Shabana Azmi lashes out at the vicious
I guess you had never imagined that you would be shooting in the middle of a pandemic. What’s it been like?
It felt strange in the beginning and totally anachronistic to do a period series with the crew in PPE suits straight out a sci-fi project! But it’s amazing how quickly one gets used to it. It feels so good to be back on a set, and facing the camera, gets the adrenaline flowing. The apprehension goes flying out of the window and all you focus on is getting the shot right. I did some pretty adventurous action scenes and had a ball!
When was the last time you were confined to your home for so long?
How did you bring in your 70th birthday on September 18?
Very quietly. Our building was out of bounds because there was a Covid case. So, I spent it at home with Javed and the staff. It was different… Strange… My first birthday without both parents.
Will this seven-month shutdown change cinema? Will people stop going to the theatres?
I think not… I hope not. The magic of watching a film in a theatre is irreplaceable. But how we tell stories is changing. Technology is going to lead to storytelling that is immersive. The gaming industry is already being integrated into films. AI is the new buzz word. Audiences will soon be active participants and not passive recipients. We have to look ahead and cannot afford to be caught in a time warp.
This period will also be remembered for the witch hunt in Bollywood with you being named by a particular news anchor almost every evening. Will what we have heard in the last few weeks tarnish reputations and public images?
I don’t watch shrieking anchors. I feel sorry for them. What an awful life to lead! Imagine getting up in the morning and spewing venom to earn a few bucks. Quite pathetic to vomit out all the anger and frustration cooped inside them so they can feel powerful. The toxicity reveals much more about the emptiness of their lives than those towards whom it is directed. It’s ironic that they point fingers at the industry. What are they doing, pray? Being ethical and morally upright?
But will all this talk of nepotism, drug abuse, casting couches, and short-term relationships create a perception that Bollywood is a den of vice?
My primary identity is that of being a Hindi film industry actor and I am very proud of it. Unfortunately, the Hindi film industry is a sitting duck; it is easy to hurl malevolent accusations. It is a systematic campaign to divert attention from real issues, failing economy, China border tensions, spiraling Covid cases, and farmers’ agitation by putting the spotlight on the supposed ills of the film industry. Like Urmila Matondkar said, if the film industry is as awful as is being projected, why did the PM call a delegation and ask them to make films on Mahatma Gandhi’s ideology?
But it’s not without its ills?
The Hindi film industry is not a
There are miscreant elements in all professions. Like Shyam Benegal says, why expect all the people in the film industry to be paragons of virtue? There are many socially committed outspoken people too, does the entire industry get bathed in a halo because of them?
Let’s not lose sight of the fact that this started as a nepotism charge, then, Rhea (Chakraborty) was accused of murder and siphoning off Rs 15 crore from Sushant’s (Singh Rajput) account, none of which stood any ground. The AIIMS report clearly states it was not murder. So ‘Justice for Sushant’ has given way to ‘Weed out the Druggies’, the goal post keeps changing. Instead of focusing on mental health as a serious issue in our society, it’s sensationalism that’s at play.
Kangana has started believing in her own myth. She says she taught feminism to the film industry, she taught it nationalism. I’m glad she spelled that out because nobody else had noticed! I think she fears the day when she will no longer be in the headlines and so has to keep making outrageous statements to stay in the news. Poor girl, why doesn’t she just do what she is best at, which is acting.
Many film personalities remained silent during this vicious attack on the industry and their colleagues. Was it because of fear?
Of course, fear plays a big part because speaking out jeopardises not only your personal safety, but also your film on which huge amounts of money have been spent by the producer. Do you have the moral right to do that? Figure it out yourself.
2020 in a word…
Learning… A journey into introspection… A realisation that there is a difference between need and want, that we need to cut out the unnecessary clutter and do more with less.