Star Of The Week - Shabana Azmi


Name: Shabana Azmi
DOB: September 18, 1950
Star: Virgo
Birthplace: Hyderabad, India

Occupation: Film, television and theatre actor, social and women's rights activist, Goodwill Ambassador for the UN

Regarded as: One of the finest actresses in India.


Shabana Azmi's performances in films in a variety of genres have generally earned her praise and awards, which include a record of five wins of the National Film Award for Best Actress and several international honours. She has also received eight Filmfare nominations apart from five Filmfare Awards, and was honoured among "women in cinema" at the 30th International Film Festival of India. 

• In 1988, the Government of India awarded her with Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian honour of the country.

Azmi has appeared in over 120 Hindi and Bengali films in both, mainstream and parallel cinema, and since 1988, she has acted in several foreign projects which have received attention in the international arena and Scandinavian countries, including the Norwegian Film Institute, the Smithsonian Institution and the American Film Institute.

• In appreciation of Azmi's life and works, the Congress party's government gave her a nominated (unelected) membership of the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of parliament.

Interesting facts:

Shabana Azmi was born into a sayyid Muslim family to poet Kaifi Azmi and stage actress Shaukat Azmi. Shabana was named at the age of 11. Up until then her parents used to call her munni.

• Azmi completed a graduate degree in Psychology from St. Xavier's College, Mumbai, and followed it with a course in acting at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune. Explaining why she decided to attend the institute, she said, "I had the privilege of watching Jaya Bhaduri in Suman, and I was completely enchanted by her performance because it was unlike the other performances I had seen. I really marvelled at that and said, 'My God, if by going to a film institute I can achieve that, that's what I want to do.'" Azmi eventually topped the list of successful candidates of 1972.

• She made her film debut in 1974 and soon became one of the leading actresses of parallel cinema, a Bengali new-wave movement known for its serious content and neo-realism and that received government patronage during the times. 

• Deepa Mehta's 1996 film Fire depicted her as a lonely woman, Radha, in love with her sister-in-law. The on-screen depiction of lesbianism (perhaps the first in Indian cinema) drew severe protests and threats from many social groups as well as the Indian authorities.

• Although, her role as Radha brought her international recognition with the Silver Hugo Award for Best Actress at the 32nd Chicago Film Festival and Jury Award for Best Actress at Outfest, Los Angeles.

• Azmi has toured Singapore, UK, Dubai and India with different theatre companies, performing on stage.

Shabana Azmi married lyricist, poet and Bollywood scriptwriter Javed Akhtar in 1984, making her a member of the Akhtar-Azmi film family. Indian actresses Farah Naaz and Tabu are her nieces and Tanvi Azmi is her sister-in-law.