July 20, 2007

Actor, activist ... playback singer?

Instead of posting a song video for this week's Shabana-gaana I want to talk a little about Shabana Azmi's own singing.

Shabana ji is by all accounts a naturally gifted singer and I wonder what might have happened if she had put her mind to that instead of to acting. She famously studied Carnatic singing for her role in Morning Raga, in order to make sure she looked the part. And while a crash course in Carnatic singing does not a Carnatic singer make, I've read that Shabana ji can hold her own in that arena. While she did not sing playback on that film's soundtrack, she did perform the songs live at the film's premiere (or some such event) to enthusiastic response.

So where can a hungry fan hear Shabana Azmi sing? There are a few recordings out there but I haven't had much luck in tracking some of them down. She sang her own playback for the 1986 film Muzaffar Ali film Anjuman. I've never seen any sign that this film is available on DVD, nor had I been able to find any of its songs - until recently, when I discovered that one of them, "Gulab jism ka yunhi" is now available at the iTunes music store. Best 99 cents I ever spent! Shabana ji sounds so sweet - it's just wonderful. She sounds like a regular person with a pretty voice - not at all like a professional playback singer. It's really quite lovely, and well worth checking out. (IMDB also credits Shabana ji as playback singer on her 1984 National Award winning performance in Paar, another film that I'm dying to see and that I've not been able to get my hands on.)

More recently, Shabana ji can be heard singing a short, sweet tune in a peaceful moment in Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd. And, I am quite certain that she sang the song that plays over the opening credits in Shyam Benegal's Hari-bhari - though she is not credited as a playback singer, I am nearly positive that it is her voice - listen for yourself.


Anonymous said...

Yes, Carla, it is indeed Shabana-ji singing over the opening credits of Hari Bhari. And doesn't she sound gorgeous??? In fact, it is the same song that she sings in Shyam Benegal's wonderful Mandi when she stands at the mirror amusingly fixing her hairdo. She also sings one or two other times in the film -- much much MUCH to my delight and surely to yours, too, when you get a chance to see it! Shabana-ji's fabulous sense of humor lights up the screen!

On another note, Sati...I LOVE IT. It's a very unusual film -- very "art house" -- but Shabana is extremely powerful in it. So vulnerable, so feeling, so exposed...there is no trace of the "star" that she is in her portrayal of Umi. I look forward to hearing your comments on it.

Finally, thanks for your great work on this blog. I'm YOUR biggest fan!


Filmi Geek said...

Susan, that's so cool - so Shyam Benegal's choice of the song and title for *Hari-bhari* was perhaps a reference to his earlier film, and I'd have known that had I gotten around to watching *Mandi* already.

*Mandi*, *Sati*, *Swami* - these are probably the next of Shabana ji's films that I will watch, I just don't know when. I still feel that I have to devote at least some of my viewing time to other actors - go figure!

And thanks for your kind comments. Writing this stuff is fun, but knowing someone else is reading and enjoying it is on a completely different level.