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All zoos should be shut down: Sania Saeed | The Express Tribune

Sania Saeed has built a reputation in Pakistan’s entertainment industry for taking on unconventional roles and advocating for social causes through her acting projects. In a wide-ranging interview on Adnan Faisal’s podcast, the versatile actor spoke openly about choosing progressive stories, facing backlash over her recent film Joyland, criticising traditions, empowering women, and believing in youth.

Saeed is known for playing complex characters that challenge stereotypes and spark important conversations in society. “I always earn less because the projects/stories that I pick are always very unique and low budget projects. I am not interested in sensationalising anything,” she said. 

However, she believes storytelling itself is a powerful tool for change. “In culture, tradition and society, stories are very important. Your liking and disliking are also made by stories,” Saeed commented. “Telling stories is very necessary even if people don’t like them.”

Her acting credits include unconventional shows like the psychiatric ward drama Kitni Ghirhain Baaki Hain and the experimental series Aao Kahani Buntay Hain where she played 16 different characters.

“I cannot do the traditional roles,” Saeed asserted.

Saeed’s commitment to tackling bold subjects recently sparked controversy over her film Joyland. The movie depicting a closeted married man’s affair with a transgender dancer prompted cinemas to ban screenings and widespread criticism. 

“It is criminal to disagree without watching anything,” Saeed argued. “The purpose is to make people interact with the character and also engage among themselves. People should not give a knee jerk reaction.”

She blamed improper editing by Pakistan’s censor board for altering the original narrative and message. But Saeed stands by the film’s aims of promoting open discussion. 

“We are uncomfortable when something contradicts our already accepted beliefs,” she analyzed.

While many balked at Joyland’s portrayal of a taboo romance, Saeed questions why regressive cultural practices rarely face the same backlash. 

“There are so many traditions that do not suit you know, which are not productive now, but people fulfill them at all costs whether it relates to marriage, girls education, on dowry,” she highlighted.

Saeed called for decisively moving beyond outdated mindsets that hold society back. “I think change is important and we should do it decisively, conscientiously,” she urged.

As an advocate for women’s rights, Saeed says patriarchal norms harm both men and women. “The struggle for women rights is not against men. It is against patriarchy. Patriarchy harms men also,” she explained.

She praised the Aurat March feminist movement for its consistent and peaceful push for reforms. Saeed emphasized, “It is not us vs them. It is all us we have to solve our problems ourselves.”  

While calling for progress, Saeed also acknowledges change does not come easily in a conservative culture. “It is very difficult to do a progressive or constructive work in our society,” she reflected.

However, Saeed looks to Pakistan’s youth as the key agents to shake up the status quo. She advises parents to truly listen to their kids since “99 percent of your children are unheard.”

“Children are seeds and whatever you do with this seed will come to your face because this seed will make a big tree later,” Saeed stated. She warned adults’ actions now determine whether youth grow up to provide shade or remain stunted assets to no one.

Saeed also works extensively on social causes benefiting young students through nonprofits like The Citizens Foundation, Kiran, and Kashf Foundation. “Whatever I do for Indus Hospital, SIUT, Kashf foundation, Kiran Foundation, TCF, etc. that work is very important for myself. I feel very happy when those people are happy,” she shared.

In addition to empowering girls and youth, Saeed advocates for showing compassion towards marginalised groups like citizens with disabilities. “Women, children, people with disabilities are unheard of in Pakistan even healthy people are not listened to,” she noted.

As a prominent animal rights supporter, Saeed also condemns zoos for their poor treatment of creatures. “They should be closed with immediate effect and we should send all the animals back from where they have been brought in Pakistan,” she urged.

Saeed worries children learn cruelty from adult behaviors. “They do what they have seen their elders doing,” she warned.

But she still believes in redemption through love. “A lot of things can be changed with love but some changes are got through bloodshed like if you want to grab power from someone,” Saeed reflected.

While spearheading unconventional roles and highlighting provocative social issues through her films, Saeed faces backlash from traditionalists. However, the actor stays committed to the power of storytelling itself to make people re-examine belief systems and seed gradual reform.

As Saeed stated, “If someone says a wrong thing, but with a right manner, people will follow it. It is very important to develop your critical faculties.” She encourages society to move forward through thoughtful, compassionate dialogue and youth engagement rather than knee-jerk reactions.

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