Shabana Azmi finally shoots for Mira Nair
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Shabana Azmi finally shoots for Mira Nair

After decades, actor plays the protagonist’s mother in The Reluctant Fundamentalist that reunites her with her former co-star Om Puri.

bollywood Updated: Jan 24, 2012 14:35 IST
Roshmila Bhattacharya
Roshmila Bhattacharya
Hindustan Times

Shabana Azmi admits that internationally acclaimed director Mira Nair and she have wanted to work together in a movie for years.

“When Mira came to me with The Reluctant Fundamentalist saying, ‘Shabbo Rani, I need you in this film’, I responded with, ‘Finally you have come to me.’ She was surprised and amused by my reaction, and more so when I told her I was on without even waiting to hear what role she was offering me,” reminisces the actor-activist.

Shabana describes Mira as a hands on director who reminded her of director Aparna Sen with her eye for detail and her penchant for putting things straight on the set. The actor and her director share a love for the same kind of clothes.

Once, after rehearsing for two nights in a row, when Mira turned up on the sets looking drained, Shabana whispered, Retail therapy into her ears.

Mira responded with a whoop and the two took her off on a shopping spree. “Everyone thought we had gone off for two hours to discuss the script when we were hitting the stores,” laughs Shabana.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist story is based on Mohsin Hamid’s award-winning novel by the same name. It revolves around Changez, a young Pakistani who has grown up in New York, and who thinks of himself as an American and is chasing corporate success at Wall Street.

Then 9/11 happens and as people’s attitude towards him changes, Changez experiences a shift of his own. He starts wearing Pathani suits, grows a beard and adopts a fundamentalist line of thinking as he returns to his roots seeking his identity.

The film flagged off last October and will be shot on location in Atlanta, New York, Lahore, Delhi and Istanbul. Riz Ahmed plays the lead, alongside Kate Hudson, Liev Schreiber, Kiefer Sutherland, Om Puri and Shabana.

“I play Chengez’s mother who watches silently and with growing fear as he changes before her eyes, yet giving him the warmth and space he needs to find himself,” explains Shabana, pointing out that there’s a lot of Mohsin’s own mother and the beautiful relationship they share.

“Mira has great respect for the lady and I met her too after I had finished with the shoot,” she adds.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist reunites Shabana with her seven-film co-star Om Puri with whom she last worked in Prakash Jha’s Mrityudand (1997).

“In recent times we haven’t worked together and this film gave us a chance to catch up not just professionally as actors but as friends too. We shifted out of the five-star hotel we’d been put with at and moved into a club closer to the location so we could discuss work over breakfast and chat about our lives over tea. It was an enjoyable experience,” smiles Shabana.

Mira had worked with Shabana’s mother Shaukat Azmi in Salaam Bombay (1988). She was playing the larger-than-life role of a brothel owner.

“Ammi dwarfed everyone else in that movie,” recalls Shabana.

“In comparison, mine is a small, quiet role. If my mother is going to watch The Reluctant Fundamentalist with Salaam Bombay in mind, I might as well kill myself and get buried right now. But hopefully, she’ll like what I have done.”

First Published: Jan 24, 2012 12:03 IST