"Shabana Azmi is one actor, who is synonymous with good cinema."
Shabana Azmi is one actor, who is synonymous with good cinema. Our correspondent caught up with the actor-cum-social activist during her breezy visit to Kolkata on films, family and the communist upbringing.
You recently launched the English version of Kaifi Aur Main and also presented a theatrical collage of the biological account in Kolkata. Can you say more about that? As you know, Kaifi Aur Main is my mother Shaukat Azmi's memoir about her relationship with my father (Kaifi Azmi)...a relationship of love, friendship. The theatrical collage is based on the reminiscences of my parents. Scripted by Javed (Akhtar), the narrative traces Kaifi and Shaukat Azmi's journey of life from his childhood in Mijwan...their unusual romance culminating in a marriage that lasted 55 years... life in Bombay in the 1950s...the Progressive Writer's Movement... my father's social and cultural activism...his path-breaking work as a lyricist in Hindi cinema... his fight against life-threatening illness...and their relentless fight to make Mijwan a place of progress... Kaifi Aur Main is also a celebration of his poetry and his unparalleled contribution to Indian Cinema.
What comes to your mind when you remember your childhood days? I remember happy times. I grew up in a CPI (Communist Party of India) family. Till the age of nine I used to live in a commune ...it was a little better than a
"I played male parts in school"
commune; this was in Khetwadi (Mumbai). Every comrade had a room each. The drawing room was the big Red Flag Hall where all the meetings took place. I was a bit spoilt in the sense that I didn't just belong to my family but to all the families that lived there...we used to go and see the Republic Day lights in a truck and celebrate Holi together.
And then you came to Juhu... Yes. Then the theatre influence took over greatly. My mother was a great time actor with Prithvi Theatre.
When did you decide to become an actor? I had always been acting in school. I used to play all the male parts like that of Mark Anthony. My friends used to say that I will become a Hindi film actress when I grow up. But I didn't use to take them seriously. It was when I was in Xavier's that I started enjoying acting...and also won the inter-collegiate awards. Then I joined the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune.
How did ANKUR happen? I had gone to see Shyam Benegal and within about 2 minutes he not only offered me ANKUR, but also NISHANT. I still can't understand why!
Was it a conscious decision to try out both mainstream and parallel cinema? I don't think so. It just happened that both ANKUR and ISHQ ISHQ ISHQ did well and I started getting offers from both kinds of cinema.
When it comes to women-centric roles, you have always sported very strong characters like that in ARTH and GODMOTHER. Was it because of the background you came from? It was mostly because of the background I came from. I was always used to see women being treated as equals. My father had always been working for the upliftment of women. The scripts, later, provided me that scope.
Which has been the favourite of all your films so far? I am extremely critical of my films. Whenever I watch any of my films, I tend to notice only the mistakes.
So, which is the film where you have made the least 'mistakes'? I would say Deepa Mehta's FIRE and Mrinal Sen's KHANDAHAR.
How would you want people to know you-an actor, a small-time politician, a social activist, or wife of a writer? An actor.
Ever thought of trying your hand in writing? When a woman writes, it's a personal journey. Everything is inspired from what is experienced, or observed. I don't know about future, but at the moment I am daughter of a writer (Kaifi Azmi) and wife of a writer (Javed Akhtar).