Shabana Azmi is presently 50 kms from Rajkot in Gujarat, shooting for Vishal Bhardwaj’s Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola (MKBKM) in which she plays a politician. Ever since she posted a picture on Twitter, speculations have been rife about which woman politician her character is modelled on. The suggestions range from Sonia Gandhi and Mayawati to Mamata Banerjee and Jayalalitha.
The actor insists that after going through various look tests, Vishal (writer-director- producer-composer Vishal Bhardwaj) and she agreed there should be no discernable resemblance to any real-life ‘neta’. “The character then becomes all about comparisons and the performance takes a backseat. It’s important to retain the core and then play the part as straight as possible,” she reasons.
The comedy-drama is set in the interiors of Haryana but Chaudhry Devi is the modern face of politics with her short hair, long-sleeved shirt and jacket. “She is sophisticated and a master of double speak. She pretends she wants to do good for the people, tells farmers that their land is important, and then plots to take it away from them,” Shabana laughs.
Quiz her on the present state of politics in our country and the former MP and activist says, “I’m aghast at what’s happening. Today, regional aspirations have become strong. That’s the need of the hour, but no reason to create national chaos and economic instability. Sure, it’s everyone’s country, but you should know where to end the bickering. It’s difficult for a single party to form a government, so coalitions will continue. But it should be about partnerships, not blackmail.”
Shabana is doing a film with Vishal a decade after Makdee (2002). She describes him as more confident now and still as charming. “Makdee was made on a shoe-string budget but now, with Fox Star Studios on board as co-producers, it’s a far bigger and a more lavish production,” she points out.
She’s also working with Pankaj Kapur after a decade. Their last film was Ek Doctor Ki Maut (1991). Mira Nair’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2012), she says, gave her a chance to catch up with Om Puri too, the man who, at one time, was one of her regular co-stars. “And now MKBKM has brought me back with Pankaj and Vishal. There’s also Imran (Khan) and Anushka (Sharma). We’re all having a great time shooting in a remote ‘mahal’ (palace), far away from the crowd,” she says. “We are on schedule. I should be through with my portions by mid-April and the film should be wrapped up by April-end.”