Monday, April 9, 2007

Shabana Azmi - Indian Actress

Shabana Azmi - Indian Actress

Shabana Azmi (, born 18 September 1950 at New Delhi, India) is one of the leading actresses of parallel cinema. She is a film actress as well as a social activist, and while her performances in films of a variety of genre have generally earned her praises and awards. Describing her performance in Ankur, Satyajit Ray, the legendary filmmaker of India, has noted: "in Ankur she may not have fitted immediately into her rustic surroundings, but her poise and personality are never in doubt. In two high—pitched scenes, she pulls, out the stops to firmly establish herself as one of our finest dramatic actresses".

Her first movie to be released was Shyam Benegal’s Ankur (1972), which won the national award. However, her first film was an art film, Faalsa, which was released after Ankur Her roles in both the films attracted positive comments both from the reviewers and the audiences. She received the national awards consecutively for three years from 1983 to 1985 for her roles in movies, Arth, Khandhar and Paar. Another film named Godmother (1999) brought her another national award taking her tally to five national awards.

Shabana’s acting has been characterized by a life like real depiction of the roles played by her. In Mandi she acted as a madam of a whorehouse, and to act this role she put on weight and even chewed betel. Real life like portrayals continued in almost all of her movies with a variety of roles, including a tragic role of a woman named Jamini resigned to her destiny in Khandhar, and a typical urban Indian wife, homemaker and mother in Masoom.

She also did many roles in experimental and parallel Indian cinema. Deepa Mehta’s 1996 film "Fire" depicts her as a lonely woman, Radha, in love with her sister-in-law. Radha being the name of a goddess and the subtle reference to lesbianism drew severe protests from many social groups of India, and also threats of ban by Indian authorities. Her role as Radha brought her international recognition with the Silver Hugo Award for Best Actress at the 32nd Chicago Film Festival and Jury Award for Best Actress at Outfest, Los Angeles.

Shabana is one of the few Indian actors to have played her roles with a sense of sensitivity and reality, proving her range and power. Some of her noted films include Shyam Benegal’s Nishant (1975), Junoon (1978), Susman (1986), and Antarnaad (1992); Satyajit Ray’s Shatranj Ke Khiladi; Mrinal Sen’s Khandhar, Genesis, Ek Din Achanak; Saeed Mirza’s Albert Pinto Ko Guussa Kyon Aata Hai; Sai Paranjpye’s Sparsh and Disha; Gautam Ghose’ Paar; Aparna Sen’s Picnic and Sati; Mahesh Bhatt’s in Arth; John Schlesinger’s Madame Sousatzka(1988), Roland Joffe’s City of Joy (1992); Vinay Shukla’s Godmother. Her other popular films include Amar Akbar Anthony, Parvarish (of Manmohan Desai) and Prakash Mehra’s Jwalamukhi.

Shabana’s debut to the small screen began with her acting in a soap opera with a cause, Anupama, that is, the unique or the unparallel. She did the role of a modern Indian woman who while endorsing the traditional Indian ethos and values negotiated more freedom for herself. She had also participated in many stage plays, and notable among them include M. S. Sathyu’s Safed Kundali (1980), which was a version of the Caucasian Chalk Circle; and Farouque Shaikh’s Tumhari Amrita, which ran almost five years. She toured Singapore for about a month on an assignment by the Singapore Repertory Company, doing role in Ingram Bergman’s adoption named Ibsen’s Doll House, which was directed by Rey Buono. Pointing out the differences in all these mediums, she once remarked that the threatre was really the actor’s medium; the stage was actor’s space; cinema was the director’s medium; and television was a writer’s medium.

Shabana Azmi has acted in over one hundred Hindi movies of different genres, mainstream, experimental and parallel Indian cinema; and many of her movies have been displayed at prestigious international centers including George Pompidou Centre (Paris), the Norwegian Film Institute, the Simthsonian Institution and the American Film Institute, Washington Pacific Cinematheque and Winnipeg Cinematheque. A number of her films have won international acclaim including John Schlesinger’s Madame Sousatzka, Nicholas Klotz’s Bengali Night, Roland Joffe’s City of Joy, Channel 4’s Immaculate Conception, Blake Edward’s the Son of Pink Panther and Ismail Merchant’s In Custody.

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