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I like taking on characters that empower women: Sanam Saeed

Updated November 14, 2014

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Sanam Saeed. - Courtesy photo
Sanam Saeed. - Courtesy photo

Is there anything Sanam Saeed can't do? Having done an array of roles in her short but rewarding five year career, she presented jealousy in Daam and Kadoorat; independence and confidence in Zindagi Gulzaar Hai and Shukk and resilience in Talkhiyan, all of which have been praised by critics.

How does she choose her roles?

"I like stories with a message or a moral. I like taking on characters that could be role models for young girls, or roles that empower women. I think it's very important," Sanam told Dawn in an email interview.

"Sometimes, however, I have to choose a role that is slightly different to the ones I naturally pick to add diversity to my work."

Zindagi Gulzar Hai catapulted the A-list celebrity to new heights of fame when it aired on the Indian television channel, Zee Zindagi. She admits that her character of Kashaf from Zindagi Gulzar Hai is the one closest to her heart and furthermore comments on the success of the show in India.

"It made me feel very proud for being a part of the Pakistani television industry, I feel this is a huge step for us. I am overwhelmed by the responses I get from across the border," said the 29-year-old actor.

 Sanam Saeed and Fawad Khan in a scene from
Sanam Saeed and Fawad Khan in a scene from 'Zindagi Gulzar Hai'.

Talking about working in Bollywood, the Firaaq leading lady conveys that she is open to the possibility: "I would [work in Bollywood], as I feel a Pakistani actor can bring something new to the table. They have all the talent in the world there [in India], I'd like to do something different with them. Or a project that works towards bridging the gap between the two countries."

The actor further said that she would love to work with Tabu, who she calls "versatile and everlasting" (much like herself, we feel!).

Also read: I may work in Bollywood films: Sanam Saeed

However, there are many Pakistani media personalities who promote extreme patriotism and feel our talent should stick to developing the entertainment industry in Pakistan.

The Zindagi Gulzar Hai starlet comments nonchalantly: "I think everyone should be free to make their own choices. Those who want to flee, those who want to stick to just Pakistani content can do just that and those who want to dapple in new territory should be allowed to. There is plenty of talent here [in Pakistan] that will help in the growth of our industry. What's the worry I say?"

Sanam's role in Firaaq is being lauded by the audience. With her deadpan voice and an expressionless face, she has portrayed the reserved Paiman masterfully.

When asked about her experience, the multi-talented artist admits: "Paiman was a tricky character to play. I had to work at making sure I didn't fall too flat, or become boring. It certainly was a challenging role. I'm used to being assertive, and speaking my mind in other plays, but Paiman does transition into that stage as the story progresses."

 Sanam Saeed as Paiman in
Sanam Saeed as Paiman in 'Firaaq'. - dramasonline.pk

From modelling to dominating the television drama spectrum and performing in theatre as well to appearing in Coke Studio as a back-up vocalist, Sanam is now set to appear in her first feature film Mah-e-Meer, starring Fahad Mustafa and Iman Ali among others. The film is slated to release soon.

Talking about her character in the film, Sanam shares: "I play a shaairah who gives in to commercialism unlike the rebellious anti-politics shaair played by Fahad Mustafa. I play a supporting role in adding to the conflict in the story."

Praising her co-stars, she adds: "It was a treat to work with Sarmad Sehbai. I wish actors had more teachers like him. Anjum Shezad is another person I would love to work with again."

Sanam's other favourite co-stars include: "Mehreen Jabbar, Sarwat Gilani, Adeel Hussain, Yasir Nawaz, Ayesha Khan, Mohib Mirza, Fawad Khan, Hina Bayat, Uzma Gillani to name a few! I've been lucky to work with a lot of great people. I have enjoyed my time with the cast, crew and directors on every project. They have all taught me so much."

So what does she enjoy most — television, film or theatre?

"I love being on stage, nothing compares to it. I was afraid of films, but I've had my taste of it and I think it's my second love," shares the Mera Naseeb star. "I enjoy the rehearsals and the pace at which a film is shot compared to television. I don't know how much I'll still like it after appearing on the big screen though, that is the true test I have not been through yet."

Having appeared in her fair share of musicals such as Grease, Chicago, and Mamma Mia!, Sanam feels that the state of theatre production in our country is in despair: "[There are] no sponsors and no funding. We need investors who are willing to save the theatre from becoming a dying art and would want it to thrive and grow and reach greater heights."

 Sanam in the musical
Sanam in the musical 'Grease'

We all know about the characters that she plays, but who is Sanam as a person?

Saying that she can relate to most of her characters, Sanam discloses: "I am an oxymoron, shy and confident at the same time. I stand by what I believe in, I'm not afraid to speak up for what I think is right. I am a slightly private person like majority of the characters I have played."

No wonder the former model is tight-lipped when we inquire about her recent engagement and ask her about her impending nuptials and who the lucky man is. Tactfully avoiding giving any details, the actor replies: "I'm the lucky girl and the wedding is early next year."

Will she continue to work after marriage?

"I can't imagine I would do anything else," says Sanam.

The actor has it all figured out in order to strike a balance between her professional and private life: "You prioritise, you don't be lazy. If you make the effort to keep the balance, anything is possible. Hard work, honesty and support make it all happen."

Sanam is not only a pretty face who has the acting chops to go with it; she is also a philanthropist. She actively participates in social causes and recently did a fundraiser for the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital.

Stressing on the importance of celebrities giving back, she says: "Everyone may not pay attention to the incredible work that some people are quietly doing, but they will pay attention to celebrities. We do have a social responsibility and it is important to be aware of that. We can spread awareness and social messages because of the fact that we are familiar faces to people, we are relatable to people through some of the characters we play.

In the long run, I hope that my work pays off in the bigger picture and that as a celebrity I am able to contribute to society through these wonderful organisations."