Shabana Azmi – the versatile actress of all times.
Shabana Azmi is considered as one of the most versatile actress of all times who had graced bollywood films. Notable directors have experimented a lot with her and could take risks due to her dynamic acting capability. She had started her career in Shyam Benegal’s film Ankur, in 1974, where the picture of rural dominance by feudal lords on poor villagers were depicted and the beginning of protests by the downtrodden class was also shown. She was sublime opposite Sadhu Meher and Anant Nag in the film.
She impressed the viewers in the following films like Parvarish, Amar Akbar Anthony, opposite Vinod Khanna and adapted the style of acting required in commercial films. All these films were action-pact films and she even played the role of thieves and pickpockets in these films. She was elegant in the film Khandahar, directed by Mrinal Sen, opposite Nasiruddin Shah, Pankaj Kapoor and Annu Kapoor. It was film where she took care of her sick mother and the visitors including Nasiruddin Shah came to know her needy condition. The mother’s role was played by Geeta Sen.
She stormed the silver screen with dynamic performance in the film Paar, directed by Goutam Ghosh, opposite Nasirrudin Shah. They came from village and had to do different types of jobs in the city for their livelihood. It included the passing of a group of pigs across the river Ganges. Both Shabana Azmi and Nasiruddin Shah had to swim across the river to complete the shooting.
At the same time her performance in the film Arth, directed by Mahesh Bhatt, opposite Kulbhushan and Smita Patil, requires special mention. She was neglected by her husband who maintained another woman and the story revolved around the mental trauma faced by the wife in those situations. The film had landmark ghazals sung by Jagjit Singh including “tum itna jo muskura rahi ho” where Raj Kiran had given impressive lips.
She used to understand the characters very well whenever complex roles were given to her. In Masoom, directed by Shekhar Kapoor, opposite Nasiruddin Shah, she played the role of a step mother who had her own daughters and could not accept the son of her husband’s old wife. The relationship grew up with passage of time and she ultimately embraced Jugal Hansraj, as the son and prevented him from going to a boarding. The songs in the film including “huzur is kadar bhi na itrake chaliye” sung by Bhupinder Singh and Suresh Watkar, and “tujhse naraz nahi zindagi”, sung by Anup Ghoshal had not lost their relevance even today.
Shabana Azmi had also played significant roles in the films City of Joy, directed by Ronald Joff, opposite Om Puri, Dharavi, opposite Om Puri, , Shatranj Ki Khilari, directed by Satyajit Ray. In City of Joy, she acted as the wife of Om Puri, who had come from village to Kolkata and saw the crude reality when Om Puri earned his livelihood as rickshaw puller. She was very impressive in the film God Mother. She acted as a journalist, opposite Big B, in the film Mai Azaad Hoon. Other than Smita Patil, no other actress had shown the range of performance that she had shown.
She is involved in a number of activities relating to women empowerment and social work. She had also been the judge in musical contests held in TV Channels along with Mahesh Bhatt and Anandji, and there, too, she had shown her understanding of music and lyrics. Being the daughter of eminent lyricist Kaifi Azmi, she had the capacity of interpreting urdu poetry very well. She had won a number of filmfare awards, national awards and international awards for best performance as an actress. The viewers expect same standard of performance from her in all types of films in the years to come.
By: CR Chatterji.