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Shabana Azmi: “It is  a time  when we needed to give till it hurts”



Shabana Azmi

Looking back on 2021  the great Shabana Azmi’s main takeaway  from  the year was that acceptance is not the same as submission. “To carry on undaunted might sound very brave in most circumstances but the Pandemic made us re-evaluate our behaviour. One had to be cautious without  being paranoid. Because irresponsible behaviour could jeopardise the safety of others.”

  Shabana  learnt the virtues  of   giving  until it hurts during these  times  of crisis. “I think this pandemic has awakened us to the fact that we are all  connected and it is incumbent on the privileged to extend a helping hand to  those less fortunate.It is  a time  when we needed to give till it hurts.”

 The brilliant actress last see in the Moghul  drama The  Empire,kept working through most of 2021 all over the world.

How tough was it to work  through the pandemic and in masks?   “I worked on Shekhar Kapur’s  What Has Love Got To Do With It with Emma Thompson and Lily James in London early  2021 at the height of the pandemic and on Steven Spielberg’s web series Halo and Nikkhil Advani’s Empire. We were tested every single day  on  Shekhar and  Spielberg’s sets and could not move out of our bubble. It felt weird in the  beginning but in hindsight that’s what kept me going .”

   Shabana  found  the second wave  of  the pandemic  tougher than the  first. “The second wave was  very traumatic because everyday we heard about people losing friends and family.Fortunately we could move to Sukoon our home in Khandala and spend  quality time with the family. A lot of people dealt with their feeling of being  caged in by devouring by and  getting addicted to the OTT platforms . People realized that’s what kept them from collapsing in despair.”

 Shabana  enjoyed  doing Nikkil Advani’s  Empire.  “I enjoyed playing Esan Daulat and am grateful that my work was appreciated. I  will always be thankful to Nikkhil Advani for accommodating my dates.”

  With movie theatres in a state of ceaseless uncertainty does  Shabana  see the OTT  as a  way out? “Yes,  for sure for now .But one keeps hoping that the Covid variant will become benign and we develop herd immunity.Consuming the way we watch content has altered greatly. When I visit my nativetown Mijwan I see that it’s the mobile phone which has become the preferred choice  of  visual entertainment. The big budget extravaganza is what people will go to the  theatre to watch.”

So does Shabana  believe  that the OTT platform is  here to stay?  “The OTT platform has opened up opportunity for authentic faces .Chocolate faces are disappearing. It’s not just me a lot  of senior female actors are getting substantial work and that is a welcome  situation. The advent of the casting director has cast the net wider so stock actors for stock characters is no longer the norm . Earlier you could predict  with your eyes closed that Shivraj, Jeevan , Sapru, Lalita Pawar etc would be  cast in a particular role. Today you have fresh faces from the hinterlands who  are replacing them . I hope the trend continues .

2022 looks uncertain and  challenging to Shabana . “One can plan nothing . My shooting schedules have gone for a toss, we’ve been holding back on  renovations for our home in Mumbai. I was looking forward to a long-deserved holiday with my girls gang that’s been kept on hold. The Mijwan Fashion Show has been postponed but I’ve  learned to go with the flow instead of cribbing endlessly. Live in the here-and-now  has become my motto.”

 Which  were the films and shows that Shabana enjoyed in 2021  and what are her   projects for 2022??  “The Crown , Downtown Abbey were  my favourites in  2021.I have three major releases Halo, What’s Love Got To Do With It and Karan Johar’s Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani.I  have some projects in various stages of development. It’s a time I can’t complain about.”

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