Ather-Shehzad is professionally a single entity shared by two men who have become the media and fashion industry’s most favoured – and most controversial – names. They are favoured by celebrities and models for their volte-face photographic and, more recently, make up techniques to transform the fair-to-middling into unforgettable faces. And controversial, for beating their rivals on a common turf. Ather and Shehzad could not have been better rewarded for gliding smoothly out of the ‘others’ shadows than winning the Lux Style Awards two years in a row.
The most sought after award of the media and fashion industry, Ather and Shehzad won it last year for best photography, reconfirming their lead over the ‘others’ by winning it again this year for best make up artist and photographer. There was much air-smooching authenticated by such endearments as ‘congratulations jan!’ and ‘I’m thrilled jani.’ But beneath all that professional rectitude lay jealousy, envy and the urge to rip them apart. They would do anything. And for starters, the ‘others’ thought of driving a wedge between the two friends who had spent much of their childhood together, gone to the same college and stumbled collectively to reach the stage set for the awards.
”Ather was nowhere on the scene. It was Shehzad who came to Karachi to receive the award. Doesn’t that mean anything?” Whispered an apparently docile cat filing her claws at a local beauty salon. ”Ather is the creative one in the team but Shehzad hogs all the attention. I know that because I’ve worked with the two. Ather-Shehzad is actually about Shehzad, Ather is just a shadow,” said an actress, adept at playing mutually on the ‘others’ track and Ather-Shehzad’s.
There does seem to be some truth in what is being viciously circulated. It is always Shehzad behind the lens and in front as well. Whenever anything needs to be publicised, Shehzad is there to take the lead. Shehzad socializes and coaxes temperamental models, along with big and small screen stars. Shehzad does the talking. And Ather?
”Ather and Shehzad are one and the same. People are talking rubbish when they say that I dominate Ather and deliberately keep him away from the limelight. I wanted Ather to be there with me in Karachi to get the award. But he didn’t come. He’s too shy. Let me set the record straight here. Ather and Shehzad is not about me, it’s about us. It’s disgusting how people would go to any level to deny somebody’s success,” fumed a usually calm Shehzad. ”Success was not possible without Ather. Besides being shy, Ather had come down with the flu and could not present his defence in person.”
Anybody who knows Ather and Shehzad cannot fail to remember how the two friends worked after completing their studies at the Government College in Lahore. In their early 20s, these two young men would go from one newspaper office to another, picking up assignments and handing in deadlines. Shehzad would do all the talking; Ather would simply look content in letting him handle everything. There was no clash for visibility.
”People think that we’ve changed and become too arrogant. The fact is that we have more work than you can imagine and just don’t have the time to do things we used to do,” explained Shehzad.
It has been nearly 10 years now that the duo from Sheikhupura took up professional photography. Self-taught and inexperienced, their work instantly appealed to the fashion industry struggling for recognition. Their first photo shoot in 1993 of Zeba Bakhtiar, the face of the early ’90s, in sepia made many actresses run over each other to be captured by Ather-Shehzad’s camera. Zeba’s photo shoot had formally established them as professional photographers.
They shot every known face of the country. Soon, covers of fashion magazines and newspapers’ centrespread were putting Ather-Shehzad in their credits for photography. Fashion designers approached them to suggest models for catwalk shows and fashion photography. Ather and Shehzad launched many faces. It only required a modest, telephonic request by Ather and Shehzad (mostly Shehzad) to make Lollywood actors, used to hot pursuits by directors and producers, to do a photo shoot for a magazine or newspaper.
”We’ve been in showbiz for 10 years now. But I still feel the need to do more. Whenever I see the work of photographers like Kevyn Aucoin, Herb Ritts and Richard Avedon, I get motivated to add something new to my work,” said Shehzad.
And that ‘something different’ was the launch of Ather and Shehzad Hair and Make up Studio one and a half years ago.
”I really didn’t want to get into make up,” admitted Shehzad, ”but everybody thought I should.” The only time Ather-Shehzad is not taken as a single entity is when Shehzad Reza is acknowledged for make up.
”Our friends say that we’ve reached the prime of our careers too fast, with the Lux Award being the highest honour in the country. But I say there’s a lot to be done. It’s my dream to make a movie and go for the big screen.”
It is good to know what you want and equally important
to know how to get it. Ather and Shehzad know enough not to waste a moment pondering on what the ‘others’ are saying.