Arevolutionary at heart, Sara Kazmi is humble and soft spoken, a versatile artist with a good command on the arts of acting and singing.
She was born to very friendly parents; a mother who is into arts and literature and a father who is an architect.
“I had a rich childhood and always had a good relationship with my parents who remained instrumental in all my creative ventures”, she acknowledges.
Meeting the seasoned theatre activist, Huma Safdar, in high school was a watershed moment in her life. She performed a number of plays directed by Huma Safdar at school and various theatre festivals.
“I was not in contact with Huma Safdar after I left school. During second year studies at LUMS she called me and other team members to act in Najm Hosain Syed’s Punjabi play ‘Jhok Kassunbay the’. That’s how I became part of the theatre activists’ group. This play was widely appreciated on both sides of (Indian and Pakistani) Punjab and became the hallmark of our group’,” she narrates.
Acting as a volunteer in street theatre groups for almost a decade, she affirms her affiliation with Marxist ideology and commitment to class struggle.
Writing in English from a tender age, she stopped after being hooked on classic and contemporary Punjabi literature.
“After going through Punjabi literature, I stopped writing for many years, because I started feeling uncomfortable using English as a medium of creative expression. On the other hand, I felt incapable of expressing myself in Punjabi.”
“Street theatre is a very important experience. Once we were performing in a railway workers colony - we were all female characters on stage. A part of the audience standing on an overhead bridge, started catcalling and making obscene comments. Our male team members sitting in the audience responded in the same way to counter them. That was debated and strongly criticised in the post-performance group meeting.
“We learned not to romanticise the places where we are performing, and be realistic, ready to face any kind of situation. Mostly, the audiences are not politically initiated, so they have various motives and various responses, I am conscious of that.
“Confronting various obstacles like lousy audience, performing with poor microphones or without any at all, singing with loudspeakers, dissolves the attitude and vanity of our art. Performing in front of audience who are sitting next to us, helped to dissolve our self-consciousness,” she says.
Inspired by the women’s movement in Pakistan during 80’s who struggled against “men , money, mullahs and the military”. “I am very happy with the present resurgence of feminism in Pakistan,” she says.
“I love these daring girls of the ‘Feminist Collective’, meeting in public places, and traveling to the areas where workers are struggling for their basic rights”, she says.
Ms Kazmi is also an academic researcher with a focus on Punjabi political and literary movements. She is currently working on the politics of Punjabi language, from initiatives taken by the Mazdoor Kissan Party to the present scenario.
“I switched my academic studies from literature to history to support pro-people activism”, she said.
She is grateful to Zehra Pervaiz, who put in a lot of passionate effort to teach her the fundamentals of classical music. With very little formal training, Sara Kazmi has a strong, impressive voice, a shining voice, with a complete range of all three octaves. As a highly versatile singer, she sings a lot of genres, including alaap, dhrupad, kheyal, taraana and folk.
Folk music remains her abiding passion but she has the potential to excel in any genre of music and make her mark on the local music scene.
Published in Dawn, May 10th, 2016