Veteran actor Shabana Azmi, who is known for her versatility and artistic flair, said that she couldn’t resist starring in the upcoming web series The Empire as she was “always” looking for an opportunity to play a historical character. In The Empire, Azmi plays Aisan Daulat Begum, the grandmother and counselor of the first Mughal emperor, Babur.
The epic period-action-drama, directed by Mitakshara Kumar, traces the saga of an empire from the valley of Ferghana to Samarkhand and beyond. It is based on Alex Rutherford’s popular fictional account of the history, Empire of the Moghul: Raiders from the North.
“I loved this part. Aisan Daulat Begum has so many layers. Also, you usually see a man play the role of a kingmaker but, in this case, the woman has ahold of the inner machinations of The Empire. Apart from this, I’m so fond of the Urdu language. I was getting an opportunity to talk in that language once again. Also, all women characters on this show are very strong, and that we need to see more. I think we need to give far more visibility to our female characters which this show gives,” she said.
The Empire, which has been mounted on a big scale, also features Kunal Kapoor, Drashti Dhami, Aditya Seal and Dino Morea. Filmmaker Nikkhil Advani serves as the showrunner.
Azmi, whose filmography boasts of acclaimed movies like Ankur, Godmother, Masoom, Makdee and Neerja among many others, credited Mitakshara Kumar and costume designer Sheetal Sharma for their attention to detail and accuracy when it comes to the show’s dialogues, sets, as well as its costumes.
“The basic challenge was I should learn the dialogue and yet it should not sound like I was pontificating. There is a tendency that when you play a historical character, you suddenly put on a ‘Mughal-E-Azam’ voice and you think that is the way it should be. Because you don’t have many reference points. So, the accent (zabaan) and dialogue should be said in a way that you can show the ‘adaa’ (style) but you do not lose the emotion in the effort to say the dialogue. That was important for me.
“Then we really worked a lot on the costumes. We decided to keep the tribal quality and not get into the pearls or the diamonds. Because I did feel that if the look was right then it would help towards the character,” Azmi added.
Azmi also thanked Advani for being “an extremely supportive” producer. “Through the making of this show, there had been problems that we have had with dates but he is just the best producer I have ever worked with.”
The show is created by Advani and produced by his sister Monisha Advani and Madhu Bhojwani under Emmay Entertainment. It will start streaming on Disney+ Hotstar on August 27.