Theatre mirrors the raw reflection of human life: Pakistani artiste Sania Saeed

The theatre and television artiste talks about her love for the stage, the intricacies of acting and why Waheeda Rehman is an icon to her

By Sadiq Saleem

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Published: Mon 29 Jan 2024, 6:29 PM

Sania Saeed, a distinguished name in Pakistani television and theatre, is not just an actress but a storyteller who brings life to characters on stage and screen. Her recent visit to Dubai for ‘Absolute Manto’, alongside the esteemed Sarmad Khoosat, involved dramatic readings of Saadat Hassan Manto's works, showcasing her profound connection with literature and performance. Sania Saeed's insights not only highlight her mastery in the realm of acting but also reflect her profound understanding of the human experience, both on and off stage.

Securing an interview with Sania can be a formidable task. Her humility, despite her acclaimed stature in the acting world, makes her reticent about discussing her achievements. However, City Times seized an opportunity for a casual chat with her about life, art, and her interests.

For Sania, theatre is more than a profession; it's a passion that offers unparalleled satisfaction. "Theatre mirrors the raw reflection of human life and emotion," she explains. "It's a medium where the actor and audience embark on an empathetic journey, fostering a unique connection through continuous performances. I wish to continue to impact those around me through these mediums."

Speaking on icons who inspire her, Sania says she admires and holds in high regard veteran Indian actress Waheeda Rahman for not just her cinematic grace but her life beyond it. "She is an epitome of progression, embracing wildlife photography in her 80s. Her artistry during her prime was commendable without compromising her identity. She never changed her name when she came into films; never really relied on any kind of skin show. Have you ever seen anyone portraying freedom and independence as apt as her in the song Kanton se kheench ke yeh anchal?"

Discussing the intricacies of acting, Sania delves into the art of separating the performer from the performance. "It's about finding relevance and validation within oneself, rather than seeking it externally," she states. " I cannot perform thinking that you must like my performance. I must perform first by thinking that I like doing this. And yet it is important that you like it too. In our profession, the challenge lies in focusing the spotlight on the character, while simultaneously denying one's personal ego."

Sania emphasises the need for a robust support system for upcoming artists, including state backing and public support. Reflecting on her days with ‘Katha’, she recalls working with various children's groups, underscoring the transformative power of theatre. "We have worked with blind and deaf children, with working children and with both together. I recall one of these projects garnered interests from international public media because it was hard for them to decipher how these two sets of children were giving cues to each other. Which is why I said before as well that theatre allows time for perfection, blending different elements into a cohesive whole and it must be given the right level of importance for the future talent pipeline’.

Sania sheds light on the technique of 'emotional memory' in acting, a key component of the Stanislavski System. "Actors tap into their own past, using sensory details to evoke genuine emotions that align with their character's feelings," she explains. " We try to create an authentic emotional state that mirrors what our character is supposed to feel. It’s a delicate balance of control, to both immerse in and detach from these emotional states."

"Immersing in diverse roles can be mentally draining”, she says highlighting the importance of having a life beyond acting. “Random experiences outside the film set can be a rich source of inspiration and creativity. Which is why, it is absolutely important to cut off and focus on what brings you peace. I am happy not being recognised but our jobs and exposures don’t give us that freedom. I make time for an animal shelter where I have adopted dogs and cats. At home, I am a mother of 10 cats too. Once in a while, its good to get some tantrums from them and they keep your ego in check’’.

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