Filmmaker Nikkhil Advani, now in the news for being the showrunner of ‘The Empire’, says that Shabana Azmi, who plays the pivotal role of Babar’s maternal grandmother, Aisan Daulat Begum, in the web series, was reluctant initially to play the character, but he convinced her to change her mind.
He also recalls how the award-winning actress refused to be replaced by a body double in a scene fraught with danger.
In a conversation, Advani said: “Shabanaji had just come out of a horrific car crash (in 2020) and when we heard about it we had to take a break for a couple of months. She called me up and asked me to replace her, but I said to her I will never replace her. I said we will wait for her and she must recover and come back. That’s the level of commitment that has been shown in the show.”
He further added, “A big moment for me, which is quite special, is where Shabanaji is hanging off a mountain in a scene. She is such a thorough professional that she did not allow me to use a body double for her. She hung over there for three hours.”
Based on ‘The Empire of the Moghul: Raiders from the North’, the first of the seven-part series of novels from British writers Diane and Michael Preston, who write under the shared pen name of Alex Rutherford, the web series is about Babar’s coming of age, overcoming seemingly impossible challenges as rampaging armies and brutal enemies threaten his destiny, throne and even survival.
Directed by Mitakshara Kumar, the star cast of the series, streaming since on August 27 on Disney+ Hotstar also includes Kunal Kapoor, Dino Morea, Drashti Dhami, Aditya Seal and Rahul Dev.