Willing to play Maryam Nawaz on screen: Saba Qamar | The Express Tribune

Actor talks about her dream role, hopeful collaboration with a Bollywood heartthrob and why awards don’t matter to her


I see a sliver of neon green as I catch my first glimpse of Saba Qamar. The actor is in Karachi – busy promoting her then-latest offering, Ghabrana Nahi Hai. She’s in charge when she steps out of a boardroom with her team – giving instructions like a boss here to dominate.

I’m a few feet away when she acknowledges me, and we sit down for a comfortable chat. “Do you mind?” she asks as she picks up a khajoor after offering one and then starts nibbling on it. We’re talking about her latest commercial film, Ghabrana Nahi Hai (GNH), the Saqib Khan directorial and the boxes she usually ticks before taking up a project.

Redefining Saba Qamar 

“I just really connected to Zubi,” she tells me about her character in GNH. “She is just one of many reasons I decided to make a big-screen comeback with Ghabrana Nahi Hai. I could relate to her completely. If I feel strongly about something, I will talk about it. I have no filters – none whatsoever. If I feel like this is the right thing to do, I will do it.”

But like her fellow stars, Saba has now grown a thick skin. “I am a compassionate person,” the Cheekh star comments on how being an outspoken person off-screen comes with its set of lessons. “But I don’t carry personal attacks to the heart. I don’t pay any heed to them anymore. Maybe it did matter right at the beginning of my career, but I have grown that thick skin almost 20 years down the line in the fraternity. I think people brought up in a certain way will always spew venom on others. On the other hand, people who have a good heart will always say kind things to the person. I have never said anything vile to anyone. You can criticise me on my work, but call me out on my choice of clothing, my personal life? It’s just wrong.”

The good, the bad and the ugly

Saba’s career, which spans almost two decades, has been on an all-time high for the last few years. The actor has had her fair share of criticism and call-outs over some of her ventures. “When I took up Baaghi, I faced a lot of flak on how we are glorifying Qandeel Baloch. People used to hurl abuses at her and, after her tragic demise, abused me for portraying her onscreen,” she recalls.

“But after everyone watched the show, they backtracked on their statements, and I was lauded for the very same drama. Qandeel, as well as I, were praised. But my question is, why do we have to start valuing someone when they have passed away? Should we not have treated her with respect when she was alive?”

The actor reveals how Baaghi proved to be her most challenging drama to date. “I went into depression after being done with Baaghi,” Saba continued. “It took me a lot of time to come out of that character; I had stopped taking on more projects. It took me a year to recover from it. It was after that hiatus that I signed Cheekh. I always used to hear that actors find it hard to come out of some of their characters. I could never relate to this – until I played Qandeel Baloch.”

Before the Farooq Rind directorial, Saba says she was desperate for an award. “I always wanted to bag an award, and when I won a bundle for Baaghi, my soul was already satisfied by the rewarding experience of playing Qandeel. So today’s Saba Qamar doesn’t care about award shows anymore.”

The dream collaboration

She then spoke about one actor she will readily sign a flick with, and it’s none other than Bollywood heartthrob Ranbir Kapoor. “He’s such a good actor! He acts with his eyes,” Saba quips. “Do you remember the title song? From Ae Dil Hai Mushkil? And then there’s this one scene in the film where he speaks with Anushka – that one scene was so spectacularly done. Not every actor can do it so flawlessly.”

Apart from working with Ranbir, the Hindi Medium star also hopes to play a politician. “I would love to play a politician on screen!” Saba’s face lights up as she discusses her dream role. “I think we can make a brilliant biopic on Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. I am also willing to play Maryam Nawaz Sharif on the big screen. I feel I can do justice to it.”

She says, “I am excited about essaying a politician because their lives have so many layers. They are a different person when engaging with the public, different when they are home with their families, and someone else when they are with their peers. It’s fascinating. Politicians are no less than actors. So, I do think it’s relatable.”

Maryam Nawaz addressing Gujrat power show. SCREENGRAB

Maryam Nawaz addressing Gujrat power show. SCREENGRAB

In the pipeline

Saba started her own YouTube channel during quarantine, where she hilariously tackled imperative topics. The actor managed to ruffle some feathers, whether it was the rishta aunty culture or her take on an infamous talk show.

“Starting a YouTube channel was an impulsive decision,” she says. “We were all home, and I would wake up and start writing. We had so much fun with it! But the topics we touched upon required a lot of research, so there was still an ample amount of work involved. However, once we embraced the new normal, the YouTube channel took a backseat as I had several projects lined up. But I think it’s high time we bring it back.”

The actor also plans on releasing a rap song. “I am done with the recording, but we still need to work on its video,” she reveals.

As we wrapped up the interview, the Saba Qamar who sat in front of me was a far cry from the timid Suraiya Saleem, who starred as a supporting actor in Sanam Baloch and Fawad Khan’s famous drama serial, Dastaan. This Saba Qamar is the hero of her own life. 

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