December 2004




December  2004 


 Performing Arts
World of Koochipoodi

 Real Issues
 Rights of the Child

 Sudhir Kakar's
Mira & the Mahatma


 Jahangir's Hiran
 Minar near Lahore

 Mike Pandey's plea
 save the elephant

 Shabana Azmi

 South Asians in

 Vijay Singh
 Amir Khan
 Ashish Gupta


 the craft shop

 the print gallery

 the art gallery


 Between Heaven and Hell

  Silk Road on Wheels

 The Road to Freedom

Enduring Spirit

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The Moonlight Garden

Contemporary Art in









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Surabhi Khosla

"I am a woman, an Indian, a daughter, a wife and a Muslim." And she adds with a smile, "I can’t separate any of these layers from the other. They are all a part of who I truly am."


Shabana Azmi is fast becoming an over-50 superstar. Morning Raga is yet another proof that stars who mature with years are like good wine.

She has a style that is extraordinary, beauty that is classic and an intellect that keeps ticking. She is a social activist, politician and a versatile actor all rolled into one - which is why a meeting with Shabana Azmi can affect one in different ways.

Through her multifaceted personality shines a character full of depth, which is reflected in her choice of roles. A simpleton overshadowed by her dominant older sister in Saaz, a crazed witch in Makdee, a dominating, opinionated mother in Tehzeeb, a Los Angeles convenience store owner in Waterborne and now a Carnatic singer in Morning Raga. Variety sure is Shabana’s spice.

She seems to improve with every film. And proof of that is Mahesh Dattani’s latest film Morning Raga. "There has to be something significant in the role to interest me enough. The character has to be strong, intense or even spicy enough to seduce me", says Shabana.

With co-star in Morning Raga…Intense theme.

In Morning Raga Azmi plays Swarnlatha, a Carnatic singer who has lost her son in a tragedy. The film is about the painful journey of piecing together her life again and going back to singing.

Her level of compassion and empathy towards all her roles comes from her obsession to get into the skin of the character. "It takes a lot of practice for me to become the person I play. In Morning Raga I was possessed with learning the basics of Carnatic music."

Whenever she had the time, she would go to her teacher to learn the nuances of Carnatic music. "I even bought CDs and listened to them. I drove everyone a little batty by trying to sing at the top of my voice," she laughs.

Morning Raga is not the first movie she has put her heart into. Before she started shooting for Makdee, Azmi would sleep in a witch’s costume to get the feel of the role. Whether it is Ankur, Arth, Godmother and Fire it is the same level of commitment. "The roles that I take on are all non-conformist and intense. What I like best is to play a working woman, who is forceful enough to understand and make her own choices."

Everyone knows that Shabana can walk her talk. She has gone to lengths to explore her mind and her feelings, realized her calling in life and gone ahead and done what she feels is right. Social worker, Member of Parliament and an actor, she has carried all her roles with aplomb.

The Real Shabana

But who is the real Shabana Azmi in this multitude of personalities? Pat comes the reply, "I am a woman, an Indian, a daughter, a wife and a Muslim." And she adds with a smile, "I can’t separate any of these layers from the other. They are all a part of who I truly am."

So the next reasonable milestone for this remarkable woman should be directing. "No," she says. "Not yet. Though I came very close to assisting Aparna Sen in Gulel, but the film never happened. Maybe if the right script comes along I might just do it."

In an industry that seems to be finally moving away from the female stereotype, Shabana at 54 is a superstar. She doesn’t just grab the audience’s attention; she captivates them and leaves them awestruck. A stack of accolades for her performances is the proof that she is admired for her singular contribution of elevating the status of the heroine in Bollywood and indeed for lending a new respectability to actresses through her powerful roles.



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