Goof-ups on stage can never be funny: Shabana Azmi
Veteran actor Shabana Azmi talks about her upcoming play, Broken Images and her acting process
Very few can match up to the level of actor Shabana Azmi when it comes to live performances. Known for her roles in movies such as Arth (1982), Masoom (1983), Fire (1996) and Neerja (2016), this National Award-winning actor has also done a plethora of plays such as Tumhari Amrita, Kaifi Aur Main and Safed Kundali. Now, her play, Broken Images is all set to be staged in Mumbai, and this psychological thriller was written by the late Girish Karnad, in 2004, and directed by late Alyque Padamsee.
Azmi has a double role in the play and says that it was technologically demanding. Talking about the play, she says, “This is one of the most technologically challenging plays I have done. It is the story of two sisters. The older sister, Manjula, is an on-stage character and the younger sister, Malini, is an audio visual one. There is a moment when Manjula hears her husband and her sister having an argument, and they were squabbling like a married couple. It was about ethics. Manjula walks in and both Malini and Manjula’s husband sees her. And suddenly there’s a look of guilty shock on their faces as though Manjula had caught them making love. Now that, to me, is just so stunning because Manjula aspires to have the intellectual quality that Malini [the writer] has and shares with her husband. I think if they had a physical relationship, it would have been easy to accept, but the fact that it is an intellectual one that she cannot reach, is very appealing to me.”
Azmi has also closely worked with Karnad, who recently passed away and remembers him fondly. “Girish Karnad was one of the strikingly finest playwrights of India. If I have to describe him in one word, I would say ‘original’. He was a true intellectual. I think you felt uplifted in his company. He could talk on any subject. He was a very articulate person. He could persuade you by his power of reasoning and yet he wore his fame very lightly,” she says.
Photo: Natasha Hemrajani/ht
Also, Azmi is known to be versatile and when asked about her process, she adds, “Sometimes, the process is external, like visualising the body language and then filling in the emotions. At many other times, it is internal, such as exploring the emotional core of the character and slowly fitting in the body language. As a metaphor, I open the door and step right in, and at other times I peep in through the window, then step back, then open the door leaving it ajar, and then, gingerly step in. I don’t choose the method; it chooses me depending on whether it is an extrovert character or an introverted one.”
Even after completing more than four decades in the acting industry, she still says that she gets nightmares about goof-ups. “Goof-ups on stage can never be funny; in fact, it can be heart-stopping. To this date, I have nightmares that I’ve forgotten my lines,” quips Azmi. Lastly, she leaves her pearls of wisdom for all the upcoming artistes. “One needs to definitely work hard; but above all, let your resource base be life itself,” she concludes.
About the play:
What: Broken Images
Where: Sophia Auditorium, Breach Candy
When: On August 25, at 7.30pm.