One of the most versatile and supremely talented artists in our entertainment industry is a true representation of what stories of substance and deeply layered characters mean. Samiya Mumtaz is a theatrical genius who doesn’t associate her supreme acting prowess with any glam quotient. In fact, her acting is mainly powered by her eagerness to pursue her main passion in life. What many people probably don’t know is that the dynamite actress and outspoken activist is also a committed and accomplished organic farmer who keeps a quality balance between her pursuits, allowing her personal goals to get attention while she graces our screens with one remarkable performance after another. Read our exciting conversation with the one and only:
SD: Looking at the kind of roles you take on, be it the one in Dukhtar, Meri Zaat Zarra-e-Benishan, or Zindagi Tamasha, is it a huge struggle to find such scripts that highlight characters with substance and stories that make you ponder?
Samiya: I would be lying if I said it wasn’t. Indeed it is very hard to pursue these kinds of roles. If I am getting around 20 scripts, I would take on only 2-3 of those wholeheartedly. Or I might consider roles with one eye closed. Because your heart may be set in some other way as to what the script demands. But you need to pay the bills, and for me, my acting projects provide the dough to manage and support my farming goals, as my kind of farming doesn’t pay anything.
SD: Aside from helping you to drive your farming ambitions, what else led you towards acting?
Samiya: Well I started off with theatre and that was mainly to highlight social injustice. I felt visuals and performances are a strong medium to express yourself. And powered by my activism, and having a society with a weak reading culture, I realized acting is the way to have your word out. I actually didn’t even call myself an actor for a long time.
SD: Because of the strong limitations on stories, aside from those coming from independent projects, did you ever feel you should venture into production or scriptwriting to bring forth content that matters?
Samiya: Honestly I’ve never had so much in hand to pursue and invest in other endeavors. Besides that, I don’t want to spread myself so thin as I don’t want to become Jack of all trades.
SD: Looking into how last year was a notable one for Pakistan as we ventured into Hollywood with many of our artists pursuing global projects and making a mark, do you feel it’s the right time to go into such international collaborations or do you feel our own industry should be strong enough to make a global impact?
Samiya: The fact is we do need support financially, even if our talent is strong enough. With the progress of time, we are seeing youngsters investing their time into learning acting in drama schools, but it’s really helpful when you get a nudge from a well-established industry that will provide the support needed to make our own infrastructure strong.
SD: Would you ever venture into Hollywood if an opportunity presented itself?
Samiya: While I do watch Hollywood movies, I am not keenly hooked on it. Also, my face does not fit the stereotype. They have a certain vision of how a Pakistani woman should look like, and I don’t fit in that frame.
SD: One character or story that resonated with you the most?
Samiya: I have a certain mechanism where I keep the actor separate from the character, however it was in my drama serial Udaari that I couldn’t do it. That story completely took over me. I mean we would pack up on sets, be done for the day and I would find myself bawling my eyes out. The whole situation of a child to whom irreversible damage had been done by child rape was emotionally draining but an extremely important topic to highlight. The drama opened up a space for dialogue that was not there before, as men and women would come up to me and share similar accounts of the horror they endured and could finally talk about it after watching the serial.
SD: As an activist, you’ve taken a strong stance on several issues. What cause is closest to your heart?
Samiya: I would have to say violence against women, especially that which arises from within their homes. It’s completely shocking how people are so easily able to get away with it, on the basis of their background, as well as their influence and money. We need to take this on as a priority and ensure we can eradicate this culture.
SD: But in all honesty, how can this be implemented practically to bring in change?
Samiya: That’s the sad reality. We do have plenty of laws being made however when it comes to their implementation, the interpretation comes out differently. For instance in regards to the transgender rights concern, while it’s a basic human right and it effectively came into focus, where many transgenders were empowered with many getting their IDs made, allowing them to go for the Hajj pilgrimage and land decent jobs, there was also the backlash and the double meanings that were quite disturbing and damaging to a lot of peoples lives. Then there is the existence of political fear- street violence and nuisance value pressure we come under can create limitations.
SD: What a lot of people probably don’t know is that you are a farmer as well. As a versatile actor who is actively involved in organic production, how do you create a balance between two such differing fields?
Samiya: When you look at my acting career, I usually only take on 2-3 projects every year and that takes up a few months only. The rest of the time I commit and dedicate to my farming endeavor.
SD: Where do you pursue your farming ambitions? Do you apply any state-of-the-art technology?
Samiya: I’ve set up my farming lands in Lahore and I am completely involved in traditional tactics when it comes to farming. Including the process of planting seeds, where I don’t make use of hybrid seeds. I am also not in favor of using any machinery that keeps my farming dynamics true to natural methodology.
SD: When did you first show interest in farming and did you take on any professional skills/training?
Samiya: I was around 15 years old when my interest was piqued in farming. You can say I realized it was my true calling. However when it comes to farming, it is not a readymade platform and you need to go through several trials and errors, conducting experiments as there aren’t many books or documentation on how to go about it. I began speaking to people- three generations back- to understand how they took on the basics of farming and grew amazing organic produce. So while I didn’t take on any formal education, I learned through practical implementation.
SD: Did any of your kids also take on your passion to learn farming tactics?
Samiya: Since early on they were very observant, but not very inclined towards farming. While my daughter is a huge animal lover and is fascinated by farm animals, my son is completely influenced by socializing and living the urban life.