This is a very good time for actors: Shabana Azmi

By Alkesh Sharma

Chandigarh, July 29 (IANS) A whole lot of independent cinema and a variety of mediums have made this a very good time for actors of all ages, especially those looking for meaningful roles, says respected film and theatre artist Shabana Azmi.

"Earlier we only had films or theatre, but now we have so many mediums for an actor; it is in fact a very good time. Actors of all age groups are getting meaningful roles and a good audience. Earlier there were very few roles for actresses above the age of 30 years, but now the scenario has changed," Shabana told IANS in an interview here.

"Now there is a lot of independent cinema, giving many opportunities to artists of all age groups to play more realistic characters," said the actress known for her power-packed performances.

Shabana, 59, who is married to poet-lyricist-scriptwriter Javed Akhtar, was here to take part in the Chandigarh Theatre Festival. Her play "Broken Images", which was enacted Monday evening, received a huge response.

A five-time National Award winner, she is among the few Bollywood actors who have successfully featured in experimental as well as mainstream cinema.

Her films range from "Ankur", "Nishant", "Arth", "Masoom", "Godmother" and "Fire" to "Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd", "Sorry Bhai!" and "It's A Wonderful Afterlife". She has also dabbled in international films.

Speaking about her experience in theatre and films, she said, "In cinema and theatre we get a different sense of satisfaction.

"In theatre, there are no retakes and films do not allow you to fake. Performing in theatre is always difficult as there always remains scope for error. Theatre demands a lot of patience and concentration. Besides entertaining, it is also a good medium of change in society.

"We have put in a lot of hard work in 'Broken Images' and audiences are appreciating it. We will take this play to the US in October and then to London," stated Shabana.

About her dream role, Azmi said, "There is no such role. But, yes, if I get a chance then I would love to play a historical character like Cate Blanchett in 'Elizabeth'."

Born to poet Kaifi Azmi and stage actress Shaukat Azmi, Shabana is also very enthusiastic about her mother's biography "Kaifi Aur Mein".

" 'Kaifi Aur Mein' has been carefully constructed by (husband) Javed Akhtar, taking instances from my parents' life. It is very overwhelming for me to portray the character of my mother on stage. Even Javed shares the stage," said Shabana.

"Many producers have expressed interest in it, but right now I cannot disclose anything more. The book has been also translated into English, namely 'Kaifi And I' and has been selected by 14 different universities in the US as part of their curriculum of South Asian studies," said Shabana.

Shabana, who also runs an NGO for the welfare of slumdwellers, feels strongly against social evils like female foeticide.

"Both Punjab and Haryana are progressive states that are seeing development in all fields but the sad part is female foeticide is still in practice here. It is shocking that the desire for a male child is so great that people are killing the girl child. It is cold-blooded murder," she said.

She said, "We all have to stand together against this and stop seeing girls as a burden."

"The number of maternal deaths of women every week in India is more than the total number of women dying in entire Europe in one year. We talk about GDP and economic growth, but all these figures will be wasted if we do not work on our human development index," said Shabana.

(Alkesh Sharma can be contacted at alkesh.s@ians.in)

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