“Who’s that girl?” If you’ve been to see Nida Butt’s popular production of Grease the Musical, chances are you’ve been asking yourself the same question about Sara Haider, who plays Marty Maraschino, like the cherry, in Made for Stage Production’s rendition of Grease.
While Sanam Saeed was absolutely superlative in her leading role, Haider’s performance also got a glowing mention in practically every review of the play. With stars like Saeed and Ayesha Omer headlining, it’s extraordinary to see such a buzz created by an unknown, supporting actor. Part of the reason is the play – this version of Grease is based on the Broadway version, which gives great solos and stage-time to most of the ensemble cast. Despite being in a supporting role, there is plenty of opportunity for Haider to shine. The rest of the credit belongs to Haider herself. Her performance is simply stunning. Her acting, dancing and accent are all impressive, but it’s her voice that makes you sit up and take notice. Her rendition of Marty’s big number Freddy, my love is one of the highlights of the show.
Haider herself is self-effacing about all the attention she’s been getting.
“I feel so lucky to have had a chance to be part of Grease. It has been an amazing experience and I have learned so much from my co-stars, especially Sanam, and also from my director Nida.”
Butt spotted her Marty last June during the latter’s first ever stage performance. Haider played a female patient in the experimental play The Portrait of Rumi at NAPA. Although it was a small part, Butt was impressed enough to invite Haider for an audition. Haider, who considers herself more of a vocalist than an actress, is full of praise for Butt.
“This was only my second experience acting, and I was very apprehensive when we started rehearsing. Nida has taught me so much about acting and specifically about acting on-stage. Most of us in the cast are very young and inexperienced, and she really knew how to bring out the best in us.”
This may be only Haider’s second stage play but she’s no stranger to performing live. Although she’s still a full-time student at SZABIST, she’s slowly been building a name for herself as a vocalist and songwriter.
She was one of the six artists to be selected in Ufone Uth Records 2011 for her first-ever single Tera Saath, and soon afterwards she recorded a duet with Faisal Kapadia of Strings, as part of Strings upcoming album. Since then, she has performed and recorded with artists as varied as Strings, Arshad Mehmood and Jaffer Zaidi. Haider has recorded various advertising jingles, and the theme song for Turkish drama Feriha on Urdu 1. Haider’s live performances range from Western Jazz and Rock to contemporary soulful renditions of Ghalib’s poetry. She is versatile and adventurous, although perhaps her voice is more suited to the alto range. What’s interesting about her style is that she has a very modern, western style of singing even when she’s singing Pakistani songs. This isn’t to say that her Urdu accent is bad; it’s just that her singing style is very different from traditional singers. Haider says
“I feel that this is my sound. I can sing traditionally but I like to put my own spin on what I sing. This is the vocalists I admire would do, people like Lauryn Hill, Geeta Dutt and Aretha Franklin. I think my sound and tone suits the songs I do and I feel it’s important for an artist to have a unique voice.”
Haider is also part of the band Teeen, along with Imam Hamdani and Ahsan Ghulam Hyder. Haider is lead vocalist and songwriter for Teeen, who perform a mix of classic Pakistani pop, folk songs and their own original music.
The band recently released their first single Baarishon Mein on the radio and Soundcloud. The soft music and poignant lyrics of the song have made it something of a social media hit. Teeen are now ready to release their first mini album consisting of 5 songs, some written by Haider and others by guitarist Hamdani.
For the time being, Haider is looking forward to resting her voice after what she describes as a ‘rigorous and rewarding’ experience with Grease. She will now concentrate on completing her thesis and graduating, before devoting herself fulltime to her music career. Although Haider talks mainly about her music, based on Grease, she also has a rare talent for acting. Many of her new fans will be hoping she will explore that talent too in the near future. Either way, Sara Haider has shown that special spark true stars have. Here’s hoping she gets the chance to make the most of it.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 4th, 2014.
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