A family drama centred around an elderly man’s quest for love, Fawad Khan and Sanam Saeed’s Barzakh was the only South Asian selection at Series Mania this year. Debuted at the showcase’s International Panorama, it was eligible for the best series, director, actress, actor, student jury and audience awards. It was also the first ever Indo-Pak cross-border series to premiere globally. Helmed by director Asim Abbasi of Cake and Churails fame, the series, available on ZEE5, explores intergenerational trauma between fathers and sons. Shot in Karachi and the picturesque Hunza Valley, it is framed within a fantastical world of supernatural beings and otherworldly events that reveal the chasms between life, death and rebirth. Produced by Waqas Hassan and Shailja Kejriwal, it sees Fawad play a single, guilt-ridden parent while Sanam essays the female protagonist. Both the actors are known to be quite picky about their roles. While Fawad is famous for disappearing from the screens, only to reappear in a completely new avatar, Sanam is known for diversifying her acting graph with characters like Kashaf, Zara, Zuvi and Akhtar. Speaking about Barzakh – her second project with Asim – the actor, in an interview for the Film Companion, said, “I have fallen in love with every script of Asim’s that I’ve read. Be it a short film, feature film or a mini-series, his stories are relatable and have universal themes. His characters are flawed, vulnerable, real people and not saints or Satan.” The actor said she enjoys the writer and director’s perspective on life and the minor details about his characters that add quirky nuances to the script. “His stories come from a real tangible, emotional, place. The fact that he is the writer and director of the projects I’ve worked on makes the job all the more fulfilling as an actor.” Barzakh also marks Sanam’s second project with Fawad Khan – the first being Zindagi Gulzar Hai, their hit TV series – that too, after ten years. About returning to the screen with the now, Maula Jatt star, and the pressure of reigniting the flame once fuelled by Kashaf and Zaroon’s chemistry, she remarked, “I think a 10-year gap means audiences have changed, outgrown certain pairings and are eager to see fresh ideas. Themes and dynamics from a decade ago may not be as relevant today.” Sanam also assured that the audience “will be in for a big surprise and hopefully, appreciate the performances of all the actors in the show. I’m excited to see what the new generation of viewers think about us.” When asked about the widespread belief that she turns down more scripts than she accepts, Sanam held, “It’s true. I definitely end up having to reject more scripts. There are less than a handful of great scripts that float around every two years. But there are many actors who are capable of portraying the characters in such scripts and there are several able directors hungry for such scripts as well. I think it is a matter of being in the right place at the right time.” About herself evolving as an actor over the years, Sanam reflected, “I’d say I haven’t evolved as much as I’d liked to have. I feel a strong need and urgency to get some training now. That I believe will help me in refining my craft, learning new techniques, and will help me in shedding my inhibitions a tad more.” The star, who’s always outperformed herself and rarely left viewers aching for more depth, continued, “I feel there is a lot of auto-pilot acting that is happening given the circumstances and similar narratives. It leaves little room to experiment or break the mould – or maybe that’s fear talking! But I’m definitely open and ready to learn new tricks of the trade and push my limits.” Asked if she “fears anonymity”, Sanam replied, “I like the idea of mystery around me. I don’t wish to be overly exposed. Going out and being seen once in a blue moon is more appealing to me both as a celebrity and as an admirer of a celebrity. I try my best for my work to speak for me rather than my outings and appearances. After all, we only remember how an actor’s performance made us feel – we remember them for their body of work, not how many events they attended. Outings are transient memories; screen presence is more eternal. At least that’s what I’d like to believe.” In light of Barzakh, which literally translates to being in a state of limbo, the Bachaana star also reflected on being driven by external forces, as opposed to internal ones. “I think at some point in our lives we all experience that. I was always sure I wanted to be an actor. Particularly an actor on stage. When that didn’t happen, and television took over, it threw me into a state of limbo for a while. I wasn’t sure which direction I wanted to go in. But with time and after having dappled in all the mediums, I definitely found my way. I don’t see the north yet, but I am certain that I am walking in the right direction.” Speaking of mediums, Sanam shared her two cents about the pros and cons of the OTT, as opposed to cinema. “I think the thrill on the OTT platform comes from its statistics i.e., number of viewers that have watched or have tuned in. It opens up to both makers and viewers. A person sitting in a different continent can access our work, which is not necessarily the case with cinema. There is a bigger exchange of stories and culture. Cinema, in that regard, is limiting sometimes.” The actor also delved on the thrill of blending the two mediums by recalling how she felt while watching her OTT release on the big screen. “Watching the first two episodes for Barzakh on the big screen was a totally different experience. Can you imagine watching Game of Thrones or Dark in the cinema? You catch more of the finer details, the quiet dark room with a massive screen holds your attention better than sitting in the comfort of your own home, filled with distraction. The responses one receives at a festival could be very different from the one in cinema halls.” Last month, in a press statement released to mark the Barzakh poster reveal, Asim had said that much like Cake, Barzakh also explored “a family reunion setting” and delt with themes of love, loss and reconciliation. Meanwhile, Fawad had noted, “The Barzakh poster offers an early glimpse into what can be expected from the series – abstract beauty and ambiguity that reflects the complexities in navigating human relationships in a post-modern world.” Barzakh premiered worldwide on March 18.