Actor Shabana Azmi says that mainstream Hindi cinema is witnessing a change in terms of portraying female characters. “There is a change coming in mainstream Hindi cinema. Earlier, when there used to be a role of a mother, she would drop the thaali and scream ‘nahi’, an absolutely stereotypical role. And in Hindi films, there was always an attempt to wipe out all the details,” she says.
This has been changing now, she said. She adds that in mainstream cinema is locating characters. Azmi plays a role based on Rama Bhanot in the film, the mother of Neerja Bhanot (played by Sonam Kapoor), a flight attendant who gave up her life to protect passengers on a hijacked flight in 1986. The relationship between her and Sonam has been one of the highlights of the film.
Punjabi mothers are typically shown to be over the top, especially when it comes to the accent, mannerisms and behaviour. “It is important that you play different types of characters, and in Neerja’s character, there was a Punjabiyat, but we didn’t blow trumpets about it, only a few lines of it were used, and people have appreciated it. That’s the way forward. The most delightful feeling is that numerous Punjabi mothers said that I looked exactly like them,” Azmi says, adding that people have told her that she made them cry.
“Javed sahab cried a lot when he saw the trial; he was speechless for a substantial time. He then watched it in the theatre and again cried a lot,” she says, when asked how her husband, writer Javed Akhtar, reacted to the film.
Watch Neerja trailer here: