Shabana Azmi reflects the changed look of Indian woman, her characters face new challenges in every film


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Shabana Azmi in a scene from her first film ‘Shoot’.

On September 18, actress, social activist and former Rajya Sabha member (nominee) Shabana Azmi has completed her 70th spring. It is a matter of great pride that she has dedicated 46 years to cinema for seven decades of her life. Actor Shekhar Kapoor once said that whenever we turn the chapters of Indian cinema, Shabana Azmi will be seen in her twists and turns.

Shabana reflects the changed look of the Indian woman on screen, not only as a modern, hardworking woman, but also as a housewife. In ancient times where the heroine was Sita or Shurnakha, Shabana mixed her characters in different shades from different shades of gray to realistic half-sisters who reacted to the situation.

Shabana started her film career as a village woman with Shyama Benegal’s ‘Ankur’. However, he worked in many kinds of movies from the beginning. If he got artist films like ‘Nishant’ and ‘Kaneshwar Ram’ because of ‘Ankur’, then Kantilal Rathore’s ‘Parini’ paved the way for medium cinema like ‘Kadambari’. Shashana Kapoor was Shabana Ajmer’s first mainstream hero in ‘Faqira’. After the success of this film, he started getting commercial films like ‘Amar Akbar Anthony’ and ‘Parvarish’.

The search for solutions to the concerns continued unabated and his filmmakers trusted him to deliver the message. So if Sushila, the wife of a school teacher from Nishantha, is having trouble with ‘Shaak’, Meena Joshi tells her husband to tell the truth. In ‘Swami’, Saudmani wants to find her beloved, then in ‘Passion’, Firdaus is always criticizing something. In ‘A Little Infieldity’ Shabana does not forgive her husband’s mistake and in ‘Earth’ she refuses to rehabilitate the world with her cheating husband.

In the last scene of ‘Earth’, when Indra (Kulbhushan Kharbanda) is willing to return to the country to apologize for his actions, Pooja (Shabana) asks the same question: What did you do, if I do the same thing and I want to come back? Will you accept me? Indy refuses. Then worship says – this is also my answer.

Bhabna Somaiya, renowned film writer, critic and historian

Bhabna Somaiya, renowned film writer, critic and historian

There is no woman in ‘Innocent’, but a child becomes a threat to her laughing world. At the beginning of the film, Indu (Shabana) treated the child (Yugal Hanraj) very harshly. However, director Shekhar Kapoor has shown that anger towards a child is actually an expression of anger towards her husband.

Shabana’s characters face new challenges in each film. In ‘Gina Here’ a couple fights to stay in town, so in ‘Yeh Kaisa Justice’ he takes care of his family. The film ‘Orange’ was based on the story of an investigative journalist who bought a tribal girl as evidence of his news. In this movie, she is angry with her husband’s courage.

In ‘Facing a Death’, Seema is very supportive of her treatment husband who is looking for a vaccine, but at the same time she also shows anger while her husband is at work.

In many of Shabana’s films, Sandesh was older than her character. Take ‘Par’ with Nasir and ‘Susman’ with Om Puri for example. The movie ‘Fire’ has ‘Morning Rag’ music and ‘Neelaja’ has lost her loved one. Apart from married life, Shabana has played many powerful characters, but I will talk about them again for a while.

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