By Subhash K. Jha, Indo-Asian News Service
Mumbai, (IANS) Shabans Azmi has been bugged by an acute back pain of late, but the
veteran actress has enough beans left in her to flirt with the idea of directing a
Even though Shabana Azmi finds acting much more comfortable than directing, the
acclaimed actress says she is open to direction. But the film has to be a human story that
"Once in a while, I flirt with the idea of direction. I've to find a story I want to
direct. And I don't want the burden of a socially responsible film - burden that I can't
bear. If I direct, it would be a human story that touches me. I'm nervous of forcing myself
into making a socially relevant film," the veteran actor told IANS in an interview.
Q. You were in your element at the Filmfare awards.
A. My back had gone for a toss. I've been neglecting it all the time. And I had to do my
best acting with my excruciatingly bad back. Before standing on stage, I had to take
several injections and painkillers. But Rani Mukerji spoke so warmly about me.
Q. Your bad back didn't show. That's what makes you such a stupendous actor?
A. I need rest. Since November I haven't been in Mumbai at all. I've been working like
one lunatic. So I've taken a break now. But now my house is being renovated. I was resting
in my mum's house when I got this frantic call about the renovation going all wrong. So I
rushed back. Now here I am, confused and not being of any help to anyone. Javed says I deal
with stress by piling on more stress.
Q. Don't you think it was premature to give you the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement
A. Not at all. I've been around for a lifetime. I came in 1974 with "Ankur". I think
it's wonderful to receive the lifetime achievement award when you're busy. I've never been
busier as an actress as I've been in the last three years. When I was in parliament, I
restricted my work to the time I was on vacation. Now I'm working a lot.
Q. You're the most awarded actor of this country. Does the lifetime achievement mean
A. I think the lifetime achievement award is significant because your work over the
years is being appreciated. But in recent times, the other special award was the Davos
award where I was put on the same level as Pablo Coehlo and Umberto Eco, and I received it
along with Michael Douglas. So I guess these two awards thrilled me quite a lot.
Q. Do you see yourself as an achiever?
A. I see myself as an actor who has been lucky enough to be at the right place at the
Q. Oh, I've heard that one before.
A. But it's true! I've been singularly lucky. What I've done so far as an actor is like
a writer learning the alphabet. But I think I've just achieved the minimum required of an
actor. What's thrilling is that the thrill of acting has still not gone. I feel the same
butterfly in the stomach when I've to inhabit another character's life.
Q. You sound so charged?
A. I think acting by itself is a rewarding profession. It allows you to inhabit other
people's lives. Imagine how much it adds to your experiences. For "Ankur", the 20-year old
Shabana Azmi walked into a village in Andhra Pradesh that she had never seen, then so many
years later she plays Anu in "15 Park Avenue". She adds all she had learnt over the years
to her character.
Q. You're lucky to get roles that do justice to your talent.
A. But filmmaking is such a collaborative business. A writer writes it and a director
develops the vision and takes on a team he wants. Actors get credit above the rest because
theirs in the most visible work. In their hearts, all actors know that others are covering
up their weakness and highlighting their strengths.
In theatre, an actor is on his own, no matter how much she's propped by the director and
others. In that sense, theatre is much more an actor's medium. I'm grateful to the hundreds
on the set who help me do my best work possible.
Q. So when are you directing a film?
A. It's so easy being an actor. Why should I put my head on the chopper? Mahesh Bhatt
once told me that direction is about having a dream and then watching it crumble. Why
should I watch my dream crumble? But once in a while, I flirt with the idea of direction.
I've to find a story I want to direct. And I don't want the burden of a socially
responsible film - burden that I can't bear. If I direct, it would be a human story that
touches me. I'm nervous of forcing myself into making a socially relevant film.
Q. Will you cast yourself?
A. Impossible! There is no question about that. If I direct, I wouldn't cast myself.
Q. Whom would you cast?
A. Someone like Kareena Kapoor. She's a very, very special girl. In J.P. Dutta's "LOC",
I fell in love with one shot of hers. She stunned me.
Q. This was the first year in years when Javed Akhtar wasn't nominated for the best
A. Yes. Javed was supposed to give away another award. He insisted on giving Gulzar Saab
the award. And Gulzar Saab threw such a line at Javed - 'I'm glad you're not in the
nominations list'. Only a writer can think of such a clever line so quickly.