Shabana sizzles, hurt or not

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By BHARATHI S. PRADHAN Bharathi S. Pradhan is managing editor, Movie Mag International
  • Published 14.03.10

Last Sunday, Shabana Azmi had told singer Talat Aziz’s wife Bina that she’d be there at noon for precisely 15 minutes. Bina Aziz is an artist and curator and, along with Zarine Khan, she was holding an exhibition by five women painters. Shabana Azmi was to have inaugurated it at Tradition, the art shop that frontlines Zarine and Sanjay Khan’s beautiful Juhu bungalow and is next door to the Azmi-Akhtar apartment. In other words, Shabana had to drop in literally at her neighbour’s place to light the lamp, give a short impromptu two-minute talk and drive away.

Knowing how particular Shabana is with her timings and her appearances, everybody was there before noon. Since the event was to kick off International Women’s Day which was next day, there were quite a few women around, including Viveik Oberoi’s mom Yashodhara and his sister Meghna. Meghna was making her debut as an abstract painter that day and since both the actors in the family, her dad and brother, were out of town her mom was there to cheer her.

There was an impromptu performance by an Indian based in Australia who played a new instrument called ‘hang’. It is a round, metallic instrument that originated in Switzerland and is played like a ghatam or a tabla. The melody and rhythm emanating from the hang prompted Zarine to announce that Tradition should get more artists on a regular basis to come and perform for art lovers. It certainly inspired Anup Jalota to break into a Meera bhajan and do an impromptu jugalbandi with the instrumentalist.

However, noon came and went with no sign of Shabana. Zarine and Bina finally decided to call on Anup, a male celebrity, to light the lamp and inaugurate the exhibition. The sporting singer quipped, “My name is Shabana Azmi,” and did the honours.

The same evening, on March 7, Shabana Azmi was on stage doing a perfect solo act in the Girish Karnad play Broken Images. She held the audience spellbound with her ease in English and Hindi (she swings between both languages in the play) and her general comfort on a stage. It was only when director Alyque Padamsee joined her at the end to announce, “We’ve all known Shabana as an exceptional actress. But today we also know her as a very brave soldier,” that one realised she had fractured her foot, twisted her ankle that same morning, and was in agony. But with a true trooper’s sense of, ‘The show must go on,’ she’d reported for the play, even incorporated an unrehearsed line about her foot being in a bandage, and carried off the entire evening splendidly.

With that, one also realised why Shabana had done an uncharacteristic no-show at Bina Aziz’s exhibition.

R.K. Laxman, the legendary cartoonist, also did a no-show on Monday, at a special screening of the film Lahore which had been arranged exclusively for him and his invitees. Lahore is a film that you may not have heard of but soon will, simply because it is such a fine film. It is essentially a non-star-cast film which is perhaps why it is not making headlines. There are some reliable actors of the calibre of Farooque Shaikh, Sushant Singh and Ashish Vidyarthi in it and the film has already won a lot of acclaim at several film festivals all over the world. In an atmosphere where Indo-Pak talks are grabbing prime time eyeballs, Lahore is an important film because it marries sport (kick-boxing in this case, not cricket) with cross-border relations. The film also briefly touches upon the politics that goes on backstage before a national team is selected for an important event.

R.K. Laxman was impressed enough to sketch a special cartoon in his inimitable style as a poster of Lahore. And hence the special screening for him. However, the ageing cartoonist had fallen ill and therefore couldn’t watch the film.

Talking of Indo-Pak relations, Hema Malini plays the Pakistani mother of Luv Sinha, son of Shatrughan Sinha, in his debut film, Sadiyaan. Rekha is his mother on this side of the border. The two southies, Hema and Rekha, get to play Punjabi women in the film. Both of them are great friends, by the way. Hema’s mom Jaya Chakravarthy and Rekha’s actress-mother Pushpavalli even share the same birthday. The two moms are no longer around but Hema and Rekha have continued the friendship to this day and jabber away in Tamil, forever baffling their north Indian co-stars.