we work,” he further shared how the budget for art direction is always overlooked and other expenses are considered more important. “But whenever I come across work by new art directors, I get so excited, it’s something I look forward to,” Hashim expressed his relief as people are now willing to invest in art direction, “We are slowly leveling up, I am in touch with people from Mexico and India and they tell me how they discuss Pakistan-oriented work in their meetings, it feel so great when they appreciate my work and recognize me as a Pakistani.”
According to Hashim, his biggest achievement is whenever he sees people respecting art direction, “It feels so great when the public appreciates the craft behind the work or when people want you to work for them, it’s so endearing.” He also expressed his gratitude for being nominated as the first art director for a fashion award in Hum Style awards, “I was mentioned in the emerging category, as there are no nominations for art directors in films.” Hashim also shared his most recent milestone i.e Sadequain pride of performance award.
Any hurdles you face during your work?
Hashim thinks that lack of time-management often comes in his way, “It’s also trying to figure out how to ideate each campaign differently from the previous one. It’s becoming tough because our industry has grown so much and each brand has 25 collections a year, which is a lot.” The art director says that visualizing how to stand out from the crowd can be difficult at times. On a lighter note, Hashim mentioned how he and technology don’t go well together, “I need to overcome this, I am terrible when it comes to responding back.”