Shabana Azmi, Mahesh Bhatt Finally Open Up On Arth Remake

BOf all the iconic roles that  the  formidable  Shabana Azmi has played the  one that stands out as super-iconic  is  the deserted wife in Mahesh Bhatt’s  Arth. That role, admits Shabana to a large  extent, defined  the shape  of her career.

Now we hear actress  Revathy will direct  a remake of the  1984 classic  that Mahesh Bhatt  had directed.And  Shabana’s role  would be  played  by the very  vocal politically  astute  Swara Bhaskar.

I reached  out to the  unbelievably well-informed Shabana Azmi who is now in  the Hague for a globalsummit.

About Arth being made and Swara Bhaskar  playing her  role, Shabana says, “It should not be an imitation but an interpretation. Classics lend themselves to remakes.In today’s times its tougher because the original is easily available for all to compare. That’s why it should not be a frame to frame copy.As for Swara  she  is an intelligent  actress. She will have her  own interpretation for  her  character.She is a product of JNU and is quite gutsy. Few actors have the guts to stick their necks out as she does .”

Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt who returns  to  direction  after   21  years  with Sadak 2 is pleased that  his most  iconic film is  being remade.

Recalling  how Arth  changed his  life Mahesh  says, “Arth came into my life after a string of duds.These includedVishwasghat and Lahu Ke Do Rang which were fairly big-budgeted commercial films. Arth was a personal statement on the man-woman relationship that shattered the belief of the traditional power centres within our film industry that only a certain kind of formula works at the boxoffice. “

  Did  Mahesh ever expect  the  film to become  so  iconic? “I made Arth on the firm belief that any work which originates from a filmmaker’s heart inevitably connects with the aam junta. And it hit home in ways that shocked the industry, but not me. I remember  India won the Cricket World Cup on the very day when Arth was declared a hit. I remember I was at the Plaza cinema in Delhi watching the film on the Friday when it was released. We were tense, since this was not the kind of entertainment the public was used to. The scene where the deserted wifeShabana Azmi rejects  her husband Kulbhushan Kharbanda and walks away from him  got a standing ovation from the so-called front-benchers at this hardcore mass-entertainment theatre. I knew then and there that our film was a hit.”

 Arth changed the  course  of Mahesh Bhatt’s career. “It was because of Arth that the Rajshree’s Saaraansh, RajendraKumar’s Naam and Mudra Videotech’s Janam came my way. I think Arth worked so well because it was an honest film. It was an autobiographical  film. The film’s emotional truth was sourced from my life’s welters and wounds. I think the audience connected with my honesty.Shabana Azmi and Smita Patil gave their very best to the film.Their rivalry was more a public perception than a reality.”

What  about  the  stories  of  the rivalry  between the  two actresses?

Says  Mahesh, “The two of them respected one another’s talent.They did not pretend  to be the best of friends on the sets.But they worked like professional actors of the highest calibre. Without Shabana and Smita, Arth would not have been what it was.People said Parveen Babi was emotionally affected because I had cannibalized my relationship with her in Arth.But Parveen was genetically predisposed towards mental illness. To say that Arth was responsible for her breakdown was absurd.I wasn’t affected by accusations of cannibalizing my life for the screen. How can the truth hurt the filmmaker?”

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