Having begun her career as a model, Sanam Saeed is today one of Pakistan’s most recognized and celebrated actors. A film and theatre studies graduate, Sanam made her on-screen debut in 2010 with Daam and soon rose to international acclaim with her iconic portrayal of Kashaf Murtaza in Momina Duraid’s blockbuster Zindagi Gulzar Hai.
What thus far has been your favourite and your most challenging role both on and off screen and why?
SANAM SAEED: There are a couple of projects that are yet to be released and in the pipelines. I found all three roles challenging in their own way. One is Shehrazad in Barzakh, a web series directed by Asim Abbasi. It is a very understated character that has to hold back a lot of emotion and expressions. So without being too blank and deadpan, I had to still evoke a sense of strength, love and care from her. Then there is a character I play in the yet to be released film Ummro Ayyar. It was extremely strenuous, very VFX heavy. It was my first time performing stunts and doing action sequences, hanging from cables against a green screen. So I’m really looking forward to that too. And I’m about to embark on another journey which will challenge my accent mimicking skills. All three characters I’d consider roles I’ve dreamt of doing at some point in my life, and all three happen to be the most challenging so far.
What powers you to preserve against the odds and why?
SS: Knowing that nothing or no one else but me and my intentions have the power to come in my way. Once there is a deep understanding of who you are and what you want, the power to persist and move forward against all odds naturally drives you. Patience is another virtue I learned to value very early in my career. An overall sense of peace, calmness and kindness towards others makes dealing with all kinds of obstacles less stressful and intimidating.
What inspires you and why?
SS: People’s passion to create, to work towards a personal or collective dream inspires me. Working towards the betterment of society and humankind motivates me. Making some sort of an impact or bringing about change through our respective efforts and crafts drives me to partake in such endeavours.
International projects have opened up a whole new market for Pakistani talent – tell us about your experience of being part of many such productions. How in your view do such collaborations change the narrative vis-a-vis art and boundaries?
SS: Pakistani artists have been recognized and praised internationally in different fields over the decades. It was only a matter of time before that number increased from a handful of talented individuals to the collective industry of music, film and television. As an artist it’s an incredible experience to collaborate with international markets. It’s a proud feeling to see how taken aback people are by our talent and vision. It’s extremely important for a country’s image that the world is privy to their art and culture. That, then, opens up doors for further collaborations. This exposure and the exchange of ideas, knowledge and craft is essential to the growth and value of our creative industries.
Scripts today discuss and promote women empowerment and independence – how important for you personally, and audiences at large – has such narrative building in the public realm been?
SS: Women’s empowerment and independence is of utmost importance and most definitely needs to be highlighted in our dramas. Throughout history women have been valued for their ability to impart wisdom to their children, to give the right advice at the right time to their warrior husbands or husbands in a position of power who needed sound advice from their partner. Women have been respected for their ability to run the house, manage expenses and raise men and women of the future generations. Women are the all-encompassing super heroes, and it is essential that they are celebrated and portrayed as strong capable human beings.
Empowered, educated women can do wonders for society. And just like behind every great man is a great woman, the same can be said for the woman. A father and a husband have the biggest role in empowering the women of their house. You empower a woman with education, financial and emotional support. A family of six in times of constant inflation and instability cannot run on one person’s salary alone. It is almost impossible to have good quality food on the table, an education for all children and sufficient funds for healthcare. Women should be encouraged to be independent, face the outside world so they can safely work and manoeuvre their way through the real world in order to contribute to the household as well.
For an unmarried woman it is even more important that she doesn’t spend the rest of her life waiting for someone else to take care of her. She must be equipped to take care of herself. The narrative in some of our dramas has had a positive impact in this regard on society. When shown sensitively and smartly, such content can bring about positive changes by acting as good examples for people to learn through and be inspired by.
FEATURE: YUSRA ASKARI
DESIGNER: RASHMI KUMARI
JEWELLERY: SHEREZAD FINE JEWELLERY
PHOTOGRAPHY: NADIR FIROZ KHAN
STYLING: TABESH KHOJA
HAIR & MAKE-UP: NABILA’S SALON