The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Makdee spins a salute to Manik da
- Satyajit Ray lodestar in films-for-kids crusade, admits Shabana Azmi

It was Satyajit Ray who paved the path for Shabana Azmi. The actress and former chairperson of Children’s Film Society of India (CFSI) admitted on Wednesday that a lot of her inspiration for films “on and for kids” could be traced back to the master himself. “Ray’s films for children are absolute treasures. In fact, Bengal was one of the pioneers of such kind of films. They were never of the preachy kind,” said Shabana, while promoting Makdee, the children’s film that releases at Chaplin on Friday and finds her playing a hideous witch.

“Ray often used such figures (bhuter raja, for example) to mesmerise children,” observed Shabana, while recounting how his treatment of such films intrigued her even when she was working with him in Shatranj Ke Khiladi. “The magic lies in the fact that they can never be limited to the tag of children’s films. Everyone loves them. That is what we must aim at,” said Shabana, who sees herself giving more time to such children-oriented projects.

And she seems to have found an able ally in music director-turned-film-maker Vishal Bhardwaj, who feels such films need to grow tremendously. “Primarily, one has to rope in big stars and arrange for special shows to get the crowd. But we are looking at adults, too. Just like the way people went to see Sonar Kella and the other Ray films,” said Bhardwaj, a Harry Potter freak who made his mark with Gulzar’s Maachis, besides scoring the music for Jungle Book and Alice in Wonderland on the small screen.

The Bhardwaj-Azmi team holds out the promise of much more, post-Makdee. “Already, a Bangalore-based institution has shown interest in developing a marketing cell for such films, which is a good sign. After Ray, I think no other director has consistently done films of this kind. Vishal and I would love to either borrow content or do similar films in Bengali,” smiled Shabana.

Makdee, tracing life and drama in a small village, is not the first indication of how serious Shabana is about such films. She, as CFSI chairperson, had roped in mega stars Sridevi, Anil Kapoor and Anupam Kher for Pankaj Parasher’s Asmaan Se Gira. And playing Makdee the witch was great fun for her. “My friends helped me with the get-up, scary contact lenses, eerie nails and all, though Jaadoo (husband Javed Akhtar) insisted that I needed no make-up for the role.”

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