November 30, 2007

"Aankhon mein humne aap ke sapne," Thodisi bewafaii

Today's Shabana-gaana is another song from a film I haven't seen, 1980's Thodisi bewafaii. You might recognize this trippy dream-sequence song as the source of the picture in the "One blingin' tiara" banner that Beth made for SLP. Of course in the video it's apparent that it's a full-on crown, not just a tiara, that tops the absurd, striped, spangly horror of a gown that poor Shabana ji had to wear in the first half of the song. Enjoy!

November 29, 2007

All this can be yours

Isn't that lovely?

The original print is available on eBay. I have been known occasionally to buy Shabana Azmi memorabilia on eBay - mostly old gossip magazines that I will write about here some time - but I'm not really motivated to buy a print like this one. It's yours - at the moment for only Rs. 90 - if you want it.

Gratuitious screencaps: Adharm (1992)

Has anyone seen this masala movie in which Shabana Azmi appeared with Sanjay Dutt? I haven't, but Gebruss from the BollyWHAT? forums, a staunch Sanju fan, did, and shared some screencaps with me.

It's well established that I am deeply partial to 1990s Shabana; I think she looks just gorgeous here, even though I'm not that eager to see the film.

November 28, 2007

Kibosh on Sadiyaan

This news report from the gossip rag Mumbai Mirror says that Shabana Azmi will not be costarring with Rekha in Raj Kanwar's next film as was previously rumored. The article takes the opportunity to dish more snark, reporting without basis that Rekha ji herself is the reason Shabana ji has "walked out" of the film. "What else could be the reason for her sudden decision?" it asks.

Javed sahib supplies some possible answers: dates, or money. I'll provide some others: perhaps on reflection she decided she didn't like the character, or the script.

Or, maybe she doesn't want to work with Rekha after all. Only the principals know for sure. Here's what I know: I don't much care if Shabana ji is friendly with Rekha ji, or not. I would be happy to see Shabana ji signing for a new film, though, even if it's not Sadiyaan.

(Thanks to JodhaBai at BollyWHAT for the link.)

November 26, 2007

November poll: results

Sorry for the radio silence here, folks. I had a house full of relatives for the past week, and there hasn't been much Shabana news on the wires, so it got a little quiet here at SLP.

The November poll - Shabana films from an alternate universe - collected a total of 24 votes, and the results were pretty interesting.

A plurality of you want to see Shabana ji in more comedies. Hema Malini's role in Seeta aur Geeta won the poll with 8 votes, and Meryl Streep's role in The Devil Wears Prada picked up a healthy four.

Beyond that, poor Seema Biswas takes a beating, as 7 of you wanted to see what Shabana ji could do as Phoolan Devi in Bandit Queen, and four more were pining for the original casting of Water, with Shabana ji in Seema ji's role.

I was in a weird mood the day I wrote the poll, and perhaps that is why mine was the only vote for Shabana ji as Sigourney Weaver's Ripley in the Alien series. And finally, Jaya ji's role in Hazaar chaurasi ki maa didn't get any votes at all - perhaps that is because no one has seen the film - and neither did Eva Peron (were she alive she would perhaps have sought a way to rig the election in her favor).

Thanks for being sporting - I know this was an odd poll - and I have something a little less peculiar planned for the December Poll.

I'll be back in the next couple of days with some more screencaps and any news that turns up at SLP's internet stalking headquarters. In the meantime, I'd like to call your attention to the rich discussion happening in the comments on an earlier post.

November 19, 2007

Some pictures

It's time for some gratuitous pretty pictures! (As always, click on the pictures for the full-size view.)

This, I think, is a promotional still from Godmother - isn't it lovely!

A recent commenter had not known that Shabana ji was originally intended to play Seema Biswas's role in Water, along with Nandita Das (in the role that became Lisa Ray's) - here they are together on the eve of the doomed shoot:

And this is just exquisite (please click because shrinking has been very unkind to this one):

And finally, a portrait that struck me as very nice, but is not of Shabana Azmi at all - rather, it is her father, Kaifi Azmi:

November 16, 2007

The *Om Shanti Om* cameos

The clips featured in today's Shabana-gaana, I assume, will not be up on YouTube very long. But since the clips are there now, I thought I would link them for those of you who have not been able to see Om Shanti Om.

First, there is the hilarious Filmfare awards sequence, possibly the funniest segment of the film. Shabana ji makes her appearance early in this one, only about 30 seconds in. (The clip is unsubtitled: what she says is, more or less, "A slum was displaced for the site of this award function, and I have come here to protest that.")

Next, there is Shabana ji's giddy turn (literally) in the party song "Deewangi deewangi" - you have to wait a little longer, as she appears a little over two and a half minutes in, but there are plenty of other stars to keep you amused while you wait.

November 15, 2007

Child of a poet, spouse of a scriptwriter, method actor

Believe it or not, the title of this post does not refer to Shabana Azmi. Last week's New York Times magazine had a very interesting profile of the excellent actor Daniel Day-Lewis, and if you can forgive me for meandering somewhat off mission I'd like to highlight it here.

The title hints at some superficial, but slightly spooky, similarities between Shabana ji and Mr. Day-Lewis. Like Shabana ji, Daniel Day-Lewis's father was a famous poet, Britain's Poet Laureate Cecil Day-Lewis. Like Javed sahib, Mr. Day-Lewis's wife Rebecca Miller is a scriptwriter (though not as famous for it as Javed sahib), and also like Javed sahib she is the child of a famous writer herself, American playwright Arthur Miller. And Mr. Day-Lewis is an actor in the tradition of the Stanislavski method.

As a method actor, though, Daniel Day-Lewis is perhaps more in the American mold than Shabana ji, taking the techniques made famous by actors like Robert DeNiro and Dustin Hoffman to a mind-boggling extreme. Mr. Day-Lewis almost seems to lose his own identity in transforming himself for a role. This may be not so much a difference in acting philosophy between Mr. Day-Lewis and Shabana ji, but rather a difference in the filmmaking styles of Mumbai and Hollywood. Notwithstanding some recent trends in Hindi films, Hollywood still tends to adopt a grittier sort of realism; as mentally centered and emotionally present as Shabana ji is in a role, I don't think I've ever seen her unwashed or sleep-deprived when performing, as Mr. Day-Lewis often is.

Still, while it's hard to imagine Shabana ji staying in character when not in front of the camera, her approach to acting does require a lot of meticulous study and thought about what it would really be like to be her character, and the struggles of her characters do stay with her when she goes home after a day's work. So the differences between Shabana ji's studied approach and Mr. Day-Lewis's all-consuming one may be a difference in degree rather than in kind.

It may also be a difference in personality. Shabana ji has a lot going on besides acting, and even earlier in her career, when more of her life was spent in front of the camera, she often worked on several films at once (as was the practice in the industry). Mr. Day-Lewis, in contrast, only does one film every couple of years, and seems to suspend the rest of his life in service of his perfectionism when creating a character for a film. Mr. Day-Lewis shuns the movie-star aspect of his position, retreating from public view unless he absolutely must appear. In contrast, Shabana ji thrives on her fame, and both cultivates and utilizes her public image in a variety of contexts, from film promotion to activism to commercial endeavors - though she prides herself on being a fine actor, she also seems to love being a movie star.

I do recommend that you have a look at the article; Mr. Day-Lewis is insightful and very well-spoken (though he claims not to value the latter), and his story makes for interesting reading.

November 12, 2007

A quickie video interview

A reader let me know about this video, in which Shabana Azmi talks a little about her film Loins of Punjab Presents, which I still haven't seen after canceling my planned trip to New York last month.

The video was taken at a premiere of the film; there is loads of background noise, as you will hear, and so I wasn't quite able to decipher the whole thing. What follows is my best effort at translation:

I am playing the role of a socialite, who enters a singing contest in New Jersey - Desi Idol - she wants to win the $25,000 prize for her charity in any way she can.

She's quite a wicked character.

For that reason I put work into my appearance, my hair was different, my costume was different. I really enjoyed it, and I hope that people like the film too.

Since it takes place in New Jersey, everyone in the singing contest is different - someone from Punjab, someone from Gujarat, I am from Delhi, various types. There's an American boy too who performs in it. Actually there's an actor, a female actor whose career is going nowhere and she decides that she too will be in the contest.

(Something about the film's script) and my character, I tried not to make her like a caricature, but it was very delicious, lovely

Manish Acharya is a very promising director, he worked hard on the script and making the film. He's an NYU graduate, who has already won an award at the New York Film Festival. I am particularly struck by the fact that he loves Hindi cinema, he loves international cinema, and he's very good at comedy. I have great expectations for him.

It seems to me that if this film is given a chance people will really like it, and I hope that the audience is pleased by the film.
That's the best I could do, after listening to the clip over and over at a deafening volume in my headphones. I fear I am going to have nightmares tonight in which Shabana ji yells at me in Hinglish!

Om shanti om (2007)

Sometime in the next day or two I'll have something to say on Filmi Geek about Farah Khan's fun new film Om shanti om. (ETA: Here it is.) For now, I'll just say this: I can't wait for the DVD to come out, so that Beth can make me a banner using a screenshot of Shah Rukh Khan on his knees at Shabana Azmi's feet.

November 8, 2007

When life gets too busy

I thought this news snippet was bittersweet and cute:

Javed Akhtar is very upset with his wife. "And rightly so. We’re in the same city and we haven’t seen each other’s face for nearly a week. It’s okay if we’re in different cities. But come on, not meeting one another in the same city is a bit too much," Shabana laughs without amusement.
The article goes on to enumerate some of what Shabana ji is up to at the moment. (I can't vouch for the source; the blog it was on provided no source info. ETA: Thanks to Sally for the real source.)

The most eye-popping aspect, though, is the accompanying photo, reproduced below. Pardon me a superficial moment: If it's current, it means she's had a haircut, but also look how slim she is! (ETA: Again thanks to Sally, not current, rather two years old.)

Perhaps this goes hand-in-hand with being a brand ambassador for a fitness company. I feel I should do something about my own lard-butt issues before the next time I meet her.

November 7, 2007

The golden rule

"There is so much pressure to love your neighbor as yourself. It is not necessary to love your neighbor as yourself; it is okay to love yourself more. Just don't kill your neighbor, and don't destroy his property."
-- Shabana Azmi

(Source: my notes from Shabana ji and Javed sahib's appearance at Harvard, November 9, 2006.)

November 5, 2007

Another Dubai interview

Well, maybe the November poll wasn't such a hot idea after all. I put a lot of work into it; I hope you enjoyed reading it, even if you're not inspired to vote. (ETA: either this petulance was premature, or it was effective. Thanks for the comments and votes.)

No matter, there are other things to share, like another interview from Dubai, this time from Gulfnews. It doesn't cover any new ground, but it's worth a quick look.

November 2, 2007

Two ghazals from In Custody (1993)

I stumbled across this week's Shabana-gaana about a week ago, and I've already watched the clip four or five times. It's simply outstanding.

In this clip, in addition to Shabana Azmi, you will also see Om Puri and Shashi Kapoor (looking a little rounder than he was in the song I posted last week - I didn't recognize him at first; I found myself thinking "That fellow looks rather like a KapooOH MY GOD."). It's from Ismail Merchant's In Custody, yet another film sitting in my to-be-watched pile. The dialogue toward the end of the clip provides some context; it seems quite bitter and sad.

In case you weren't sure, Shabana ji is singing her own ghazals in this clip. Having listened to the ghazal "Gulab jism ka" from Anjuman an unholy number of times (it's available on iTunes), I'd know her singing voice anywhere, especially singing a ghazal. (ETA: And the mind plays tricks; I was completely wrong about that. I should have said "I'd hear her singing voice anywhere" rather than "I'd know ...." See the comments.) What a clip - outstanding!

November 1, 2007

November poll: alternate universe

I've had a stay of execution, as it were.

The reason I've been so overwhelmed with work the last couple of weeks is that I was preparing for a trial that was scheduled for the end of the month.

The trial has been postponed to the spring, which means I can breathe a little easier, and it also means: you get a November poll!

Last month's poll was a warm-up. This month things get really weird. I invite you to step into an alternate universe, and ask yourself the question: What role do you wish you could have seen Shabana Azmi play? Maybe it's something that was offered to her, but didn't work out. Maybe it's something someone else did that you think she could have done better. Or maybe it's just something that would put her skills to use in an altogether different way.

I offer a few choices here - neutrally, with no judgment intended against those who performed these roles originally - and invite you to vote in the sidebar at the right. If none of these choices strikes your fancy, then step through the looking glass and offer up your own "what if?" scenarios.

Seema Biswas's role in Water. Shabana ji was originally slated to play the role of Shakuntala in the third installment of Deepa Mehta's trilogy; she was shaven and ready to go when the Varanasi sets were attacked and destroyed on the eve of the first day of shooting, and when the production was finally resurrected some five years later in Sri Lanka, Seema Biswas took over, for a variety of reasons. Seema Biswas is an outstanding actor and she did a fine, fine job, but I couldn't help pining for the casting as originally envisioned.

Jaya Bachchan's role in Hazaar chaurasii ki maa. Not really a stretch here; it's easy enough to imagine Shabana ji taking the reins in this art-house film about a woman digging into the dark side of a political movement in order to understand why her son was murdered. That is not to say that Jaya ji did not do a fantastic job, and it was a terrific movie as it was.

Meryl Streep's role in The Devil Wears Prada. Just ruminate on it for a minute. I haven't seen Loins of Punjab Presents, but my gut tells me that Shabana ji can do evil bitch very convincingly. And really, is there anyone in Hollywood this side of Meryl Streep who even comes close?

A "mother role" in a Karan Johar flick. On Koffee with Karan Shabana ji said she's turned down "big bucks" (her words, not mine) for simpering doormat mother roles. But something tells me that in her hands, these roles might be transformed. What do you think?

Seema Biswas's role in Bandit Queen. Not to pick on Seema Biswas here by listing her twice; I don't begrudge her any of her roles, especially this one, in which she turned in a chilling and outstanding performance. I wonder how Shabana ji would have handled the crazed, damaged, and terrifying Phoolan Devi in this harrowing film.

Sigourney Weaver's role in the Alien films. Shabana as Ripley - so good it almost hurts to imagine it. Someone once sent me a screencap of Shabana ji wielding some kind of strange weapon (or perhaps it was a firehose) in Mardon wali baat, and that image is what I have in mind when I think of Shabana ji stepping into Sigourney Weaver's space suit for this role.

Patti LuPone's role in Evita (on stage; Madonna's role in the movie).
- Seriously, hear me out. Eva Peron is like Rambhi from Godmother, writ on a national instead of a local canvas. Can't you just see Shabana ji on the balcony of the Casa Rosada with the updo and the pearls? It's a delicious thought. She might not quite have Patti LuPone's singing chops, but then - neither does Madonna.

Hema Malini's roles in Seeta aur Geeta. Because I just really want to know if she could pull off this kind of pure comedy.

I'll leave it there for now - I'm sure I could think of more - but I really look forward to all your thoughts. Oh: my vote goes to Ripley - I just cannot resist Shabana Azmi kicking ass and taking names - but it was a tough choice.