Sania Saeed — The Reluctant Hero

Photo: Shahbaz Shazi

Sania Saeed is known for her reluctance to interview. I think convincing her to meet me is pretty coup. I believe one of the main reasons she agrees is that she’s about to go to work, and the meeting would have been overly delayed if she had spent time contemplating the pros and cons.

“I don’t like interviews because I have nothing to say,” she says unarmed. “And it’s all so boring.” Then add, “Why would people want to read about me?”

She says all of this without irony or false humility, despite the fact that she is considered a director’s darling in what Sania thinks, despite her many fans and strong cultural heritage. After all, from an early age she was acting in Aslam Azhar’s famous Dastak stage troupe, and her father, Mansoor Saeed, was a famous progressive writer and playwright.

And she sits across from me in a beautiful white saree and says: After the meeting, she will be photographed for this cover story, and she is aiming for a glamorous look.

Sania Saeed has been associated with some of the most influential dramas on TV over the years, and Raqeeb Se’s Hajra is her most recent powerful portrayal. But why does she think no one is interested in her?

I admit that talking to her feels a little dazzling. I associate her face with countless memorable stories that have captured the attention of television viewers over the years. Her voice is completely familiar and she is an unmistakable acting powerhouse and brings to life every character she plays. Still, actress Sania Saeed, a name enough to tune into the drama, believes people don’t want to read about her!

Co-stars Sania Saeed with Raqeeb Se, Hadiqa Kiani and Iqra Aziz

I say this out loud but she still can’t believe it. “I’m happy,” she said. “I am fortunate to be so loved in my industry. But no one cares if I take a break from TV for 4 years. If I decide not to act for a while, opportunities don’t keep waiting.”

It may be true, but it catches my eye every time Sania Saeed comes on screen. Her voice shakes and her face moves with countless subtle expressions. In the fast-paced competitive world of TV production, projects float to no one, but every project in which Sania Saeed appears is elevated by her presence. Another very important reason Sania agreed to this interview is for one of her acting projects.

Raqeeb Se, layered and beautifully crafted serials have just Hum TV Network, has recently established itself as one of the most artistic dramas aired on TV. Scripted by Bee Gul and directed by Kashif Nisar, the drama’s ensemble cast included Nauman Ijaz, Hadiqa Kiani, Faryal Mahmood, Iqra Aziz and Sania. Sania is meeting me because I know she has to celebrate such a beautiful drama and the deep and nuanced role she has performed.

In this drama, Sania plays Hajra, the patient wife of Maqsood Sahib (Nauman Ijaz), who allows the plague (Hadiqa Kiani) and her troubled daughter (Iqra Aziz) to live in her own house as they escape from their violent home. . Despite her daughter’s (Faryal Mahmood’s) anxiety over this tricky family situation, Hajra’s tolerance seems like another world. until she clicks.

commerce and creativity

Behind story moments of Raqeeb Se

“Same drama Raqeeb Se Probably every 20 years,” she says. “During filming we joked that it might not be highly rated, but there will be certain audiences that will want to see it. And it is true. Raqeeb Se It received a lot of critical acclaim, but the TRP wasn’t very high. [television rating points].

“What this drama emphasizes is the polarization of Pakistani TV viewers,” continues Sania. “The majority of TRP comes from a different kind of audience. And some can appreciate the storytelling. Raqeeb Se. This percentage may be smaller, but it is there, and creators and channels need to create content for it as well. “

But why would a channel want to invest in dramas with artistic integrity but not high returns? “That’s the problem,” she agrees. “It all boils down to a long struggle between creativity and commerce. Commerce is always prioritized, but at least occasionally a different or experimental story can be told. I admire drama producers and channels who believe in one artistic play despite the chaos of big corporations.”

Where is Sania Saeed, who has built a repertoire of influential storytelling that is slowly disappearing from Pakistani TV? That means she sometimes feels like she’s taking a sabbatical from acting, even though she’s full of offers.

“If you were given five scripts, there was a time when at least one would definitely like it. It doesn’t happen anymore. Times have changed. But after 30 years of working, seeing the ups and downs of the industry and observing from the outside, I realize I don’t have to act as a critic. This is my brotherhood. These are my people and I want to keep working and make some changes to the role I play.”

i remember Meher Posh, an extremely typical drama that was highly rated but aired geo entertainment last year. Sania’s role as the heroine’s mother could have been completely mediocre, with a few extra dimensions she added.

“I tend to take my time before signing a project,” explains Sania. I will discuss my role and story at length with the director and screenwriter and dig into the details. While the script may appeal to paper, there are still cases where it completely regresses when filmed or vice versa. No matter what happens, once you sign and start filming, you won’t have any problems. Then it becomes my drama.

It all boils down to the old struggle between creativity and commerce. Commerce is always prioritized, but at least occasionally a different or experimental story can be told. I admire drama producers and channels who believe in one artistic play despite the chaos of big corporations.”

“But sometimes the younger members of the other cast can scare me because I’m playing my senior or older motherhood role. I don’t want to make them uncomfortable by pointing out flaws. Once boarded, boarded.”

After finishing a drama that doesn’t come out as expected, can you express your regrets on the public platform? “No, but even if it turns out, that’s also my drama,” she says.

“Ultimately, despite my obsession with TRP, I think everyone wants to do something really good,” she continues. “I don’t know an actor who is not looking for a unique script. I know directors who try to do things differently, even if they are eventually unable to do so due to commercial issues.”

What drives her especially to drama? “The script,” she replies immediately, “and then there’s a team that includes the director and my co-actors.”

Raqeeb Se

But our discussion definitely made Sania’s heart race for her latest drama. “The problem is we’ve gotten too used to predictability,” she says. “One of the first criticisms Raqeeb Se The thing is that these characters cannot exist in real life. Audiences couldn’t predict what these characters would do or where they would head. These critics didn’t realize the story was special. Especially because the characters were so different from the usual stereotypes.

“This drama tells the stories of passengers on a bus route. Some passengers were already on board when the new ones came in. The story takes place on a bus until it reaches the next stop and the passengers move in the other direction. As the story unfolds, it means that characters like Hazra shouldn’t exist in real life. People were too quick to criticize and didn’t wait for the next episode to come out.”

This drama marked the acting debut of singer Hadiqa Kiani. Sania was surprised at how well Hadiqa behaved. “I was really convinced Hadiqa would be great in her role. She was very well prepared and completely immersed in the role of Sakina. “

In a previous interview with Icon, Hadiqa revealed how playing the oppressed and disoriented Sakina had hurt her and would continue to shake even after the camera stopped working. Sania’s Hajra was a character full of emotional load. Did Sania continue to carry the weight of Hajra’s troubles after filming?

“I understood Hajra very well,” she says. “I don’t know if I took her with me after filming was over, but I enjoyed being her by saying those lines. Bee Gul’s script is so beautifully written that he doesn’t seem to change a single word from the conversation. I will add my tone to it.

“It is often the case that the character is influenced. Each drama is different. after my role Maa, I was too emotionally exhausted to act for a while. Likewise Mary Guriya, I haven’t played good in a year and a half. It may just be that the drama is exploring fictional stories, but I’ve read stories of children being bullied or meeting women who are abused in their daily lives. It costs a lot.”

to talk

post-Raqeeb Se, Sania has a number of upcoming projects, including: Daurr above geo entertainment. A teaser released by screenwriter Saji Gul shows Sania, laughing sinisterly and haunting the two main leads.

It will also be her upcoming theatrical reading. yar jula hai Series, released on streaming platform Zee5. The series additionally includes readings by other prominent actors such as Mahira Khan, Yasra Rizvi, Sarwat Gilani, Nimra Bucha, Irfan Khoosat, Samiya Mumtaz, Sarmad Khoosat and Faysal Quraishi.

“Many people do a lot of dramatic reading on stage, but the coronavirus pandemic has put theatrical performances on hold,” Sania said. “The idea to create a series of theatrical readings for a TV screen came from here. The story we are reading is interesting because it is part of the shared literary heritage of India and Pakistan, and it highlights Urdu literature for a current audience who may not be familiar with it.”

With payments via local credit cards continuing to be banned for Zee5’s ‘over-the-top’ (OTT) service, it’s likely that only viewers outside Pakistan will see the series. “This is unfortunate,” says Sania. “There is a lot of thought in this series. The background of the story being read was created as the background for each episode. Art transcends national borders and both India and Pakistan need to understand this.”

Curious what the series will look like, but in a world full of Insta-stars, Sania Saaed doesn’t tend to click photos and videos on her phone at work. “I forgot to take a picture. Actually I think it’s invasive. I am in the process and I cannot be distracted by taking pictures.”

She may have been associated with some of the most influential dramas on TV over the years, but what does she watch in her spare time? Sania frowns. “I don’t watch anything on TV or the Internet,” she says. “I am against 24-hour TV broadcasting. It wastes time and takes away the ability to think. I’d rather play with the animals or tell stories to my neighbors.”

Telling a story in some way is something Sania Saeed has always done. She excels at it. But, as I have discovered, she is a very poor judge of herself. She obviously thinks a lot and has a lot to say, even if she doesn’t admit it.

First posted on Dawn, ICON on June 6, 2021