Driving through the colony where the Peerzadas’ reside in Lahore, I managed to check my phone and there was a text message. “You are late” said the message from Samina Peerzada. My mind registered this fact that one of the reasons for Samina Peerzada becoming one of the most successful actresses from Pakistan TV and Films is this punctuality. I called her to inform her that I have missed a turn to her house and to confirm the route to her house, and finally reached-ten minutes later than our appointment. Samina Peerzada was there at the entrance of the villa, wearing a simple white dress, looking elegant as ever. “She looks younger and even more beautiful than her screen appearance”-this was my first thought. However, just after a few minutes, it was more of her perfectly groomed behavior which made me like her even more. The sitting area where this interview was conducted was decorated very tastefully. There were a few pictures of Samina and Usman sahab, making the place look homely. Before we started our discussion coffee was served. On a side note, the coffee was excellent, perfectly made by Samina ji herself. Once she was content that she has played the role of being a host to her satisfaction, we moved on to the discussion.
Born on 9th of August, Samina Butt (now Samina Peerzada) completed her matriculation from PECHS School, Karachi. “I am a typical Leo”, she said with a certain amount of pride. She completed her Bachelors of commerce degree from Government College, Karachi. She hoped to pursue an MBA in marketing but since her passion for acting was more overpowering, that is indeed the field she chose. “I wanted to act ever since I was four years old. In school they screened Nayyer Sultana’s film Baaji, at that time our cinema was rich, but we were allowed to watch only one movie per year, hence this was a bit of a novelty.”
Even though neither of her parents was from the Showbiz side, Samina recalls being taught to appreciate music and the arts and the conduct of a true artist. The young ones she grew up with would often contemplate the idea of showing their movies to their elders, the pioneers of the arts. At that time an artist was given his or her due respect. “The ‘Nigar awards’ used to be held in Karachi and I remember my parents getting all dressed up to attend”. “My wish to be a performing artist goes back to those days. Even when I was a kid, after watching a movie I always repeated the dialogues. It is since that time I knew who I wanted to be when I grow up”.
Speaking of the downfall in Pakistan film industry, she believes the industry itself is also to blame. “At that time, when a good movie was made, people would admire the actors. It’s the image you project, that speaks to the audience. For few years, in fact for more than a decade, people who were making movies forgot the fact that whatever they are making is being archived in some way. They had a niche audience and they were not interested in maintaining quality of art. Their purpose was to make some money. Since the generation of our cinematic heroes of 1960s was too old for the young, energetic lead roles being offered in early 80s, a gap remained. Film makers filled that gap with low quality film making”. Speaking about the past glory of Pakistani cinema, Samina Pirzada insisted that Pakistan has a very rich background in films. According to Samina Pirzada, the scripts, story lines, actors, musicians, and the directors Pakistan film industry of early days had were top notch. Pakistani cinema in Samina Pirzada’s view was weak in technical aspects and there were very few investors left post partition, who believed in Pakistani cinema. According to Samina Peerzada however, the actors and scripts in those days were strong enough to make their own mark. “Zeba Mohammad Ali”, she mentioned, “is one of those who have fulfilled this responsibility as an actor. Shashi Kapoor (veteran Indian actor) once told me that the entire purpose of his attending the Moscow Film Festival was to watch Zeba.” Nevertheless, she feels that times are changing, and that the cinema is reviving. “And Hum TV, and other production houses and TV channels have a major role to play in this revival.”
Samina got married in 1975, a love marriage. “And I proposed to Usman, and he accepted”, she adds with a chuckle. “My first movie, 1982, was Nazdeekian, in which I debuted as an actor. Usman debuted in the same as a director. It was also Haseena Moin’s first movie as a writer.” This was followed by ‘The Blood of Hussain’, in which she played a minor role, but the movie was banned in Pakistan. Then she acted in Nadeem’s first production, a Punjabi film called ‘Mukhra’. Samina has done a total of 8 movies, out of which 4 got her national awards. Her films also include ‘Bazaar-e-husn’, ‘Shaadi meray Shohar ki’ and ‘Pabandi’, which was her last film. She began her ‘regular work’ in 1982. After acting, she pursued the art of direction and has directed films such as ‘Inteha’ and ‘Shararat’. “Then I thought I should leave film and go for TV, and I am still working for TV today. In 2000 I started TV.” Not just this but Samina has also modeled and acted in theatre.
Samina’s debut drama was ‘Qarb’, a true story, produced and directed by her. Then the PTV drama called ‘Amna meri behen’ happened and Samina Pirzada climbed the ladder of success quickly. In theatre, Samina debuted in ‘Gurya Ghar’, (a doll’s house). “I have been very fortunate in my career”, she adds. Her Hum TV dramas include ‘Shehr-e-zaat’, ‘Thori si Muhabbat’, ‘Dastaan’ , ‘Dur-e-shehwaar’ ‘Zindagi Gulzar hai’ and ‘Thori dur saath chalo’.
“Once I played a doctor in a drama. I practiced a lot for the role and Director sahab would say ‘Samina why are you working so hard on this? Who even watches our plays? Everyone watches Star Plus’. I said I will work hard. And today, here we are, all over Zindagi Channel. We now have our own breed of cinematic heroes once again. This can be said with some degree of confidence that the bad patch is over for Pakistani cinema”. ‘Inteha’, she says, was one of her films that literally dragged people to the cinema after 24 years. “And if you open up the old newspapers, you will see just how much my work was appreciated. Durrani sahab said that this effort of mine was a ‘pioneer’ effort. I am proud of the fact that when everyone considered Pakistan film industry or Lollywood to be down and out, I trusted in our audience and made a movie which was meant to be seen by masses. People did not disappoint me.”
Unfortunately at that time, certain distributors played around with her finances, compelling her to quit, out of depression. Then, Ijaz Durrani (veteran Pakistani film actor, and ex-husband of Malika-e-Tarannum Noor Jehan) called her back in, saying that her film in the new wave cinema will shake the industry, and for which her name will be ‘written in the history of film’. “And so that was when I started working single-handedly for the revival of Pakistani cinema, and I was among people who brought the Indian cinema to Pakistan, for if the cinema was replaced with some plaza, we would immediately lose any audience of films that was left in Pakistan. As the movies of 80s and early 90s were not high quality movies, families stopped going to cinema. People developed this habit of not going to cinema. Letting Indian movies play in Pakistani multiplexes was just an intelligent effort to ensure no more cinemas were converted into shopping malls or marriage halls. Losing cinema halls would have meant that we would need a lot more effort to get a reasonable number of screens in Pakistan. Losing cinema halls would have meant any chances of revival of Pakistani film industry any time soon.” Samina Peerzada then took the initiative of sending a case study to the Pakistani government, promising that Pakistani cinema would one day leave Indian cinema behind. She insisted that we have a good platform and a few movies which are nevertheless credible, while India has many yet most ‘lack class’. “We have our own style of storytelling. There are so many stories to tell. And Pakistani audience is more critical of quality than Indian audience. The movies we make have to be good otherwise Pakistani audience will simply not watch it”.
She has received a lifetime achievement award by the Mango Film festival and currently has been offered two works in two international projects, both British. “It is just being talked over for the time being, the scripts seem interesting though. We’re planning to pursue this in August, so let’s see.” When asked as to why she hasn’t done any Indian films as yet, Samina simply replies that she hasn’t found a good enough script. ”I am comfortable in my country”, says she.
Samina also talked about her family life and said she would mostly balance her routine. From dusting and making food to doing theatre and attending conferences, she seems to have done it all simultaneously and quite splendidly as well. “When I went to Sri Lanka for the shooting of Inteha, my mother went with me, because I can’t stay alone for too long.” She said that she enjoyed every moment of motherhood and gave credit to her husband, Usman Peerzada (a very well-known Pakistani film and TV actor and director himself), for helping her be an even better mother. Peerzada has two daughters, Amal and Anum. Anum, the younger one has graduated with a degree in general studies and is now married in Canada, while Amal has studied integrated media. In an interview, Amal is reported to have said that her mother is very friendly and she loves the moments when her parents team up to cook together. Samina smiles and says “Yes, Usman can cook well.”
Talking of the current actors who in recent times have dominated the Pakistani silver screen, Peerzada mentions names such as Shaan, Ali Zafar and Fawad, who are her favorites. Shaan, she believes, was made for the big screen. And as for Zafar, her own film Shararat opened up avenues for his career. Hamayun Saeed, too, is seen by her as a very sensible actor who is ‘made for films’. Discussing the list of leading ladies, she talked of Mahira Khan, Saba Qamar, Sanam Baloch and Sanam Saeed, who all are doing very good work according to Samina Peerzada.
In her case she says the idea of ‘Bollywood tollywood’ never occurred to her. “I have always focused on our industry.” She is greatly appreciative of the current Pakistani movies, all of which seem to offer something fresh. Peerzada laments the loss of performing arts festivals in the country. “Rafi Peer performing arts festival has been postponed already for five years. Terrorism has given us such losses. However I see things changing for the better now”. Nevertheless, she deems that if the industry is to be fully revived, full responsibility must be taken. “Our weakest area is that of audio. The sound quality is very bad.”
For the new artists, Samina Peerzada has an advice that “everything you do as an artist is being archived in some way. Be it the PTV warehouse or your audience’s minds. Make sure you do something worth remembering”. “More women should enter this field. The world is changing; we should also change with it. Women should set their priorities right. If they do that, managing a home and a career is possible”. When it was mentioned to her that she is among the popular names across the border due to her fine performances in many of the TV dramas, she replied with a happy smile.
It was almost lunch time when I took my leave. It was a very pleasant meeting. Samina Peerzada, popular Pakistani TV and film actress and a director herself, is a very down to earth and simple person. She speaks very softly, and more than anything else, she is a very well groomed host. Thank you Samina ji, for your time, and all your guidance. Team Films and Movies wishes you all the best!