If Shabana Aazmi were to look back and undertake an introspection of the distance that she has traversed in her illustrative career of acting in the 35 years of her tryst with films, on the eve of her birthday she would have a great sense of satisfaction that she has been one of the key players who has been responsible for giving Indian cinema an international mooring and acceptance. As a fitting tribute perhaps to her achievement on her birthday LOINS OF PUNJAB has been released to the worldwide audience and it has presented to the world of cinema another aspect of Shabana the comic aspect to do it with a chutzpah.
A journey which was started in 1972 with Shyam Benegal's ANKUR and initiating an era of meaningful or art cinema, still continues to be the guiding force for Shabana and there might have been meanderings into the hard core commercial realm for some time but the heart still continues to throb for the cause of the meaningful or the new cinema and the support for this cinema has been at the cost of financial considerations as well. To work in LOINS OF PUNJAB based on a phone call received from the director Acharya who did not have any background at all about film making is indicative about the excitement that Shabana has for this genre.
Within 9 years of making her debut, Shabana was able to win three consecutive national awards for three consecutive years from 1983 to 1985 for three different genres of films ARTH, KHANDAHAR and PAAR. While there have been celebrated pairs in the male category in the Hindi films, the pairing that Shabana had with Smita Patil was one of its kind and its manifestation was evident through ARTH, MANDI and NISHANT, and it was the acumen of Shabana that though she and Smita were nearly of the same age she could play mother to Smita in MANDI. Were Smita to be alive today, the meaningful cinema with this pairing could have been on a totally different terra firma altogether.
Her international career began with MADAME SOUSATZKA in 1988 and she announced her arrival on the international cinema with aplomb with CITY OF JOY. The complex issue of lesbianism that has been tackled on the Indian cinema has been majorly owing to the sensitivity that Shabana could bring to her role in FIRE of Meera Nair fame. She would also be the only star who got an opportunity to work with the international Maestro like Zaakir Hussain in SAAZ.
While cinematic glory and the paeans could go on and on, a contribution that Shabana along with Farooq Sheikh made to the cause of Indian prose and theatre through the series of enactments of TUMHARI AMRITA which also opened up a new vista of theatre performance where emotions were expressed only through the interpretation of the letters mostly being read and without using mannerisms to express the emotions.
The sparks of flare of comedy that she exhibited in HONEYMOON TRAVELS PVT LTD has blossomed out perfectly in LOINS OF PUNJAB and it is now for the Indian directors to tap this hitherto unexplored talent of Shabana to create a new genre of films with humour but with a female character in the lead.