“[Broken Images] Has Fulfilled The Actress In Me After A Long, Long Time.” – Shabana AzmiOctober 8th, 2010 - 2:24 pm ICT by Sampurn Wire
October 8, 2010 (Sampurn Wire): A rebel, a firebrand, a social activist all rolled into one sums up Shabana Azmi’s portrait. She is Bollywood’s most fiery, blunt to the point of arrogance, and a bit short tempered actress but, of course, she prefers being known as the champion of women’s causes. Her Bollywood journey from Shyam Benegal’s ‘Ankur’ as a suppressed woman, Laxmi, to her recent release ‘It’s a Wonderful Afterlife’ aptly sums up her illustrious career which will definitely go down in the annals of the historic Indian Cinema. In her more than 3 decades of real & reel life journey, she has displayed the entire gamut of her talented persona, yet she has no desire to hang up her multifaceted boots till its time to bid a final adieu. Sampurn Wire’s Shaheen Raaj had an exclusive chat with this extraordinary artist recently, on the eve of the US tour of her Alyque Padamsee directed play ‘Broken Images’.
To start on a lighter note, these days you are seen sporting an unusual hairstyle so different from your typical image. How come?
I am shocked. When I had gone bald for Deepa Mehta’s film ‘Water’ no one complimented. I have always experimented & sported a different hairdo to suit my on screen character. My daughter-in-law runs a hair salon in Mumbai. So naturally I am the scapegoat for all her ‘hairy’ experiments. (Laughs)
Evaluate your film journey from ‘Ankur’ to your recent release ‘It’s A Wonderful Afterlife’.
I am happy that I have earned name, fame, recognition, applause, accolades, critical acclaim, honors, awards et al. I’d say the highpoint is definitely being selected as a jury member for varied International Film Festivals in tandem with the global retrospectives held for my films. In fact, the title of my recent release aptly symbolizes my feeling with the addition of one word ‘before’ in the film’s title ‘It’s A Wonderful (Before &) Afterlife’.
How about your six years as a parliamentarian? How would you describe that phase?
It was great fun and quite enlightening. I succeeded in making my presence felt, in making a lot of impact & difference for varied social causes. But the best part was to see the members fighting bitterly like staunch enemies during the session and then laughing and sharing coffee once the session was over.
Tell us something about your upcoming US tour.
This time my US tour will begin from the NYU Skirball Center on October 8th when I will perform my English play ‘Broken Images’. It has been written by Girish Karnad and produced by Raell Padamsee and, of course, directed by my most popular and favorite theatre director, Alyque Padamsee.
‘Broken Images’ has been getting rave reviews in India. Do you think it will appeal to an American or Indo-American audience as well?
Before I answer that, let me mention that the tagline of ‘Broken Images’ is ‘The Scandal Behind A World Famous Novelist’. I believe it’s important to mention that as it gives a better understanding of the play to those who don’t know what to expect. The play has been performed in Hindi as well as Kannada. Needless to say that it has won critical acclaim in both the languages and wherever it has been performed so far. In a way I feel it is a very complex and a complicated play. It can be categorized in the genre of psychological thriller. And not to forget the fact that it is a one woman play. I think audiences everywhere will be able to appreciate the nuances of the story.
What is the gist of the play…. in a nutshell?
‘Broken Images’ is the story of a faux novelist, who has suddenly gained overnight limelight and has become a celebrity writer, now with an English Best Seller to her credit. But on the other hand she feels surprised at the sudden turn of events because in reality she is just a short story writer in Hindi. Therein lies the mystery… Suffice it to say it is a complete psychological thriller that brings out the various truths of the life of a celebrity writer. You’ll have to forgive me as I can’t reveal more.
How did you feel personally while enacting the two characters Manjula & Malini of ‘Broken Images’?
The actress in me has been totally satiated after a long, long time. It also brought back memories of my parallel cinema days which was placed on the back burner for quite some time in the commercial cinema milieu. Honestly speaking, one rarely gets the chance to enact such full fledged author backed key roles these days. But it is very demanding, very exhausting, yet very fulfilling. The funniest thing is that after every performance I get people coming up to compliment me, amazed at how I could just speak to myself during the entire duration of the one-hour play.
Which other cities does this US tour include apart from New York City?
I should first mention that all proceeds from the play, (let me say the full name) ‘Broken Images – The Scandal Behind a World Famous Novelist’, will benefit educational programs for under - priviledged girls. That being said, the production will start in New York in association with the Mahindra Indo-American Arts Council (MIAAC) and then it will go on to tour Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Tampa, Washington, D.C., as well as many other cities.
You have been associated with the MIAAC for several years.
Yes! You are right. The Mahindra Indo-American Arts Council is a non-profit organization based in New York City bringing the works of Indian artists from the diaspora to the mainstream in the fields of film, music, dance, arts, and so on. My association with them goes a long way back – to when I had just stepped into International Cinema. Since then they have always backed me in all my international endeavors, be it my films, plays, exclusive festival of my films, even retrospectives of my films held in the international arena. Besides, they have also been instrumental to some extent in me being on the jury of many film festivals held on an International level. I’d like to think we are like-minded people working towards a common and good cause.
Before we sign off, how about an update on your forthcoming films?
Sure! There is a film titled ‘The Contest’ in which I am enacting the role of a high profiled socialite woman. Then there are two more English films titled ‘Midnight’s Children’ and ‘A Decent Arrangement’. That’s it.
– Shaheen Raaj / Sampurn Wire
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