Veteran actor Shabana Azmi celebrates her birthday on September 18. Shabana Azmi made her film debut in 1974 with legendary filmmaker Shyam Benegal’s Ankur. She soon became one of the leading actresses of Parallel Cinema, a new-wave movement known for its serious content and neo-realism and received government patronage during the times.
Regarded as one of the finest actresses in India, Shabana Azmi's performances in films in a variety of genres have generally earned her praise and awards, which include a record of five wins of the National Film Award for Best Actress and several international honours.
On her birthday, let’s take a look at some of her finest contributions towards parallel cinema.
One of the first films, which dealt with the subject of homosexuality, this is considered as one of Azmi’s most controversial roles till date. The film invited the ire of several protesting groups and activists in society. Azmi showcased an unexplored facet of her personality by playing an initially submissive and lonely housewife who later explores her sexuality in socially forbidden ways by embarking in an affair with her brother-in-law’s wife.
Playing the role of a self-seeking woman who runs a brothel, and invites the wrath of the existing moral police, Azmi made this Benegal’s film a compelling drama. The political satire is based on a short Urdu story Aanandi by Pakistani author Ghulam Abbas. Azmi’s racy audacity and spunky Hyderabadi accent were hard to ignore.
A deeply hurt and humiliated wife of an unfaithful husband, Azmi honours the character of a victim with utmost dignity. Her character is so depended on her husband that she not prepared to face a divorce or being dumped, yet Azmi does not exaggerate her misery or vulnerability.
Azmi fully justified her part in the biographical drama based on the real-life story of Santokben Jadeja, who ran mafia operations in Gujarat and later went on to become a politician. Known for her upfront nature and piercing intensity, the actress conveyed the strong grit and determination of her on-screen avatar with finesse.
Written and directed by Aparna Sen, the film is based on a story by Kamal Kumar Majumdar. It’s about a mute orphan girl who is married to a Banyan tree because her horoscope suggests that she would be a sati, and her husband would die. The innocence in her eyes and simplicity in her voice made Azmi a perfect fit for the role.
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A working woman who lives with her schizophrenic sister, Azmi thrives in her role as a caretaker of the family. She loves her sister and wants to help her. The pain in their lives could be communicated well across the audience by Azmi’s silence.
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