By Zuhair Abbas Merchant & Haris Naeem Nini
Why would a colorful ensemble of people, dressed to the nines, show up on an early Friday morning to sing and dance? It wasn’t a competition nor were there any commercial gains for the producers. It was simply school spirit. Seven hundred students from IoBM, from every clique came together to serve one purpose: to represent their university in the craziest way possible. From alpha nerds to airheads, we had every character stereotype head-banging and sashaying to the same songs.
LipDubs are one-shot music videos that have been organized and recorded around the world in many universities and offices and made viral through popular social media websites. They celebrate diversity and portray color and vigor in what might seem an otherwise dull setting. Since there are no rehearsals held, spontaneity and self-direction are very much recommended. People take the day off, hunt through their wardrobes for the zaniest outfits, put on loud garish makeup and participate through lip-synching and dancing.
While IoBM holds the honors for organizing the first Pakistani university LipDub, it also braved the act by attaching a theme to it and creating a mash up of three songs. The theme of IoBM LipDub was, “Fighting Labels and Confronting Your Weaknesses”. Our purpose was augmented with a need to portray a softer side of Pakistan. In a broader sense of the term, we were rooting for the underdog. Pakistan has always been conspiracy’s favorite child and the people of Pakistan try extremely hard, to fight labels, on an individual, as well as an international front. The prologue of the video showcased one of the directors standing against a spotlight with his own personal labels cast across his face.
IoBM LipDub was the fruit of four weeks of labor. After pitching the idea to Talib Karim and Sabina Mohsin, the patrons of IoBM, and presenting it in front of faculty advisors and student society Presidents, who were thrilled to be on board, we got ourselves a desk in the student activity centre and started creating hype. The LipDub corner was decked with balloons, ribbons, videos of other university LipDubs and an enthusiastic crew of costume directors, choreographers and art directors who were giving advice to people and manning flash mob rehearsals. Social media was ablaze with a LipDub Concept Photoshoot on our official Facebook page which became viral and was lauded unanimously. Our photo-shoot showcased the artsy, glamorous, fun side to our university. We sent customized messages to everyone registered with us, informing them of meetings, flash-mob rehearsals, and coordination with costume directors and so on.
Several administrative hurdles later and having sealed the deal with the cameraman mere hours before the shoot, we reached the university at seven in the morning. We had requested the management to run transport facility for a few area networks so that more students could be easily accommodated. Two hours later the sound system was in place, the decorations were hung and we announced that the shooting of the flash mob would begin. Even though most students had already attended the rehearsals and were aware of the choreography, some had trouble keeping sync with their peers. Within half an hour, all participants were neatly arranged in a grid in the expansive convocation ground and were ready to face the camera. We had an overhead camera shooting from the rooftop and two cameramen within the crowd for dual perspective.
Organizing seven hundred people in that snaky passageway from the IT building to the Student Activity Centre exit was a tough feat to accomplish. While some participants weren’t ready, some were adamant on staying with their friends at the expense of disrupting the flow of the shoot and some could not act even if their house was on fire. Hours later, after returning with disastrous test run results and convincing participants to look happy, exaggerate musical movements and act for the camera, we took a conclusive shot and it has been seen by several people worldwide. The biggest drawback lay in the fact that the participants were too rigid in their comfort zones and found it difficult to ‘let themselves loose’.
A month after the shoot, having edited and sorted out the formalities, the video was prepared for a premiere in the university auditorium. The over-capacitated auditorium, brimming with eager-eyed students, sat to witness the biggest event in the history of their university. Every scene was welcomed with zealous whistles and catcalls. The response was genuinely overwhelming. Eventually, three weeks later, the video was hosted on YouTube and soon became the top most viewed video (events category) in Canada (where Haris lives). Today, at over 100,000 views the IoBM LipDub stands tall and proud for having accomplished what many talented individuals dream about and for having started a similar trend among other universities.