Interview by Uzma Mazhar
Having known Sania Saeed since our childhood days and with a mutual background in theatre (I worked as an actor in Katha, a theatre group established by her father and later run by Sania and Shahid Shafaat together), the interview seemed like a long time coming.
Sania was busy watering plants when I reached her house in Gulistan-i-Johar. Her Siamese cat, Makkhan, was more than welcoming, giving us company while she wound up her chores. Once done, Sania sat with us for the interview answering some pricking and other run-of-the-mill queries relating to her career, increasing commercialism, theatre, drama production and her first television commercial â€” all of which she replied to without mincing her words.
Q. You have always been a thinking manâ€™s actress. Comment.
A. Well, thank you! Itâ€™s a very hard-earned reputation and I enjoy and respect it. Although I see it just as a term I have come across while reading stuff about myself. But if that is so I think that is how it should be, shouldnâ€™t it? I mean actors should make one think and if people feel that way about me, Iâ€™m flattered.
Q. Having said that and while you are known for meaningful characters, of late it seems that your caliber is being compromised.
A. Do you really think so? Secondly, what is meaningful is also questionable as only talking about a certain aspect of struggle in a womanâ€™s life and in a certain way is not the only thing that is meaningful.
As an actor there arenâ€™t many roles being written and I can only choose from what is being offered to meâ€¦ I canâ€™t create them myself. Let me ask you: do you have any role in mind that was done by someone else that should have been done by me? The word compromise could be coined for my work in Jhumka Jaan where we were short on time, the script kept changing while we were shooting which made me demand a bound script or else. But with the kind of limitations that we work inâ€¦ no this is not an excuse for bad work but I still gave my hundred-and-one per cent to that project.
Q. So is Sania the actress stuck in a rut today?
A. I stick by the rule of one play at a time but there are many actresses whose dramas run on different channels at the same time. Is it my fault that when Jhumka Jaan was on air another channel chose to repeat 2004â€™s Thori Si Mohabaat around the same time? Or when Ghost was on air, Shayad Kay Bahar Aaye and Aur Zindagi Badalti Hai was repeated by the same channel which I did way back in 1999? Of late I havenâ€™t done any serials so nothing will be going on air till next year.
And what is all this talk about â€œsuit nahi kiya?â€ If I did the kind of roles that people think suit me, they would still say that â€œyaar, she is not a versatile actress.â€ I have nothing to say to them.
Q. It is said that an actressâ€™s shelf life is very limited. How do you see this notion?
A. I donâ€™t agree with it. It all depends on what kind of an actor you are and what industry you are working in. Secondly, it also depends on the kind of actor you were when you were young along with the kind of evolution the industry is going through. People such as Meryl Streep and others in her age bracket also face such problems in an industry as big as Hollywood.
Yes, looks do matter but there are women in our industry who have aged so gracefully such as Uzma Gillani, Samina Peerzadaâ€¦ they have done and are still doing varied roles so whatâ€™s shelf life? It is not that women stop existing after 40. What we actually need to do is create female actors that can act beyond 40.
Q. Drama critics say that you aspire to be the Shabana Azmi of Pakistan with an inclination towards social work. Are you the rebel with a cause?
A. Iâ€™ve never aspired to be Shabana Azmi as an actress as I have always admired the late Smita Patel more. I donâ€™t take myself that seriously. I think everybody should do what they have an aptitude for. I am very lucky that I got the support and chances that I wanted and the way I wanted to do it. It is all about the issues you are sensitive about not about being a rebel with a cause.
Take a poet for example, he will not go out on the streets and shout about atrocities. Instead, he will write and put his protest in words. What an actor will do is that s/he will play certain characters. I have been very lucky in terms of television, though theatre was in accordance to what I initially and really wanted to do. I donâ€™t think anybody got the chance to play better and different characters than I have been able to do during my career.
Q. Any plans to return to your first love, theatre?
A. Putting up a performance is a difficult proposition. We have decided to do theatre but we will only be able to stage it in June this year. Though it would be a busy time for Shahid and me, as we will be concentrating on our television work, the venues are booked. It makes us extremely happy that there is so much theatre happening in town with Napa, Sheema Kirmaniâ€™s Tlism festival that concluded recently, Ajoka and with a dance festival to be held in April by Sheema that there are no dates available.
While it is a positive sign, doing theatre all over the world is not easy. It is a very expensive medium even with limited props and no sets, auditorium bookings, publicity and stage lights. We are a group of five-eight people who have to make sets, act, write the script and get costumes ready. For a few acting is a full-time job while others will be putting in a lot of extra efforts. It is not like I tell them letâ€™s do theatre and weâ€™ll manage to perform the very next day. Nevertheless, we are determined to finally put up a performance.
Q. Previously you had restricted yourself to voiceovers in commercials but now you also appear in a high-end cellular company ad. Why?
A. Two things: 35 mm and then Saqib Malik was after me for the past 10 years. I am very fond of him plus he is a creative person so I said yes. The reason why I havenâ€™t done commercials is I didnâ€™t want to portray a stereotypical image of woman in an ad. Even though the ad also carries such an image but I did it from the fun point of view. I wanted to know what technically in terms of acting would be different for 35 mm and I realised this was even worse because it was only 30 seconds and I couldnâ€™t prolong my expression. It was fun but quite a challenge.
I donâ€™t know if I would do another commercial but it was seemingly harmless because it wasnâ€™t that I was taking responsibility for any food item or a brand of fairness cream. It was after a long time that I got to work with Humayun Saeed also. The team was a nice bunch of young people who were excited to have me on board even though I argued about why we always portray women in the same light. But I liked the whole setup and they were open to my ideas and my bantering which was fun.
Q. You have lived a very private life and curbed rumours regarding your personal and professional life while staying in the limelight. How did you manage?
A. I keep to myself mostly and I also think that an actorâ€™s work is there for public consumption but not their private lives. It is like you donâ€™t share their pain when they are old or when they are in poor health. I take acting as my job and all this blown-out-of-proportion media jargon is mind-boggling. Actors are normal human beings and they have the same emotional problems that anybody else does. They have an edge because they are more sensitive which proves to be a negative trait at times. I donâ€™t want to lead my life for the four people who appreciate me or see me in a particular way.
Q. The grapevine has it that you were to an extent responsible for the Fuzon breakup and that you made the wrong decision by becoming their manager?
A. Itâ€™s the people who donâ€™t know meâ€¦ what can I say to them? They will believe whatever they want to. The people who know me, the people who have worked with me and those who matter to me can judge it themselves if I was capable of breaking up a band. I have nothing to say to counter wagging tongues.
Courtesy: Dawn Images April 05, 2009