Saba Ahmed meets actress Saba Qamar

The idea of an old-school starlet is becoming dated. In our part of the world on-screen sirens are running thin these days while the West is seeing a revival of glam goddesses like Scarlett Johansson and Penelope Cruz., Saba Qamar is Pakistan’s resident stunner with a heart of gold. It is famously said that when a director asks Saba to cry, the tears come full and steady—without the aid of glycerine.

“I am the way I am, that’s all I can say, I can’t pretend!” is the first thing Saba says to me. Her first time visiting PTV was in 2004 to see a TV serial shoot. Shahid Ahmed Chughtai had a script for a project in which one of the female leads didn’t show up, and Saba happened to be there. Coming from a strict Syed background, a career in show business was not acceptable to her family. “But I had the keera, since childhood, that I’m going to do something important.” The show was to air at 6 pm in the evening. She never thought anyone from her household would watch it, but to her shock, everyone had watched it and she had hell to pay. “That was when I took a stand,” she told me, “And decided for myself that if I do not see any harm in doing something, why shouldn’t I do it? I’m not doing anything filthy. The filth is within our hearts and minds.” Saba Qamar, armed with attitude, began a career in showbiz.

The keera, it turns out, was buried deep within her. “If God has given me good looks, why should I not make a living off them?” says Saba. Her combination of beautiful, playful, and confident landed her the central slot in the comedy show Hum Sub Umeed Say Hain. The show began for Saba about five years ago, after she had worked on many comedies and sitcoms on PTV and ATV. She was to replace Veena Malik as the host. “At first, I turned it down thinking it would be too much effort, but then, once I saw the show on air, I realized that this is one platform from which I can go anywhere,” she told me.



‘If someone is playing a character from a poor household, how can she have elaborate curls that look
fresh from the salon?’

She had already had the opportunity to work with Sarmad Khoosat in Paani Jaisa Pyaar and before that in Daastan; after that she appeared in a chain of dramas including the super hit Maat, alongside Aamina Sheikh and Adnan Siddiqui. Saba’s performance in Maat wowed audiences across the country. “Maat was very special,” she says. “The energy on set, as well as my character—the character graph was incredible.” This year, With Bunty I Love You, Saba has charted new heights. She will likely be nominated, as well as win, the award for Best Actress in at least one of Pakistan’s major award shows (HUM, LUX, ARY). Upon reading the script, she decided the wardrobe for her character (only saris), as well as other seemingly small things like hair and makeup. “People who offer me a role these days are surprised when I ask to read the script—it’s going out of fashion. I have met directors who proudly admit they don’t read the scripts for their dramas,” says Saba. “If one hasn’t read the script, how can they understand it, make an A-Z graph of it? Girls nowadays are fighting over hair and makeup, one wants curls while the other wants flat-ironed hair. If someone is playing a character from a poor household, how can she have elaborate curls that look fresh from the salon?” She smiles, revealing the most-talked about smile in Pakistani showbiz. “Maybe I’m just an old fashioned artist, but I’m going to read the whole script, do my preparation.”

Ullu Baraaye Farokht Nahi with Nauman Ejaz was my personal favourite. The character development was amazing—Saba’s character being trapped into a feudal family full of conniving schemers. Her imprisonment was that of a typical prisoner: at first you use all your might to escape but after some time, you begin to love your prison and even become dependent on it. I loved the show for its portrayal of feudal life. Saba Qamar’s character Gul-e-Rana is strong in the face of her husband and his family despite their treatment of her. Saba beautifully portrayed a woman who has been defeated but does not appear to have lost; she is strong yet respected. In one particularly moving moment, Gul-e-Rana has been confronted with the death of her brother at the hands of her husband. Her portrayal of the humiliation is subtle but steadfast. She questions and incriminates with her eyes. She is firm but a fragility lurks. It is in a portrayal such as this that Saba has proven herself to be the most experienced actress in Pakistan.





Saba’s combination of beautiful, playful, and confident landed her the central slot in the comedy show Hum Sub Umeed Say Hain

Having been the victim of a scandal or two, Saba wishes people would realize the effect gossip has on others. “It’s not only disrespectful to others but to God also, to deride his creations. They don’t understand how gossip and rumours can actually hurt someone.” I am struck when I hear these words from her; they are strangely forthright for a woman at the pinnacle of her career. But that is Saba Qamar: the actor whose tears gush out when the director snaps his fingers, whose reserves of patience and stamina are matched by a sensitivity deeper still.

“My three favourite dramas so far have been Maat, Shehreyar Shehzadi and Bunty I Love You. My favourite place to relax and unwind is Koh Sumai, it’s just so gorgeous! I love to sit around and listen to music. I have a great collection of Kishore and Lata. I’ll call my cousins over, we’ll get together and watch movies in the home theatre, maybe order in and have a good old time.”

Good Times


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