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70th Birthday Interview Of Shabana Azmi

“I Joined Ftii To Get Over My Inferiority Complex”

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SHABANA AZMI tells JYOTHI VENKATESH

(This interview of Shabana Azmi by JYOTHI VENKATESH appeared for the first time in FEMINA dt July 19, 1974, exactly 46 years ago)

Today is veteran actor Shabana Azmi’s 70th birthday, we at bollyy.com and Mayapuri wish her by reproducing this old and rare interview taken, believe it or not, exactly 46 years ago at her cottage in Juhu of SHABANA AZMI by JYOTHI VENKATESH. Incidentally the interview appeared in Femina and it was in fact one of Shabana‘s first few interviews in the early 70’s after she had made her debut with Shyam Benegal’s film Ankur with Anant Nag and Sadhu Mehr

A gold medalist of the Pune Film & Television Institute in 1973, Shabana Azmi is the latest product to blow into films like a hurricane. Born on September 18, 1950 at Hyderabad, Shabana is the daughter of lyricist Kaifi Azmi and stage actress Shaukat Ali.Photogenic and unassuming, Shabana carries her pleasing personality from life to the screen very deftly.

After completing her senior Cambridge from Bombay’s Queen Mary’s High School, she went to St Xavier’s College from where she passed her B.A in Psychology in 1971. Shabana says that she had never dreamt of pursuing a career in films. During her college days, she had concentrated all her attention on the stage, perhaps inspired by her mother. Flattered by the many awards that she had won for acting, she had almost decided to make it to the stage but she was destined for stardom.

She joined the film institute not because she thought it would be a short cut to films, but to get over her inferiority complex. “Getting into films wasn’t the only goal in my life. Ever since my school days, I had a very poor estimate of myself and grew up with a negative attitude. I sought solace at the Institute mainly to shed this complex which gnawed at my mind. The Institute built up my confidence and made me realize my worth.”

Shabana describes her role in Ankur directed by debuytr making ad film director Shyam Benegal with excitement.”It is about a rural working woman who is seduced by her landlord. The story is based on a real life incident that took place a long time ago in Hyderabad. I took up the role as a challenge to the actress in me. I agreed to act in the film without any make up. Otherwise I’ll end up looking like a decked up girl”

Shabana Azmi
Shabana Azmi

Shabana continues. “I had to do a lot of homework for this film, like going around the village in Hyderabad where the film was shot and analyzing the working conditions of the women folk there, their attitude towards like. It took a hell of a lot of time for me to convince them that I too was an ordinary girl like every one of them. Though I found it a bit embarrassing to squat flatly on my hunches on the ground like them in the beginning, in my utterly unglamorous costume, I got used to it as the shooting progressed further.”

Conversant in English, French, Hindi, Urdu and Marathi, Shabana sprang a surprise on me by revealing that she would have taken freelance film journalism if she hadn’t gate crashed into films. At the Institute, she met Benjamin Gilani, a final year acting student and fell in love with him. The engagement took place last year and she says theirs will be a quiet civil marriage by the end of this year. Blushing like a coy bride, Shabana showed me her engagement ring studded with three diamonds-“proof of Benji’s love for me”.

Shabana confessed she has become immune to gossip by now. “After all, that’s the price that we have to pay for stardom”, she quips. According to her, a film is essentially a director’s medium. She regretted that though it is the director who makes or mars a film abroad, it is the star who carries more clout here in Bollywood.