September 30, 2007

SLP metapost

I had a computer meltdown this evening - this was a brand new computer so I wasn't expecting it - and I've lost a bunch of stuff that I might not be able to recover.

If you've ever sent me email, for any reason, and you'd like me to have your email address, can you please drop me a note? You can send it to filmigeek at comcast dot net.

September 28, 2007

Star Voice of India

This week's Shabana-gaana takes a little patience. It's a portion of an episode of the TV show "Star Voice of India" that aired a couple of weeks ago. "Star Voice of India" appears to be some kind of talent contest show; you'll have to squirm through a couple of contestants' performances to get to the reason I'm posting it here - a little preview of Shabana ji's talent-contest performance in Loins of Punjab Presents.

Watch the video here. And many thanks to reader fadista de mouraria, who didn't give up in the middle of the agonizing boy-band rendition of "Papa kehte hain" as I did the first time I tried to watch this clip, and so was able to confirm for us that it contained Shabana ji's performance.

Change of plans?

Folks, I just received in my inbox the latest press release from SAIFF about the Lifetime Achievement Award the festival is giving to Shabana Azmi. She's being honored on opening night, before the Loins of Punjab Presents showing.

That's not news, but this is: the press release says that Shabana ji "will not be able to accept her award at the festival in person due to scheduling conflicts."

I had been operating on the assumption that she would be there, as SAIFF originally announced, and as she was in the U.S. as recently as the day before yesterday - I just figured she'd stay till next week. For those of you who were planning to attend the festival, sorry for the bad news! I'll keep you posted if I find out more.

Report from the HungerFREE rally

The HungerFREE blog has another report of Tuesday's rally in which Shabana Azmi participated. There are also pictures, including the one above, and some pictures of Hollywood actor Tim Meadows and Nigerian actor Hilda Dobuko who joined her there.

Shabana ji looks fantastic, and her rhetorical kung-fu is powerful. "I found it shocking that the United Nations has not thought it necessary to go to all means to put food on the table," she said. "We cannot bask in the glory of development when millions go hungry in a country of abundance." Indignation looks so good on her!

September 26, 2007

She's amazing!

"Empowerment is about participation in the decision-making process."
-- Shabana Azmi

Source: An entry in the blog of HungerFREE, the organization with which Shabana ji recently appealed to the U.N. to expand its programs to combat hunger. Evidently someone at HungerFREE was impressed with her, as the original title of the post included the breathless editorial that I have borrowed for the title of my post: She's amazing! The HungerFREE site has unfortunately since been edited, but the truth of the statement stands.

Dus kahaniyaan trailer

We've now got a glimpse of the upcoming Dus kahaniyaan, Shabana Azmi's third film of the year, which I mentioned once before here. Here's a trailer:

It's no trivial matter to present the flavor of ten unrelated shorts in a 90 second promo spot. It looks like several of the stories will be steamy - though that could be a result of judicious trailer-editing. It's hard to tell from this what Shabana ji and Naseeruddin sahib's story will be - but since it's only ten minutes long, I don't think I want to know too much about it before I see it.

September 24, 2007

Shabana Azmi news roundup

Please forgive me another roundup post. Real life has seemed busier than usual the last several days, and there's lots and lots of news; I can't keep up with it all.

  • Shabana ji has been at the U.N. General Assembly protesting with ActionAid's HungerFREE campaign. "It’s time we took starvation seriously — one out of every four Indians is dying of hunger," she says. "These are startling facts. Everyone looks at these as cold statistics, but we want to make them emotive issues. We want to ask people how they’d feel if their child or parent went to bed hungry." (Source.) India e-news has a few more words about that, along with some of the other stuff Shabana ji is up to these days - home remodeling (me too!), going to the movies for her birthday, talking to the BBC.
  • Loins of Punjab Presents opened in India late last week. The cast and crew attended a premiere in Juhu, the Mumbai suburb where Shabana ji lives. Here's Shabana ji with Javed sahib and the kids, Farhan and Zoya -
Sweet family! (Here are more pictures from the premiere.) The film has gotten some nice reviews, like this one from Baradwaj Rangan, who recently won a National Award for film journalism. There are lots and lots of articles and reviews since the movie opened, but I haven't read many of them - I don't want to know too much more about the movie before I see it - so no more links. You can read what Manish Acharya himself has to say about it, though, here.
  • And finally, Here's a year-old note (that for some reason just turned up in the news search) about a BBC TV production Shabana ji did last year called Banglatown Banquet. I always thought this sounded like an interesting project and I'd like to see it some time.

September 21, 2007

Tide-you-over metapost

I've spoiled everyone, I'm sure, by posting daily to SLP and keeping up, for the most part, with the weekly features. It's Friday, Shabana-gaana day, and I have something in mind but I won't be able to get the post ready until this evening at the earliest. I also have another news roundup - but I don't have time to prepare that right now either.

So to tide you over here's the cutest picture I've seen in a good long time - Shabana ji and Loins of Punjab Presents writer/director Manish Acharya. (As always, click on the image for full size.)

Aww, cute!

Also - we have been discussing plans for the SAIFF premiere on the comments to this post. As the date approaches I would like to take this discussion private. So if you are planning to attend the SAIFF premier of Loins of Punjab Presents in New York, please send me an email (filmigeek at comcast dot net) and I'll put together a list we can use for making plans. Thanks!

Also, if any readers in India have seen the film, which opens there today, please do let us know what you thought.

September 19, 2007

Birthday news roundup

Once again, if you missed yesterday's birthday post, please have a look and drop a note if you want to. For today, here's a roundup of a couple of little news articles noting Shabana Azmi's birthday.

  • Times of India reports on Shabana ji's sweet birthday wish: great success to Manish Acharya, writer and director of Loins of Punjab Presents.
  • This wire service report (I'm not sure of its provenance) tells us that Shabana ji didn't plan a party for this year's birthday because her home is under renovation, and she and Javed sahib are living crammed into a small corner of the house. (Let me tell you, I feel her pain on this one - my renovation project is well into its fourth month and I want my kitchen and master bath back!) Also, Shabana ji notes that she is observing Ramadan, another reason to forgo any festivities.
  • Finally, one more reason a birthday party would have been impractical - it looks like Shabana ji is in New York this week. The Wall Street Journal places her at the UN protesting for the right to food with HungerFREE. Here's a little more about this from Hindustan Times. (Thanks to dormeg for the link.) That last article also provides this week's bon mot:
It's very simple, really. Food needs to be put on everyone's plate.... How can we think of making progress, when everyone doesn't get enough to eat?
I love this woman!

If Shabana ji is in the States this week, it's possible that she won't return to India between now and the Loins of Punjab Presents premier on October 3. I'll keep you posted with any news of further U.S. appearances that may cross my desk here at SLP's cyberstalking headquarters (*) - please let me know if you hear of any as well.

(*) joke.

September 18, 2007

Is it kismet? Is it dumb luck? Who cares?

Folks, I am sorry to interrupt the birthday festivities so soon - and if you haven't yet seen the Birthday Post below, please make sure you stop by and leave your best wishes for Shabana ji if you want to - but this is just so fun, I have to share it.

Remember a few weeks ago I said that I hoped "Chura liya hai tumne" would be one of Shabana ji's songs in Loins of Punjab Presents?

Well, just have a look at this promo at IndiaFM. It's only ten seconds long but I can't get enough.

Oh yeah baby! Fingers crossed that the song is on the soundtrack CD.

There are lots of other great promos for the film, by the way, on that IndiaFM page. You can find them at the bottom left, under "Related Videos."

Janam din mubarak!

SLP wishes a very happy 57th birthday to Shabana Azmi!

I've been thinking for weeks about what kind of special post to make on this day. My husband said, "It should be a gift to Shabana, not to your readers."

We talked about it for a while, and one of us had the idea that I should write her a couplet.

And so I most humbly offer my gift to Shabana ji, in hopes that she can forgive me for mangling her lovely language. I'm not aiming for greatness; I'm merely hoping it makes sense. Also I still can't write in Urdu script so Devanagari will have to do. Anyhow here it is:

अन्दाज़, जाज़िबत, हुसन, ज़हन, जान
इन चीज़ों से बनता है एक बड़ा इनसान
Style, grace, beauty, intelligence, soul
Of these things one great person is made

Ahem. Having got that out of the way, here's something considerably prettier for all of us to enjoy: a birthday slide show retrospective-type thing.

Happy 57th, Shabana ji, and many happy returns of the day. आप जियें हज़ारों साल, साल के दिन हों पचास हज़ार - may you live thousands of years, and may each year have 50,000 days! (That way you can save the world and make lots more films.)

September 17, 2007

Tickets on sale for SAIFF *Loins of Punjab Presents* premiere

Folks, here's the news we've been waiting for: Tickets have finally gone on sale for Loins of Punjab Presents at the South Asian International Film Festival in New York next month. You can buy them here.

I've ordered mine - I couldn't bring myself to spring for the VIP tickets (see discussion in the comments on this post), but I hope to see you there, and I second Darshana's suggestion that we have, at the very least, our own low-key SLP afterparty. Stay tuned for more as the date approaches.

Ek doctor ki maut (1991)

I recently watched Tapan Sinha's 1991 film Ek doctor ki maut. It's a film about a maverick scientist who devises a vaccine for leprosy, but is met with some resistance from the scientific establishment when he publicizes his results.

You can read my review of it here at Filmi Geek; I was a little disappointed with it, but that's all in the review and I won't belabor it here. Other than my own comments, most of the opinions I've heard of the film are very favorable, so if you like, you can head on over to Jaman and watch it for yourself.

Shabana Azmi plays the scientist's wife. In the beginning of the film, the scientist treats her very poorly; he is obsessed with his work and seems to regard her more as a servant than a companion, heaping abuses on her and making petulant demands. She debates leaving him, but decides to stay because, as she puts it, "I can't get over my love for you, even though I've tried." Later her patience is rewarded as, in the film's best-handled arc, he comes to realize how much he relies on her and needs her.

Shabana ji's performance could have been as good as ever, except that it was burdened by an excessive script that just had her talking too much. Tapan Sinha had India's subtlest and most expressive actor at his disposal, but instead of letting her use that subtlety, he stifled her with exposition; she narrates her emotions for her husband - and for the audience - and it interferes with her ability to just be real and convey the emotions by feeling them.

Still, she gives an excellent performance within the limitations of the script, and the film isn't awful. Most people who care about Shabana Azmi enough to read this website would probably find it worth the time, though there are many movies of hers I would recommend before this one - one contemporaneous film that I like much better, and in which she plays a not entirely dissimilar role, is Dharavi, also available from Jaman.

In Ek doctor ki maut, Shabana ji looks absolutely wonderful, which is not without value when the film waxes a little ponderous. Here are some more gratuitous screen captures to go with the one at the top of this post, which makes me go particularly goo-headed.

(PS: Does everyone know what tomorrow is? Stay tuned for something that I hope will be a little special in honor of the day.)

September 15, 2007

On charity, activism, and LOPP

With Loins of Punjab Presents set for release in India in just a couple of days there are bound to be a few little articles about Shabana Azmi coming out here and there. Here is one from DNA India; though it's very short, it covers a lot of ground - the movie, activism, Javed sahib, &c. An excerpt:

Though socialites taking up social causes is not new, the actress feels it’s more the merrier. “Many get involved with charity because it’s considered fashionable. But many times, they end up doing a lot more. And it’s very encouraging as they are the movers and shakers of the society,” says Azmi who has been involved with rehabilitation of 12,000 families of slum dwellers in the city. “I am not superior in any way in terms of the kind of work I do. Any bit done ultimately helps the larger purpose,” she adds further.
The rest of the piece.

September 14, 2007

Daddy's Girl reviews *Masoom*

Daddy's Girl was moved by Shabana ji's wonderful film Masoom, and has written a beautiful review of it.

September 12, 2007


I am definitely a woman's woman.
-- Shabana Azmi

(Source: Koffee with Karan; Shabana ji's appearance during the first season with Shobha De, in 2005. I've been meaning to do a post on this show for a while, so you can look for that in the near future. In the meantime, for $1.99, you can download both that show and her more recent visit as well. I understand these downloads play in Windows Media Player only.)

September 11, 2007

AIDS JaaGo at Toronto

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned the collection of short films on AIDS by Mira Nair and other directors that's being presented at the Toronto International Film Festival. Rediff has a nice article about it with information about all of its segments. Both Javed Akhtar's daughter Zoya and son Farhan are involved in the project, as is Shabana Azmi, along with many other interesting people. From the Rediff article:

Mira's segment, called Migration, features Irrfan Khan as a closeted gay man. Sameera Reddy, who plays his neglected wife, has a one night stand with Shiney Ahuja, a migrant worker. Raima Sen plays Shiney's wife, who gets AIDS, along with her newborn. The segment is written by Zoya Akhtar.


Farhan [Akhtar]'s segment shows a child watching his philandering father (Boman Irani). Years later, the child (now a young man) returns from higher studies in South Africa and discovers his father is dying of AIDS in a hospital. He reluctantly meets his father but cannot help the judgmental attitude that his father had brought it all upon himself. The only gesture he makes towards his father is to give him the details about cricket matches. But his mother (Shabana Azmi) nudges him towards reconciling with the father. The son reminds her of her husband's faithless behaviour and asks her why she still cares for the old man. 'It would have been a different thing if I had left him then,' says the mother. 'But now, he is really sick and he needs us, we cannot abandon him.'
I despair of ever having a chance to see this film, but I hope that it reaches an audience in India and does what its creators want it to do.

September 10, 2007

Stunned into silence

I'm not even sure there are words that can introduce this fine tribute from the inimitable mind of Beth. (Click on the image for full size.) I just hope everyone involved takes it in the goofy spirit in which it is intended ...

September 9, 2007

Geek's Guide to Shabana Azmi, part 3 - Solid starrers

This is the third 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 and Part 2 - Cog in a brilliant machine.


These are the films which, while Shabana ji's character can be considered a focus of the story, are for whatever reason slightly less awesome than the iconic roles identified in part 1. These are all still good films that would be enjoyed by any admirer of Shabana ji's; they just, for whatever reason, don't rise to the level of iconic as the movies of part 1 of the Geek's Guide do.

Nishant (1975). The best thing about Shyam Benegal's second film is that it features a huge crowd of baby art-house giants - Naseeruddin Shah, Kulbhusan Kharbanda, Smita Patil, Shabana Azmi, Anant Nag, Girish Karnad - all in their second or third film out of school. Shabana ji plays a schoolmaster's wife, abducted for the amusement of the youngest brother of the local zamindar. Her performance is more volatile and less introspective than in Ankur, but I think Ankur is a tighter and better film.

Fakira (1976). Young Shabana ji in a full-on masala role, lead heroine opposite her girlhood idol Shashi Kapoor. It's a terrific ride for someone who came to know Shabana ji the way I did, as art-house ki rani; there are several tasty romantic songs, including one that is pretty naughty, and a vicious catfight between Shabana and Aruna Irani. The payoff is a little unsatisfying - Shabana spends the film's climax tied up inside of a statue waiting for Shashi to save her - but it's a fun film nonetheless.

Swami (1977). A bright and promising student has her spirit broken by the weight of tradition and duty. Shabana ji won a Filmfare award for this performance and so it may arguably belong in part 1. I don't put it there, though, because unlike some of the other oppressed characters Shabana ji played later in life, there's no move toward transcending that oppression; Her character in Swami just gives in to it. The film may be subversive in showing her miserable for having done so; I can't make up my mind. At any rate, Shabana ji is delicious in it, especially in the film's first 45 minutes, when her character is happy and excited by the promise of love and knowledge.

Sparsh (1980). There were some things that were very sweet about this film, but as a movie about a proud, independent blind fellow (Naseeruddin Shah) and his sighted girlfriend (you-know-who), it doesn't quite avoid the trap of waxing preachy. Still, it has sweet moments that make it worth watching - the romance is delicious. This film might arguably be semi-iconic; in an alternate universe it might have landed in part 1 of the Geek's Guide. Shabana ji's character has a little of that quiet intensity, though it's young and raw; with a different star Sparsh would have been a radically different film.

Ek din achanak (1989). This is a quiet psychological drama in which not a lot happens; it's mostly about what's going on in people's heads. Shabana ji's character's father disappears one day, and his family tries both to figure out what happened to him and to get used to life without him. Shabana ji's introspective character resembles some of her other contemplative roles, but lacks the intensity, the fire, of the most compelling ones.

Tehzeeb (2003). This is a terrific film. It's great fun to see Shabana ji as a narcissistic and bitchy (but not unredeemable) show-biz character. As a younger woman she might have come across as shrill in such a role; pentegenarian Shabana suits it perfectly, though, bringing her own accomplished presence to bear. The character has an air not just of arrogance, but of arrogance earned; not entirely unlike the actor herself, I am inclined to think. Unlike the actor, though, this character doesn't quite grasp that the world does not revolve around her. And even though her character is a rock star, the themes of the film will resonate for any adult woman who has a mother.

September 7, 2007

"Aaja zara mere dil ke sahaare," Fire (1996)

Today's is an unusual Shabana-gaana. The song is "Aaja zara mere dil ke sahaare" from 1957's Ek Jhalak, sung by Hemant Kumar and Geeta Dutt. Deepa Mehta used the song in Fire in a very sweet scene in which the young, impulsive Seeta (Nandita Das) prevails upon the reserved and introverted Radha (Shabana ji) to cut loose and dance for some members of their household. "I'm afraid I'll make a fool of myself," Radha says. Seeta answers, "So what's wrong with that?" Here's the song.

I recently translated this song at a reader's request, so I offer the translation here. The usual caveats apply - I am learner, so correctness is not guaranteed!

H: aaja zara
aaja zara mere dil ke sahaare dil-ruba
Come to me, just come to me my darling, my heart’s desire
tere lie mere dil mein teri yaad hai javaan
For you, memories of you are fresh in my heart

G: are ja ja ja dekh li hai main ne shekhi teri
Go away from me – I have seen enough of your boasting
na sata ja ja ab na chalegi yahaan chaalen teri
Don’t torment me, go away, your wiles won’t work here anymore

H: tu ne na jaana main hun divaana
You haven't figured out that I’m crazy about you
dil me chhupi hain muhabbat teri
Your love is hidden in my heart

G: kuchh nahin yahaan
There’s nothing here for you.

H: aaja zara.....
Come to me &c.

H: are aa aa aa maan le o gori kahana mera
O, come to me, o lovely fair one, believe what I say
na jala aa aa achchha nahin dur rahana tera
Don’t make me jealous, come, it’s no good to stay so far away

G: pahle akadana phir paanv paDana
First you harass me, then fall on my feet and beg me
duniya men mardon ki aadat buri
In this world men behave so badly

H: jaaegi kahaan
Where will you go?
H: aaja zara...........
Come to me &c.

September 6, 2007

Long LOPP trailer

Isn't that lovely? Via Manish at Ultrabrown, yet another Loins of Punjab Presents trailer - this one longer, about two and a half minutes, introducing all the characters.

Ultrabrown also has the poster and the CD artwork.

Still no news on tickets for the New York opening. I am checking several times a day. I even dreamed about it two nights ago.

September 5, 2007

On being sexy

There is a very fine difference between a woman celebrating her own sensuality and submitting to the male gaze, and that distinction needs to be made.
-- Shabana Azmi

(Source: 2006 BBC interview mentioned here.)

September 4, 2007

Indian TV commercial for LOPP

Via Manish at Ultrabrown, the first Indian TV commercial for Loins of Punjab Presents.

Tickets for the opening at the South Asian International Film Festival have not get gone on sale on the SAIFF website - I'll keep checking and report here as soon as that changes.

September 3, 2007

What it's really about

Well, isn't this grand - a whole blog, just about Shabana Azmi.

Who am I kidding? I'm going to let you in on a secret - though if you've read more than one or two posts on this blog you'll have already figured it out on your own. Here it is: Sounds Like Power is as much a blog about me as it is a blog about Shabana Azmi.

My admiration for Shabana Azmi tells you something about the kind of woman I would like to be (if not, yet, the kind of woman I strive to be). She is fearless, opinionated, dedicated, talented, strong, hardworking, intelligent, committed, steely, confident, poised, beautiful. I am at most three or maybe four of those things - I won't tell you which ones - but others are within my reach if I apply myself.

But there's also something to be learned about me from my fascination with Shabana Azmi's unformed youth, the rawness of her young adulthood when most of those qualities were, as they are now in me, mere potentialities. I am as drawn by her mistakes as I am awed by her successes. When I look at myself today, most of what I see is flawed; when I look at Shabana Azmi, very little is. But she is 22 years my senior; studying her youth reminds me that I have time, and something to work towards.

And there's something to learn about me from my sheepishness at this whole enterprise. I can't help but be a little embarrassed because, after all, Shabana Azmi is a movie star. There's a voice in my head that constantly chides - why a movie star? Can't you lavish your obsessive devotion on a scientist? a head of state? an author? or better still, if you have to turn to a heroine for inspiration, how about a real person that you actually know, rather than one you idealize and read about in gossip magazines?

There's some deep prejudice within me that insists on trivializing the art of acting, demeaning it, so that every word of praise I write about Shabana ji's mastery of it must be balanced by a corresponding word of praise for her as an activist. It's a point of defensiveness - yes, I have a blog dedicated to a movie star but wait, she's so much more than just a movie star! Even Shabana ji's own pride in herself as an actor - and her astute reasoning that if she weren't a famous actor she would be far less effective as an activist - is not enough to overcome this bias against mere movie stars that makes me slightly ashamed of my Shabana-pyaar.

And it would be disingenuous to pretend that I only admire Shabana ji for her off-screen accomplishments. While I may not be a vapid teeny-bopper fangirl, it's patent that sometimes I just pop in a DVD, sit back, and go all goo-headed. Because whatever else she may be, Shabana Azmi is one freaking gorgeous woman. Sometimes there's just nothing to say but "guh".

There is a part of me that wishes I could keep thoughts like that to myself. Ultimately, though, I am an exhibitionist - how can a person with three blogs be anything but? - and I'm crazy about Shabana Azmi. So I'm here day after day, holding forth both effusively and a little sheepishly about her. But I know that in doing so I am telling you as much about myself as I am about her. And so I am that much more honored that you visit and read. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

September 1, 2007

"Thoda pyaar chahiye," Lahu ke do rang (1979)

Today's Shabana-gaana is a trippy and manic number from Mahesh Bhatt's Lahu ke do rang. I haven't seen this film, though I recently acquired a copy from Indiaweekly, who couldn't wait to get rid of it - it was cheaper to buy new than to rent it! Cryptic comments from one SLP reader lead me to believe that it will be best enjoyed with generous quantities of liquor.

Anyway on to the song, which features an indifferent and irritable Shabana Azmi, aggressively and quite dashingly pursued by Vinod Khanna.