It is important to be true to who you are: Shabana Azmi
The actor, in Bengaluru for a talk about social change, caught up with us for a quick chat about actors and their responsibilities
Five time-National Award-winning actor, social activist, Padma Shri awardee Shabana Azmi, is a firm believer that artists should be responsible and stand by what they believe in. In an interview with us, she talks about how art should play a pivotal role in social transformation.
You’ve talked about item numbers showing women voluntarily surrendering themselves to the male gaze. Should female actors take responsibility?
All artists should be responsible. I grew up believing that art should be used as an instrument for social change. I grew up in a family where gender equality and justice existed. I was almost 19 years old before I realised that what I had grown up experiencing was an exception. My father wrote a poem, Aurat, about 70 years ago which asked women to march shoulder to shoulder with him. This was at a time when society believed men should work and that women should look after children and the kitchen. So, yes, I believe it is good to practise responsibility when you are an artist. It is the correct thing to do.
Do the actors have such freedom to raise objections though?
It is for the individual to make the choice, based on their take on the film. You get the script well in advance, these days. It's no longer a surprise. If you have problems with the script or certain scenes, you should raise your concerns before going on the floors.
Wouldn’t you stop getting work if you are thought to be hard to work with?
If you feel strongly enough about it, it doesn't matter. It is important to be true to who you are.
You recently also said that different parts of India live in different centuries... Is that why your recent film, Signature Move – about a Muslim lesbian – couldn’t get a theatrical release here?
It's a broad generalised vision. I believe all kinds of films get support amongst the audience. The film’s been released on Netflix anyway.
Thoughts on Sridevi?
I think she was a remarkable actor. She could do comedy extremely well. She was a gorgeous dancer too. In a recent film, she did a very strong emotional part. Apart from being a huge star, she was also a fine actor.
(The actor was in Bengaluru to talk at an event called 'Leading ladies in conversation with the leaders of change'.)