July 25, 2008

Priorities in order

TV shows extremes – either the women will be as good as gold or wicked as the Devil. When somebody tells me that women are being portrayed in the bad light or as subservient, I consider it far more objectionable than women dressing up skimpily and celebrating their sexuality.
-- Shabana Azmi

Source: This article about Shabana ji's role in Ekta Kapoor's "Kaun jeetega Bollywood ka ticket," which I mentioned here not long ago. Shabana ji astutely touches upon a very important point. To object to the portrayal of women as human beings with autonomous sexuality is to perpetuate the dichotomy that is described in Western culture as the Madonna-whore problem. It shows in Shabana ji's body of work (among other things) that she recognizes the importance of a woman's freedom to express her own sexuality as she chooses, and that a dramatic portrayal of a woman doing so is not automatically cheap, improper, or objectionable.

July 17, 2008

Gratuitous screencaps: Main Azaad hoon (1989)

Marbs and Sally aced the trivia question I posted the other day: the two movies that Javed Akhtar wrote and Shabana Azmi starred in were Jhoothi shaan and the subject of today's gratuitous screencaps, Main Azaad hoon.

Main Azaad hoon is, to my knowledge, the only movie in which Shabana Azmi starred opposite Amitabh Bachchan. It was a pretty good movie - I have a half-written review which will be posted at Filmi Geek some time in the next couple of days. Until then, here are the screencaps.

(I doctored that one - the print I watched had dreadful color in some scenes)

July 15, 2008

Trivia: Written just for her

It seemed like a nice time for another installment of SLP's semi-regular trivia feature.

Should Shabana Azmi ever retire from the movies, I have a fantasy about her final film. My fantasy is that Javed Akhtar will write a script just for Shabana ji and she will win her sixth National Film Award for the role.

As it happens, Javed Akhtar considers himself rather a man's scriptwriter, and probably has no tour-de-force role for his wife lurking, as yet unwritten, in his pen. He has, however, written two films (that I know of) in which Shabana ji has starred. Can you name them?

Here is a hint:

This is a screencap from one of them, which I watched last week; the review will be going up at Filmi Geek in a couple of days, followed by more screencaps here.

July 14, 2008

Video interview "Cover Story"

Great thanks to reader Mihiri who left me this fabulous link in a comment a couple of weeks ago; it slipped off my radar screen somehow (Blogger handles comments somewhat inelegantly) and I missed it until quite recently.

What it is: a lovely video interview of Shabana Azmi from about four years ago, by Vir Sanghvi for (what I presume is) a television show called Cover Story. In the twenty-minute interview Shabana ji sings a Carnatic swaram, and discusses the difference between commercial acting and art-cinema acting, the Stanislavski method, why she became a film actor, being afraid to smile, why she decided to join a hunger strike for the rights of displaced slum-dwellers, and why she has refused to join any political party, among other things.

My favorite part of the interview is a story that is both about Shabana ji and about her parents. In 1986, Shabana Azmi joined her famous first hunger strike for Nivara Haq, an organization devoted to fighting for slum-dwellers whose homes are destroyed by government and private development, because she felt it was useless for her to lend her voice to the organization if she was not also prepared to go the distance demonstrating with them. It was a decision she made from the heart, quite risky for her career and her public perception, but she believed it was the right thing to do. Government officials tried to convince her mother, Shaukat Kaifi, to stop her, but Shaukat would not. Still, Shaukat was concerned for her daughter's well-being, and when Shabana ji's hunger strike was five days old, she sent a telegram to Shabana's father, Kaifi Azmi, who was then away in Patna. She's getting sick, Shaukat said, what can I do? Please talk some sense into her. Kaifi's response: "Best of luck, comrade."

You can watch the video here. (A note: I was only able to play the video in Internet Explorer; the player interacted poorly with my ad-blocker in Firefox.) And thanks again to Mihiri!

July 12, 2008

Gouri Dange on Tanvi Azmi

I just came across a lovely piece by Gouri Dange, whom I mentioned here a few days ago. Ms. Dange is a very close friend of Shabana Azmi's sister-in-law Tanvi Azmi, and has republished on her blog an article she wrote about Tanvi a few years ago.

Tanvi and I have spent the last 15 years talking non-stop, laughing recklessly, eating too much, observing mercilessly, arguing gently, crossword solving furiously, weeping occasionally, ranting full-throadely, and exchanging the deepest of secrets - to the exclusion of anyone else - husbands, etc too. A tarot reader recently declared us soul-sisters. We didn't need her to tell us that.
Read the rest of the piece on Ms. Dange's blog.

A visit with Shabana ji

Going through some older news clips, I came across a sweet blog posting that I had missed previously. It is by someone named Ananda, on a blog that appears to be affiliated with an orphanage in China called Home of Hope. Ananda writes:

Today I had lunch with Shabana Azmi at her home.... We spent a very pleasant afternoon together. As soon as I entered her home, she wanted to know the secret of my “trimness”. And insisted that I show her my work out. So I spent the first half hour ..as a exercise consultant, and we did crunches together on the floor. ..she is quite an impulsive lady !
The post goes on to say that Shabana agreed to endorse Ananda's Home of Hope project, so perhaps we will hear more about this in the future. You can read the rest of Ananda's post here.

July 10, 2008


Imagine [me] being a mother and holding a thali and then saying, "Nahi!" and dropping the thali. If this were the case, I would have packed up and gone a long time ago.
-- Shabana Azmi

Source: A new interview in the Times of India. I am, just like Shabana ji, very grateful that directors are finding more interesting roles for her than thali-dropping, "nahin"-yelling, distraught mothers.

In the interview Shabana Ji also talks about Farhan Akhtar's new movie Rock On (she loves it) and his rock-star predilections; about her television talent contest Kaun jeetega Bollywood ka Ticket; and about doing comedy.

In fact the most interesting portion of the interview may be this:
She was in Delhi to shoot for Anubhav Sinha’s Rajdhani Express, which she describes as “a completely mad film. It is a political satire on the lines of Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro. In fact, Anubhav, who has written it, says that it is his ode to Jaane Bhi...”
I had not thus far encountered very much news about Anubhav Sinha's political satire, so this is quite nice to see. As always, more news when it's available.

The very lovely picture above also comes from the Times of India piece.

July 9, 2008

First look at Sorry Bhai

Glamsham has a little piece about Onir's Sorry Bhai, in which Shabana Azmi is again paired with Boman Irani. It includes the first still I've seen from the film, reproduced above. There is still no release date, though the article says "next year." I was hoping for a fall 2008 release.

July 8, 2008

Rock On - music launch

Yesterday Shabana Azmi and Javed Akhtar were at the music launch for Farhan Akhtar's upcoming film, Rock On. Farhan is not the director of this film - he's its star. Apparently he enjoyed making the film quite a bit. It seems there's nothing Farhan cannot do - he sang his own songs for the film, and gave a rocking performance at the launch. Here is a blog post with lots more about the launch.

That's Javed sahib and Shabana ji at the launch, with Shabana ji's sister-in-law Tanvi Azmi. I am not sure who the woman on the left is but I am going to guess that she is Tanvi's daughter.

Kaun jeetega Bollywood ka ticket

I don't generally follow Indian television so I come in late with this news: Shabana Azmi is mixed up in another talent contest TV show, this one entitled "Kaun jeetega Bollywood ka ticket." The title means "who will win a ticket to Bollywood?" - and, apparently, the show's prize is a role in a mainstream film. The show began airing in India on Sunday.

According to this piece, Shabana ji is in charge of mentoring contestants from the eastern portion of India. When asked what connection to the east drew her into that role, she credited eastern legends like Satyajit Ray and Gautam Ghose as significant influences in her career. Here's some more news about the show, which is apparently produced by Ekta Kapoor (a friend of Shabana ji's best known for producing wildly popular television serials). Zeenat Aman is also slated to be a judge on the show, along with actor Amrita Singh and director Mahesh Manjrekar.

"I'm glad for once that this show has three women as mentors and not just a token woman as judge," Shabana ji says according to this article about the show. That's certainly Ekta Kapoor's deliberate touch at work.

I'm sure clips from this show will turn up on the internet sooner or later so I will keep you posted if I come across any.

UPDATE: Here's a link to a source for on-line viewing of the first episode. I haven't tried it myself so I can't vouch for the quality.

July 7, 2008

News roundup

I've just caught up on a couple of weeks' worth of Shabana Azmi news, and I've written several posts which I'll put up for you over the next week or so. (Hey, you can't expect me to use up all the good stuff at once!)

Here are a few interesting news items to get started:

  • Shabana ji appeared at the launch of author Gouri Dange's new book 3 Zakia Mansion. Shabana ji read excerpts from the novel and spoke very highly of it. Ms. Dange herself was kind enough to leave a comment here at SLP the other day, and I invite her to please tell us more about herself and about her work. In the meantime, you can read a little about the book here at the SmasHits wesbite, and see some pictures from the event (including the one at the top of this post - as usual, click the picture for a better look). I also found a lovely video of the event, which you can watch here.
  • I mentioned some months ago that Shabana Azmi had a kind of mentor role for Smita Patil's son Prateik. Prateik's debut movie Jaane tu ya jaane na (Aamir Khan's production) opened this week. Here's a short interview in which Prateik talks a bit about the movie and about Shabana ji. "She is like my mom," he says.
  • Finally, a number of news outlets carried a news wire report that Shabana Azmi has been appointed by the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) as a Good Will Ambassador for its HIV/AIDS program in its member countries. "Apparently, the actress' name was recommended by National AIDS Control Organization (NACO)," the article reports. It continues: "Shabana's role as a Goodwill Ambassador would involve facilitating the implementation of SAARC regional strategy on HIV and AIDS. She would also take up the issue of creating awareness about the deadly disease." This is really big news, a huge honor for Shabana ji, which I believe she will also take as a huge responsibility and a huge opportunity to make a significant difference on the problems of HIV and AIDS, problems I know she cares about very much. I look forward to reporting more about this here as the story develops.

July 6, 2008

Gay pride parades in India

This isn't directly related to Shabana Azmi, but it's news that impressed me, and thought would be of interest to some of SLP's readers.

Last week India saw gay pride parades in several cities; the first ever in Bangalore and Delhi. There were also marchers in Kolkata, where pride parades have occurred for some years already. (Mumbai also has an annual gay pride parade, which occurs on August 16, India's Independence Day.) The parades' organizer, Lesley Esteves, said that 1500 people marched in Delhi, about ten times as many as she expected.

You can listen to an NPR piece about the parades here.

And just to tie this weakly back to SLP relevance, here is a piece by Subhash K. Jha about Deepa Mehta's reaction to the parades. “I wish I could be there," Mehta says. "My heart swells with pride when ‘Fire’ is mentioned as a favourite film on alternate sexuality. If ‘Fire’ has inspired the homosexual community, I guess I have much to be proud of.”

July 3, 2008

Gratuitous screencaps: Chor Sipahee (1977)

Here are some adorable screencaps from another film I haven't seen, Chor sipahee. You can read what Beth, who provided the screencappy goodness, has to say about the film here. It seems Shabana Azmi did not have an enormous part - but she did ride a motorcycle.

The outfit is questionable, the hair is interesting:

Tawaif routine, with Shashi Kapoor for company:

Glam, and quite lovely:

Listening carefully with Vinod Khanna:

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