Shabana Azmi refuses to divulge details about her role in Deepa Mehta’s screen adaptation of
. But admits that she’s thrilled with the script. “When I read Salman Rushdie’s Booker Prize-winning novel, I thought it would be impossible to film. But Deepa and Salman have come up with a crackling screenplay and I’m impressed,” she exults.
Azmi is excited at the prospect of working with Mehta again after the aborted
. Nandita Das and she had to step aside after Mehta was told that distributors wouldn’t touch her film if it featured the two actresses, following a shoot in Varanasi that was disrupted by angry fundamentalists, forcing the unit to move to Sri Lanka. Lisa Ray stepped in for Das and Seema Biswas for Azmi.
“We believed in the film and the issues it raised. And agreed that the fundamentalist forces had to be defeated. We were vindicated when the film was nominated for the Oscars,” asserts Azmi.
flags off in December. Before that, in October, Azmi will be touring the US with her one-woman play,
. “I’ve received another exciting movie offer but I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it since I’m committed to this tour,” she says. “I’m looking forward to it since the play works differently with different audiences.”
Written by Girish Karnad and directed by Alyque Padamsee,
is a psychological thriller revolving around a Hindi short story writer who becomes famous overnight after writing an English bestseller. She goes to a TV studio for an interview and on the way out, her on-screen image starts talking to her and has us wondering whether it is her, her paralised younger sister Malini who used to write in English or her conscience speaking.
“Technically, it’s a huge challenge because I’m not enacting two characters but two facets of the same character. The TV image lasts for 42 minutes and is a single-take effort. The lines have been pre-recorded and I have to react to them on stage, so timing is crucial,” explains Azmi.
She was in Rothak for a show recently and an hour before it was to start, she was asked by the organiser if she could speak more Hindi since only 20 per cent of the audience understood English.
“My image had to speak English but I reacted to what she was saying in Hindi, translating my lines live on stage, without any rehearsal,” she recalls. “I don’t know how I did it but when the show ended, the organiser was in tears and the audience were up on their feet applauding.”