From films such as Masoom (1983) and Arth (1982) to her theatre stints with plays such as Tumhari Amrita and Broken Images, Shabana Azmi has time and again proved her abundant talent with her performances and choices. In an e-mail interview, Shabana talks about the rise of women-centric cinema and the lost concept of romanticism today.
You recently won the Best Supporting Actress award for your role in Neerja. What’s going through your mind?
The credit goes to the director, Ram Madhwani, and writers Saiwyn Quadros and Sanyukta. It was an honour to play Rama Bhanot, because I’d met her and loved her spirit.
Watch: Trailer of Mirzya
What would you say has led to the rise of women-centric films?
The world is changing. Women are negotiating more space for themselves. They are saying that solutions to problems have been sought to be resolved from the male point of view for far too long. We need to be included in the global dialogue, be it environment politics or the arts. This is spilling over into the film industry, too. And it’s a very welcome change. Let’s remember that Mahesh Bhatt’s Arth was a pioneer of sorts in this more than 30 years ago.
Did you ever fear growing old, owing the short shelf life most actresses in the industry have?
It has changed. Both for women and men. Someone pointed out that at a recent awards ceremony that the major acting awards went to Amitabh Bachchan, Rishi Kapoor and me. That’s because substantial parts are being written for older people. It’s important to embrace one’s age and start a new chapter instead of desperately trying to arrest the ageing process.
Do you think the sense of romanticism is lost in cinema today?
Why only in cinema? It has been lost from life! When my parents fell in love, the nearest my mother got to being intimate with my father was by spraying perfume on him and running! Today, romance is measured by how big a diamond you give your lady on Valentine’s Day!
What encourages you to comment on social and political matters?
My voice on social media is only a reflection of the work I’ve been doing on the ground. I see myself as an active participant, not a passive recipient of the democratic process. I’ve undertaken a five-day hunger strike, courted arrest, and participated in demonstrations. But we’ve also built houses for 50,000 slum dwellers and have made a positive impact on thousands of women.