To say that Sahar Zaman is a creative entrepreneur is to not only state a commercial fact, but also to describe quite literally the individual beneath the many hats she dons. An independent arts journalist, curator, home décor and jewellery designer, political newscaster and now also the proud founder of Hunar TV, Asia’s first web channel on the arts, food and travel, Sahar is every bit the amalgamation of creativity and enterprise. She shares with us her journey through multiple media including radio, television, columns and more, punctuated centrally by an insatiable passion for art.
“I was strongly inclined towards following art because my mother is an artist and I used to watch her creating her works at home,” she recalls and adds, “She never took it up professionally, but she had a good hand. I was exposed to a lot of Renaissance period art through her and her interests, and eventually took up art as an interest independently when I took up reportage.
When I entered television journalism, I continued tracking art apart from current affairs and politics. Gradually, it started becoming one of my specialisations and I began doing exclusive interviews with some of our greatest masters like Raza and Husain. The Husain interview I did in Dubai was, incidentally, one of the last interviews he gave before he passed away.”
She goes on to share that as the years went by, she found herself struggling against the realm she had chosen as her central focus, always being relegated to the margins. “I really wouldn’t say that my journey has been smooth. In mainstream media, I’ve been asked many times by my editors about why I’m following a ‘light’ sidekick beat like art. I was always very strongly connected to political news and they would say to me that I have such a bright future in political journalism, why do I want to pick up a beat like art? I still struggle with this perception of the arts, really,” she avers.
As a consequence, a significant amount of her energy has been channeled throughout her career to making sure that the arts find a solid space within the mainstream. She affirms, “We are always so involved with current affairs on television, and my attempt everywhere I have gone has always been to ensure that art does not remain a light beat relegated to the weekend. My idea was to connect it to social issues, political issues, environment issues and such like. This has really been one of my main goals in life — bringing art to the mainstream. Even when I curate art shows, I make sure that they are part of the mainstream discourse. The shows I curate look at current social issues, global terrorism and so on.”
Aside from reclaiming art from the margins, another thing Zaman has consistently worked towards is making it accessible to common people. “The idea is to bring about a basic dialogue on art without making it too deep or heavy. What I’ve observed over the years is that laymen feel a bit intimidated by art because they feel that they don’t understand it. They don’t realise that their subconscious would reach out to art if they would give it a chance instead of blocking it. It is basic to all of us to express through colours — a part of our childhood that fades as we grow up because formal education conditions us and reduces the presence of art in our life. Staring Hunar TV was in continuation of this philosophy and part of my attempt to reach out to people,” she explains.
Sahar is at present working on a book that takes up as its subject the top 100 Indian works of art. “We have lots of books on Indian artists, but all of them essentially focus on particular artists’ life, career and style. My book takes the paintings as its protagonist,” she concludes.