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Her name resonates the sound of respect and immense boldness, at the same time. She can be an icon in her own individuality and an inspiration to many women as Mrs. Javed Akhtar. Mrs. Shabana Azmi talks to Feministaa about why women issues are close to her, what makes her the “art director’s favourite” and what inspires her to be the sensitive social activist.
The most influential role in her career : Arth
You cannot be detached from what you portray. I think it is inevitable that the roles you play affect you. The residue is bound to remain, even after you’ve played the role.
The blockbuster movie, way ahead of it’s times, “Arth” was not only termed as an “Ode to relationships”, but also as “A journey of a woman to discover her own identity”. Shabana Azmi, was applauded not only in India, but in numerous platforms abroad, for her character Pooja (the good wife).
After her role as Pooja in Arth, women started looking up to her as a mentor, expecting her to provide solutions to their marital woes! Shabana shared the excitement and fear, on seeing the reactions of women who had started coming up to her and asking her their queries on marriage and relationships.
The distributors of the film were initially sceptical. No doubt, they loved the film, but the entire idea of an Indian wife saying “no” to her husband after he has asked for forgiveness was completely unacceptable. Arth ended up being not only a commercial success, but also a critically acclaimed film, and proudly Shabana says, “Fortunately Mahesh and I dug our heels and said that we’ve made this film for the end and we’ll stick with it.“
The Rise of the social activist Shabana Azmi
Gradually Shabana understood the weight that she carried with her in India as a star. Women were relating her to the characters that she played in her films. This gave her the realisation what it meant to be an inspiring icon. Whatever she spoke, people wanted to hear that. She had with her the power to influence a lot of people. And then the young Shabana decided to associate herself with causes she truly felt for.
Mahesh Bhatt’s film Arth was responsible for my involvement in Women’s Movements
Today she is the head of the “Mijwan Welfare Society”. Mijwan is a tiny village in Azamgarh, that was founded by her father Kaifi Azmi. A famous poet, and a thinker, much ahead of his times, he believed that in a country where most of the population strives in the rural parts, development of these areas was of utmost importance for the progress of the nation.
Taking her father’s dream forward, Shabana has been actively involved in setting up a computer centre, a school and a placement centre for women in the village. Today the women in Mijwan create beautiful chikankari outfits. Dowry has been close to eradicated, and child marriage has completely stopped.
Apart from teaching the regular curriculum, we send out a strong message to our girls through songs and drama, to encourage them to go out and do something! We make them believe that women can truly be agents of change.