The good times keep on rolling
By Saniya Bhutta
LAHORE: The event-management business is flourishing.
Planning parties as a profession, managing events, started with the commercialisation of Basant. “Soon multinationals were involved and it all turned into a massive corporate-cultural event,” said man-about-town Mian Yusuf Salahuddin.
Mr Salahuddin, who has been hosting Basant at his ancestral Haveli Baroodkhana for at least three decades, entertaining everyone from Imran and Jemima and Mick Jagger to Javed Sheikh and Resham, recalls the 1960s when the bars were flowing and you could catch the cabaret at any number of clubs and hotels.
“It was completely different then,” said Mr Salahuddin. “Sure we had parties, but they were all daytime affairs.” He said Gen Zia-ul-Haq’s pious military regime did not succeed in snuffing spirits. “So there was prohibition. It didn’t stop us from partying, everything just went underground.” The Musharraf-era is righting wrongs.
Shaukat Aziz’s economic miracle has given us a people who are much happier and much wealthier. There are parties and GTs (that’s get-togethers for the uninitiated) galore—at farmhouses, rented-out restaurants and havelis. “The last two years the economy has been good,” said Omar Sattee of J&S Events. “Greater economic transaction with the rest of the world has broadened the general outlook towards life.”
Mr Sattee should know. The event management company he runs with Mr Salahuddin’s son Jalal is the last word in revelry. Their new year’s throwdown at the Baroodkhana was the hottest ticket in town—a single ticket cost Rs 6,000. But it’s not just the economy. It’s also greater exposure to the larger world out there.
“You can’t discount the invasion of foreign media,” said Mr Sattee. Watching people one’s own age having clean, wholesome fun does give one ideas. No party is complete without those Matrix jackets and J-Lo gogs. The Internet and its socio-cultural impact cannot be downplayed either. That chat programme, mIRC, allows students and young professionals (and pervs) to meet in virtual space away from the arched brow of society.
Some of today’s most successful event managers say their foray into the booming business of party planning was accidental. “Our friends totally loved the parties we threw and insisted we managed theirs for them,” said Mahlia Lone of Peerless PR. “Since then there’s been no turning back.” Ms Lone runs the company with her sister Laaleen Sukhera, who is also a filmmaker. The company only does small private parties.
Qasim Tiwana of QYT Events has a similar story. “(Fashion designer) Nilofer Shahid had long been a friend of the family and she asked me to arrange her daughter’s mehndi,” said Mr Tiwana. After that the offers kept on coming. He recently organised a charity event at the Royal Palm Golf and Country Club.
It all started out in the name of charity. Taking a leaf from liberal Karachi’s book, Lahore began to see a profusion of balls and galas organised to fundraise for charitable causes. At the same time, donors were able to have a great night out. More and more event management companies are now organising private parties and corporate gigs.
A private party can cost anywhere between Rs 0.6 million to Rs 1.5 million. More, if one is willing. As a rule of thumb, party planners take 15 percent commission. For a handful of great pictures and a night of abandon, it’s all worth it. “Having a good event manager guarantees a good time,” said fashion designer Kamiar Rokni.
Lahore has picked up and is giving the trendiest metropolises a run for their money. “Lahore has a completely crazy, vibrant party scene,” said Mr Rokni. The night begins with a couple of pre-parties, then the main party and, “if you’re respectable,” said Mr Rokni, at least one post-party. “They really go over the top here.”