October 14, 2007

Geek's Guide to Shabana Azmi, part 4 - Eh...

This is the fourth and final segment of the Geek's Guide to Shabana Azmi. To learn more about the Geek's Guide, please visit the Introduction, as well as Part 1 - Iconic roles, Part 2 - Cog in a brilliant machine, and Part 3 - Solid starrers.

I either don't like these films, or I feel that Shabana ji was wasted in them - or both.

Avtaar (1983). I think one of those films whose approach is lost in translation to me, as someone who is not Indian, because it was a commercial success. I also understand it was the inspiration for the recent film Baghban. To me, its handling of an important theme - that young people should respect their elders - fell somewhere between peculiar and disturbing. There was nothing wrong with Shabana ji's performance in it - well, except the excruciating "Din mahino saal" - but the role could have been adequately filled by any of her contemporaries. As for "Din mahino saal," I can only conclude that Shabana ji was made to look ungraceful on purpose.

Pestonjee (1988). Not a bad film - actually quite a good film, and an essential for fans of Naseeruddin Shah or Anupam Kher, both of whom are outstanding. Kirron Kher has a fantastic vampish turn as well. But I just don't like the way Shabana ji was used. The role, in my opinion, didn't play to her strengths at all.

Ek doctor ki maut (1991). I feel bad putting Ek doctor ki maut in this category; it's not that bad, and Shabana ji is quite good in it. But it doesn't really fit into any of the other categories either. It ends up here, I think, because I'd rewatch any of the films in the other three categories before rewatching this one - but it arguably does not deserve such a lowly fate.

Morning Raga (2004).
Ugh. The trouble with Morning Raga is that it's just not a very good movie. Shabana ji played her part very well, but that wasn't enough to save the amateurish feel of the whole project. A weak script, weak directing, weak music, and most of all weak acting - it's Shabana ji giving a master class to a bunch of kids who can't act. I do think it's a good thing that Shabana ji gets involved in projects like this, where she lends her skill and cachet to a new or unknown filmmaker whose talent she believes in. Unfortunately, the result isn't always a great film.

Umrao Jaan (2006). Shabana yes, rest of the film not so much. I can't say it better than the lady herself: "I loved the clothes I wore in the film and my scenes were delicious. I liked myself." If it hadn't been for the sentimental appeal of reprising her mother's role from the 1981 Muzaffar Ali classic, I wonder whether Shabana ji would have come within 100 yards of this project. Still, at least it gives us pictures like this one:

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