In the heydays of parallel cinema in Hindi film industry, a quartet ruled the firmament — Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Smita Patil and Shabana Azmi. In an era when song-and-dance defined entertainment, these four, powered by realistic storytelling and socially relevant content, shone the brightest. Additionally, Shabana was successful working in mainstream films as well.
Daughter of noted Urdu poet Kaifi Azmi and stage actor Shaukat Azmi, it was only natural that Shabana was exposed to arts and a culture early in life. However, her ability to pull off mainstream as well as parallel roles was a marvel and quite her own creation.
On her 70th birthday, here’s an incident from her life which led her on a path of excellence. Shabana had once tweeted narrating her late father’s response when she had evinced an interest in acting. She had written: “#BaapBetiJodi…When I asked my father Kaifi Azmi if he would support my decision to become an actor, he said, ‘I will support you in whatever you choose to do. If you want to become a shoemaker (a mochi) I will support you provided you tell yourself that you will try to become the best mochi in the business.’ It was one of life’s many lessons he taught me.”
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#BaapBetiJodi when I asked my father #KaifiAzmi if he would my decision to become an actor he said”I will support you in whatever you choose to do. If you want to become a shoemaker ( a mochi) I will support you provided you tell yourself that you will try to become the best mochi in the business”. It was one of life’s many lessons he taught me . I nominate @aditi_subedi @zanaibhosle @sandymridul @senaparna @nanditadasofficial @perniaq @zoieakhtar @shibanidandekar @divyadutta25 @aditiraohydari
This was one of the many life lessons, bequeathed to her, by her late father.
It was this spirit and realisation perhaps that made her excel in films like Shyam Benegal’s Ankur, Nishant and Mandi, Gautam Ghose’s Paar, Mrinal Sen’s Ek Din Achanak to name a few. In fact, Shyam Benegal had once narrated how he had gone on to cast Shabana, an absolute rookie in 1974 in Ankur. He had spoken, in a National Herald interview, about how he had approached Waheeda Rehman, South Indian actor Sharda, Aparna Sen and actor-model Anju Mahendroo but finally settled for Shabana by chance. The topic of a village woman, having an affair with a college student, and being unapologetic about having a child out of wedlock was too daunting for many. He also said how one can’t imagine anyone else but Shabana play the part.
Shabana went on to play some of the iconic roles in mainstream films as well. Her role of a disgruntled and angry wife in Shekhar Kapoor’s Masoom and Arth remain fresh as ever. She was a popular actor in late 1970s, working in hit films like Amar Akbar Anthony and Parvarish and formed a popular pairing with Vinod Khanna and Rajesh Khanna.