December 31, 2007

News roundup

Hi all. The best laid schemes of an industrious carla oft go awry; I spent a week in the country as planned, but the satellite internet connection was down, leaving me unable to browse the Shabana Azmi news and collect the best tidbits for you. Here, then, is a late roundup.

Times of India reports that Shabana ji would like to play the late Benazir Bhutto. Apparently some 15 years ago there was a fledgling plan for a Tariq Ali film in which she would do just that; with Ms. Bhutto's recent assassination there may be renewed interest in this project. It's been pointed out to me before that there is a strong resemblance between the two women; from her comments in the article, I'd say that Shabana ji also seems aware of this. I don't want to say too much about Ms. Bhutto here and now, but I will say that if the time and the project is right, it is a casting I would very much like to see.

Shabana ji covers a range of topics in an interview with Subhash K. Jha. I believe that parts of this interview are recycled from last year - Subhash must have been on deadline. Toward the end, Shabana ji asks Subhash to teach her to cook ("Please Subhash, mujhe khana pakana sikha do.") You know, I'm quite a decent cook and I'd be happy to give Shabana ji an afternoon of my time. I've even prepared the recipe in this article.

This isn't really news about Shabana ji, rather an interesting mention of her. She is quoted in a very interesting recent editorial in Hindustan Times on the issue of achieving a secular Uniform Civil Code.

Our friend Aspi admires Javed Akhtar but is feeling a little bit overexposed of late.

Javed sahib has written his own glowing review of the music of Taare zameen par. I enjoyed this review because I loved the movie and even though it's a bit manipulative, I've been listening to the soundtrack obsessively since I saw the film. The lyrics have struck me as a little reminiscent of Javed sahib's, especially in the title song, which features sequences of similes beginning with "jaise" that remind me of Javed sahib's "Ek ladki ko dekha to aisa lagaa ..."

That's all for now - I wish all of you a safe and warm New Year (I guess it's already 2008 for some of you), and I'll see you next year.

December 25, 2007

Is Shabana in Nandita Das's film?

This from the Times of India - The crew of Nandita Das's directorial debut has run into some trouble when trying to shoot in a cemetery in Hyderabad. But the part of the story that stands out from an SLP point of view is this:

Police said the film crew of 'In Such Times', reportedly directed by actor and director Nandita Das and starring acclaimed actor Shabana Azmi, went to the Dargah-e-Buran-e-Shah in Santoshnagar on Monday morning. Neither Nandita Das nor any of the cast members of the documentary was present at the location.
Starring Shabana Azmi? This is the first I've heard of it. And my impression from my own poorly-worded run-in with Nandita ji is that she is tired of being compared to Shabana ji and is trying to distance herself from her. So I'm surprised at this casting, and perhaps even a little skeptical. Will keep you informed, of course.

Merry Christmas to all SLP's readers who celebrate the holiday. I do not, but it's a convenient time to take a week off, so I am on vacation this week and will take a little time to catch you up on some recent Shabana news and some stuff that readers have sent, and to recap the December poll. See you soon!

December 19, 2007

Shabana and her amma

The December poll pitting amma against beti is almost over - please have a vote if you have not yet. In the meantime, here is some more about mother and daughter. First, a reader sent in this sweet and lovely picture of them.

And Rohinik, from the BollyWHAT? discussion forum, offers the following tale:

Shabana and her mother would get into spats at times and wouldn't speak to each other. Whoever wanted to make up with the other would leave a champa (type of flower) at each other's door. Even fights were poetic at their house!

December 12, 2007

The clothes make the man

Shabana transformed me into a compulsive kurtawalla. The kurta, Shabana, and I have remained together ever since.
-- Javed Akhtar

Source: Bollyvista (with thanks to Specsy at the BollyWHAT? forums). I had noticed that in the few pictures I'd seen of Javed sahib in the 1970s, he wore western clothes, while today he always wears kurta-pajama and a Nehru vest. I'd wondered when he made the change, and why - was it a semi-political statement? Was it because the kurta-pajama was more comfy as he grew a little around the middle? But now we know - it's because Shabana ji thinks a guy in traditional clothes is sexy.

December 11, 2007

Gratuitous screencap: Dus kahaniyaan

Even plainly dressed, wearing almost no makeup, and scowling, Shabana Azmi is gorgeous. I cannot stop looking at this picture.

December 10, 2007

AIDS JaaGo on IndiaFM

Thanks to Aung Phyoe, Steena from the BollyWHAT? forums, and a couple of others who have let me know that the AIDS Jaago films are available on IndiaFM. You can click here to watch Positive, Farhan Akhtar's contribution starring Shabana Azmi and Boman Irani. The other three films are available there too.

I have not yet watched this myself, but I've been told it is unsubtitled. I desperately wish I had the time to write you a transcript but it would take me several viewings, and I've got a lot going on right now (which is why I've been a bit quiet here and on Filmi Geek lately). I have some news and other tidbits I will try to post soon.

December 7, 2007

This is SO wrong

This week's sacreligious Shabana-gaana comes from the warped mind of Beth, who seems to be responsible for most of the stuff around here that makes one say, "oh no she di'int!"

Please click here, and watch the video that might just start riots on two continents. Oh, and don't give up when you think it's over, because she will come back for a little more. Including air guitar.

December 6, 2007

Aspi does it again

Once again Aspi spares me the pain of watching a talent contest show just for a few meager Shabana ji highlights - read his commentary on her lip-synch critiques on a recent episode of Jhalak Dikhla Jaa, where he offers this astute observation:

Now there is something about Shabana that even though she says something nice and encouraging, she makes everyone shake just a wee bit.
I'm not sure I've seen a more perfectly distilled statement of the essence of Shabana.

December 4, 2007

Dance contest rundown

As I've briefly mentioned before, Shabana Azmi has been making the rounds on several talent contest TV shows of late. I haven't watched these programs but fortunately others have and can tell me what I've missed. Check out Aspi's rundown of one recent show, and look out for his graphical take on Shabana ji schooling Sandhya Mridul in the art of hero worship!

AIDS Activism

A lot of money has been spent on awareness and people are aware about [AIDS]. But now, it is time to spend money on treatment and care. Unfortunately I still hear stories of doctors declining to treat an HIV positive patient. That, I feel, is a cardinal sin.
-- Shabana Azmi

Source: Times of India. The story is about Shabana ji's involvement in Mira Nair's AIDS JaaGo project, mentioned previously here. (ToI also is the source of the striking and unusual picture that tops this post.) I also have read that the AIDS JaaGo films will be released on YouTube in February - I will let you know as soon as I find out that has happened.

December 2, 2007

December poll: Khanum v. Khanum

This month's poll pits amma against beti.

In Muzaffar Ali's 1981 film Umrao Jaan, Shabana Azmi's mother, Shaukat Kaifi, played the madam Khanum, who raised, trained, and exploited Umrao for all she was worth. Shabana ji took on the role in the 2006 version of the film by J.P. Dutta.

Who do you think was a better Khanum?

Shaukat Kaifi's Khanum is ruthless, even cruel. Even if she genuinely loves Umrao, she doesn't hesitate to sell her down the river when it's expedient to do so. Shuakat plays the character with exquisite control, registering a wide range of expression with little more than a cock of an eyebrow.

Shabana ji's Khanum chews the scenery as eagerly as she chews her paan, but there is a vulnerability to her (left unexplained by the film) that gives her a more genuinely maternal aspect than her mother's version of the character had.

So which one do you think is better? Not which film - just which Khanum. Vote in the poll at the right, and leave your comments below.

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.

October 30, 2007

Dubai interview

This week Shabana Azmi is in Dubai. My internet stalking automated Google searches turned up a couple of interesting items about her trip.

This report from explains that Shabana ji is a brand ambassador for an Indian health and fitness company called VLCC that is opening a facility in Dubai. I didn't know about this particular endorsement relationship, but at the moment (and perhaps for the best) I don't have time to editorialize or rationalize or philosophize about it. Read the article - it includes Shabana ji's thoughts about representing the company - and let us know what you think.

Second, a Dubai news outlet, Khaleej Times, has a terrific interview that I very much enjoyed reading. In addition to lots of good sound bites that will undoubtedly find their way into future quick posts on bon mots days, Khaleej Times has given us the very sexy snapshot reproduced above. (Thanks also to Sally for the e-mail heads-up about this interview.)

October 28, 2007

Another TV talent contest

First she filled in for Javed sahib when he was a judge on Indian Idol. Then she made a guest appearance on Star Voice of India. Now, Shabana Azmi is apparently serving as judge on yet another talent show, the peculiarly spelled Jjhoom India. The Times of India has a brief interview with her about it.

I can't say I am very excited about projects like this. I don't care for TV talent contests at all and I can't sit through them just because Shabana ji might look nice or turn a clever phrase or two. I love her with all my heart, but I guess not without limit.

Happily for me, the Times of India interview hints at some more promising news: "I am doing two new movies," Shabana ji says, "but I won’t be able to talk about them."

When she does, you'll certainly hear about it here. Perhaps one of them is Sadiyaan - we'll find out in time.

October 26, 2007

"Tota-maina ki kahani," Fakira (1976)

I am in my office doing some research, and I have some music playing quietly in the background. This song came on, and it made me think - it's Friday, I haven't done a Shabana-gaana in a while, and it will only take a couple of minutes to find the song on YouTube and post it. So here you go: "Tota-maina ki kahanai," from Fakira, in which an almost impossibly young Shabana Azmi romps in a meadow with a plaid-jacketed, airplane-collared Shashi Kapoor and declares: "Main Fakire ki rani ho gayi" - I have become Fakira's queen.

I love Shabana ji's mainstream juvenilia. I love the trademark hairstyle she wore through the 70s, with those short bits curling down the sides. I love her bashful non-smile, betraying self-consciousness about her teeth. I love her youthfulness, lean and strong but awkward, and really not much of a dancer. I just love the roughness of the whole package, and the air that Post-Punk Cinema Club interprets as "What the hell am I doing in this film?" There may be no film that embodies this spirit better than Fakira. Of course I know what the hell she's doing in this film - if you're 25, and trying to establish yourself as an actor, do you turn down the chance to star opposite one of the biggest heroes of the era, and your girlhood crush to boot? But that doesn't make it any less endearing to watch this somewhat nervous and slightly unsteady proto-Shabana, still figuring out who she is and where she's headed.

October 25, 2007

Dus kahaniyaan stills

Thanks to dormeg at the BollyWHAT forum, and via Radio Sargam, a couple of stills from the upcoming Dus kahaniyaan:

I love Shabana ji's look in this, plain yet dignified with the spectacles and so on. I'm a little afraid from the one preview I saw of what else we'll have to sit through in order to enjoy Naseeruddin Shah and Shabana ji's ten minutes of the film - but I suspect that some of the ten stories will be good, others not so much.

October 24, 2007

Sadiyaan is real - but not a done deal

Here via IndiaFM is some more news about Sadiyaan, the rumored film starring Shabana Azmi and Rekha that I first heard of a couple of weeks ago.

According to the article, the project is not finalized - director Raj Kanwar would like to cast Shabana ji and Rekha in his film but has not yet done so. Rekha, it seems, is enthusiastic about the project and hoping to work with Shabana ji.

Subhash K. Jha, the article's author, loves his dish, and he doesn't pass up the opportunity to dredge up snark, quoting Javed Akhtar sahib as saying that Rekha's performances don't touch his heart. He also questions Shabana ji's relationship with Rekha, insisting that they don't care for one another much. But just a couple of weeks ago another article asserted conspiratorially that "not many people know that Shabana Azmi is a very close friend of Rekha."

close friends?

I'm not a huge fan of Rekha's ephemeral will-o-the-wisp persona, but given a suitably earthy role she can be powerful and great fun, as in Krrish or Lajja. I'm finding myself hoping that Sadiyaan happens with Rekha and Shabana ji.

October 23, 2007

2002 Interview - from AsiaSource

I'm sorry to be so buried with work that I can't give you something new to look at or think about every day.

As a quickie, here is a 2002 interview from AsiaSource which some of you have certainly seen before. It was the first interview of Shabana Azmi I ever read, and it very much made me sit up and take notice: this is a person I want to pay attention to. It covers much of the usual ground - the commitment to social change that permeated the household of Kaifi Azmi, the turning point of Arth, the promise of the independent voice of women in government, and so on - but as always it's a good read. One thing that comes through, I think, and that I particularly love about Shabana ji, is her optimism. She is a serious and committed person but she is never a downer - she always speaks with hope for a better future, whether it's the future of Indian cinema or the future of India.

October 22, 2007

October poll - results

The results of the October poll are in - and it's a tie! Your favorite Shabana Azmi movies are Mandi and Masoom; each of these received 12 votes. Following in second place is Fire, with eight votes - there had been a three-way tie for a while earlier in the month, before Mandi and Masoom pulled ahead. Arth and Ankur gave a respectable showing, coming in at four and three votes, respectively. Honorable mention to 15 Park Avenue, Parvarish, and Sparsh, which picked up a vote each.

The results of this poll are interesting. I expected Fire to put up a solid showing. SLP has plenty of readers in North America and I suspect that many of these, like me, were first introduced to Shabana ji in Fire. I am also not surprised by the strong showing for Masoom. When I first wrote about this movie on Filmi Geek, I was pleased to learn that it is a popular favorite among desis. People my age fondly remember it from their childhood, and others love it just as strongly; my review of Masoom has received more comments than any other review I've written. So it stands to reason that it would come out on top in a poll like this one.

I am especially intrigued, though, by the strong showing for Mandi. I haven't yet seen this film, and I didn't know it would fare as well as it has in this poll. I'm now looking forward to seeing it - even more than before.

The relatively poor performance of Shabana ji's classic, iconic films like Arth and Ankur is, I think, an artifact of restricting the poll to a single film per voter. I suspect that at least one of these films would make most people's top three.

Of course this is all somewhat artificial, as it's not always meaningful to choose a single "favorite" film. The criteria are vague - is the best film? The one I enjoy the most? The most meaningful? The one closest to my heart? - and the answer can change with shifting moods. Still, it was a fun poll, and I thank you all for voting. I have a much more interesting question in mind for the next poll, so you can look for that in the beginning of November - work permitting.

October 19, 2007


Angeles sent this nifty picture:

Actually Angeles sent me some other very lovely pictures a couple of weeks ago that I'll use as an illustration for some post or other one of these days. I don't know where she finds them! But I'm not complaining.

October 15, 2007

SLP metapost

I wish it weren't so, but there other forces in my life apart from Shabana Azmi. The next few weeks are likely to be extremely nutso for me. I will try to keep up with the news here, but the features, screencaps, and philosophical musings may have to take a back seat for a while. Also please don't take it personally if I don't get around to answering emails right away.

In the meantime, I've extended the October Poll by another week. I was planning to wrap it up today and post on the results, but I think it's still collecting votes so I decided to wait a little longer. Please vote (in the sidebar at right) if you have not already.

Also, in the last couple of weeks I've rearranged the archives a little bit which should make looking for previous posts a little more fun. The "news" category still exists, but there are now also separate categories for "activism" and "upcoming films," so that news pertaining to each of these aspects of Shabana Azmi's work is separately identified. Of course the decade categories are always there for posts about past films.

I've also created a category called "navel-gazing" for those days when I seem to wax philosophical. My husband wondered whose navel I'm gazing at. He thought by "navel-gazing" I might have meant this:

So just to be completely unambiguous, let me state quite clearly for the record that I meant was this.

Finally, I'd like to put out a call to all of you to submit guest posts - that might help keep things lively around here when I'm too busy to write new stuff. If you have a review, some comments on Shabana ji's performance in a movie, or anything else you think might be of interest to SLP readers, send it along.

The next post will be SLP's 100th. Thanks to all of you for making this so much fun!

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:

October 12, 2007

Eid mubarak!

Wishing a joyful and peaceful Eid ul-Fitr to Shabana ji, her family, and any and all SLP readers who observe the holiday. May you all be blessed with health, happiness, and prosperity!

October 11, 2007

Hint of a new project?

I just came across this in a Times of India article about Rekha (whose 53rd birthday was yesterday):

[Rekha] is starring in Hema Malini’s production with Esha Deol, [and] another with Shabana Azmi titled Sadiyaan.
My perfunctory Google searches turned up only that same article. IMDB doesn't yet show anything on Shabana ji's plate after Loins of Punjab Presents, and for Rekha only a recently announced Krrish sequel - but when it comes to Indian films IMDB is sometimes the last to know. Has anyone heard anything more about this?

Shabana and Rekha have appeared in a couple of movies together before, like Ek hi raasta, with Jeetendra, which I haven't seen:

I'm not crazy about Rekha, but I hope Times of India is right about Sadiyaan, because a film that has roles for these two women might be really interesting. "Sadiyaan," by the way, means "centuries," which also sounds interesting. As always, I will keep you posted if I learn more.

October 10, 2007

Witchy woman

I recently had the pleasure to watch Vishal Bharadwaj's outstanding 2002 film Makdee. You can read my review of it at Filmi Geek.

Shabana Azmi plays a nasty witch who lurks in a spooky castle on the outskirts of a village. Even the sensible adults of the village are sufficiently frightened by her that they stop short at the gates of her sprawling property, hesistant even to set foot on her grounds. Word has it that anyone who darkens her doorstep will be turned into an animal. And when she turns a little girl named Munni into a chicken, Munni's feisty, mischievous twin sister Chunni enters a bargain with the witch to try to save her. Chunni must screw up her courage and face the scary witch on her own.

Shabana ji's writhing, snarling, scene-chewing performance in this film is an utter delight. Here's what I said about it on Filmi Geek:

She plays the witch with absolute relish, throwing herself into it with a broad physicality that is utterly delightful. From her creepy gyrations as she performs the magic to turn children into animals, to the growly snarl with which she delivers every line, to her punching-and-kicking fight scene at the film's climax, she transforms into the villain, completely. There is no dignity in this performance - just out-and-out entertainment.
What I mean by no dignity is that she holds nothing back, neither in portraying the most repulsive and terrifying aspects of the witch, nor in taking the witch's comeuppance. As she terrorizes Chunni she smacks her lips, rolls her eyes, and sucks down a bowl full of blood. In the film's climax, she punches, kicks, and falls ass over tea-kettle into a muddy pit. This performance makes her work in Umrao Jaan seem restrained by comparison. It's just magnificent.

For much of the film, Shabana ji is under heavy makeup; creepy and ugly, she is at times almost unrecognizable.

Everyone once in a while though, she'll put on a certain expression, and suddenly it's quite clearly Shabana ji, there under all that makeup:

Toward the end of the film, the witchy makeup comes off, but the manic insanity remains in her eyes and the snarl on her lips:

And, when she's close to defeat, a look of pure fear:

Despite her unusual look, the witch's voice is always unmistakably Shabana ji's, though she delivers her lines in a lower register than usual and adds a creepy complement of guttural growls to every line.

I didn't have any expectations for Makdee, but I absolutely loved it - it's a terrific piece of children's filmmaking, gripping, scary, creepy, gross, fun, thrilling, and engaging from beginning to end. All that and Shabana ji too, in a role that may be completely unlike any other on her lengthy resume. A total treat! I can't recommend it highly enough.

So pretty!