Guest: Shabana Azmi (Show #13, Nov. 2008)
Actor & Activist of international acclaim
Organizations discussed in this conversation:
1. Nivara Hakk http://www.ektaonline.org/nivarahakk/
2. Mijwan Welfare Society: http://www.ektaonline.org/mijwan/index.htm
Ms. Azmi is President of both organizations.
Information about Shabana Azmi
1. President’s Memorial Award for National Integration 2007 – by President of India
– Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil.
2. Doctorate from Leeds Metropolitan University 2007 - For her unstinted support to
social issues concerning underprivileged and marginalized sections of the Indian society.
3. Gandhi International Peace Prize 2006 by Gandhi Foundation, London -
Shabana Azmi is the first Indian to receive the prestigious International Gandhi Peace
prize at the House of Commons in London.
4. Basavashree Award 2006 – by Shri Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru, the
present pontiff of Murughamath of Chitradurga, Karnataka. The award is to honor the
work of academicians and scholars who are engaged selfless service to humanity to
create an egalitarian society. Some of the previous recipients were Anna Azare, Medha
Patkar, Dalai Lama, Dr. Vandana Shiva.
5. Crystal Award by the World Economic Forum – Davos 2006 for achieving
outstanding excellence in the field of culture and having used art to reach out to other
6. One of 16 women to whom tributes were paid by President Mitterand of France
on the bicentenary celebrations of International Human Rights in July ’89. Others
included were Mother Theresa and Nobel Laureate, Rigoberta Menchu.
7. Martin Luther King, Parks and Chavez Award by Michigan State University 2002.
8. Chosen by Time magazine as 1 of 25 Asian heroes and the only woman amongst
4 Indians who has made a difference.
9. Only Asian actor to have a retrospective of her films at the New York Film Festival
10. Retrospective of her films at American Film Institute, Smithsonian Institution
Washington, George Pompidou Centre Paris, Pacific Cinematheque etc.
11. Chairperson of the International Jury at Montreal, Cairo, Osean and Cinefan
12. Member of the International Jury at the Tehran, New Delhi and Mannheim Film
13. Padma Shri 1988.
14. Rajiv Gandhi Award for Excellence in Secularism 1994.
15. Nominated to Rajya Sabha by President of India 1997 – 2003.
16. United Nations Goodwill Ambassador on Population and Development UNFPA.
17. Former Chairperson of Children’s Film Society of India.
Apart from being a highly respected actress, Shabana Azmi is also a committed social
activist inspired by the fiery zeal of her father, who has worked extensively with
As chairperson of NIVARA HAKK, she undertook a 5-day hunger strike in May 1986 for
slum dwellers in Bombay and was successful in obtaining land for displaced slum
dwellers. On 1st May 2007, Niwara Hakk handed over 4184 tenements free of cost to
slum dwellers evicted from the Borivli National Park. By December 2007, 12000
tenements will be handed over. This makes it the largest single rehabilitation project in
all of Asia.
She has been a strong supporter of the Narmada Bachao Andolan insisting that the
present development programmes are highly unsatisfactory and need to be considered
along alternative lines, because instead of solving the problems of poverty, they are
only creating worse divides between the “haves” and the “have-nots.”
Along with Swami Agnivesh and Asghar Ali Engineer, she undertook a 4-day march for
communal harmony from DELHI to MEERUT in April, 1989. She has also participated in
several street plays and demonstrations against the rising wave of communalism. In the
aftermath of the Babri Masjid Demolition, she along with activists of NIVARA HAKK,
helped to diffuse tension in several slums. To their credit, NIVARA HAKK did not have a
single incident of violence whilst the city was ablaze.
In April – May ’93 she addressed 16 Universities in the U.S. on topics ranging from
women’s issues to communalism. With the extensive tour of her play “Tumhari Amrita,”
she has raised funds for displaced Kashmiri migrants and 40,000 U.S. Dollars for the
victims of the Latur Earthquake. She is a Member of the National Integration Council
under the Chairmanship of the Prime Minister.
She is on the Advisory Council of the Endowment Campaign for Chair in Indian Studies,
She has fought relentlessly against religious fundamentalism of all hues and is highly
respected as a moderate, liberal Muslim voice.
She is also a visiting professor at Michigan, Ann Arbor. She has addressed several
universities such as Harvard, Columbia, Berkeley, MIT, University of Chicago, University
of London, etc. on the need to relate communal harmony to issues of social justice.
Having worked in 140 films as well as in theatre, Shabana Azmi believes art should be
used as an instrument for social change. She has been involved in the rights of women,
development, reproductive health, housing for the economically weaker sections, public
health, and HIV-AIDS.
AWARDS WON AS ACTRESS (National)
1. National Award Best Actress GODMOTHER 1999
2. National Award Best Actress PAAR 1985
3. National Award Best Actress KHANDAR 1984
4. National Award Best Actress ARTH 1983
5. National Award Best Actress ANKUR 1974
She is the only actress in the country to have won 3 of these 5 awards in a row.
6. Filmfare Award Best Actress SWAMI 1979 (1)
7. Filmfare Award Best Actress BHAVNA 1989 (3)
8. Filmfare Award Best Actress ARTH 1983 (2)
9. Filmfare Lifetime Achievement 2006
10. IIFA Lifetime Achievement 2007
She has also won every single award for acting in Indian cinema – in many instances,
more than three times.
AWARDS WON AS ACTRESS (International)
1. Toronto Reel World International Film Festival Award for Excellence MORNING
2. International Indian Film Academy - Life Time Achievement 2005
3. Chicago International Film Festival Best Actress FIRE 1996
4. Los Angeles Outfest Best Actress FIRE 1996
5. Taormina – Arte Italy Best Actress PATANG 1994
6. North Korea International Film Festival Best Actress LIBAAS 1993
1. Satyajit Ray, the noted film maker, says in his book, “Our Films Their Films,”
“Shabana Azmi in her first film, “Ankur,” firmly establishes herself as the finest dramatic
actress in the country.”
2. Shabana Azmi won international acclaim for her performance in John Schlesinger’
s “Madame Sousatzka” co-starring Shirley McLaine; and Nicholas Klotz’s “La Nuit
Bengali,” co-starring John Hurt and Hugh Grant. She also co-starred with Patrick Swayze
in Roland Joffe’s “City of Joy.”
3. Other films include Channel 4’s “Immaculate Conception” opposite James Wilby;
“The Son of Pink Panther” by Blake Edwards; Ismail Merchant’s “In Custody”; “Mandi,”
directed by Shyam Benegal; “Genesis” D:Mrinal Sen; “Sapa” D:Aparnasen.
4. “Fire” was written and directed by Deepa Mehta. Shabana plays the role of
‘Radha.’ This premiered at the London, New York, Paris and Chicago Film Festivals in
1996/97. Shabana won Best Actress for “Fire” both at the Chicago International Film
Festival 1997 and Los Angeles outfest.
5. “15 Park Avenue” starring as Anjali, written and directed by Aparna Sen, which
screened in November ‘05 at the London Film Festival and released 6.1.06.
6. “Banglatown Banquet” for BBC Drama, filming January 06.
7. Recent films in 2007 include “Honey Moon Travels” in Goa for the director, Ms.
Reema Katgi. “Umrao Jaan” in Jaipur for J P Dutta playing the role of Umrao Jaan’s
foster mother, Khanam Jaan and “Lions of Punjab Presents” set in New Jersey, playing
the lead role of Mrs. Kapoor in an ensemble piece directed by Manish Acharya.
8. In 2007, Shabana completed two feature films – “Dus Kahaniya” directed by
Sanjay Gupta and also a short film “Positive” directed by Farhan Akhtar and produced
by Mira Nair.
9. She has just completed in 2008 “Kalpvriksh” a magical, inspirational story of five
children saving their “wishing tree” and Onir’s “Sorry Bhai.”
1. Emma in Harold Pinter’s Betrayal for Singapore Repertory Theatre – 2005
2. Lead in Tanika Gupta’s The Waiting Room for The National Theatre London –
3. Nora in Ibsen’s The Dolls House for Singapore Repertory Theatre – 1997
4. Grusha in Urdu adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle for
IPTA – 1980
5. Amrita in Urdu adaptation of A.R.Gurney’s Love Letters – 1992 - 2006
Daughter of the noted progressive Urdu poet, the late Kaifi Azmi, and actress Shaukat
Kaifi, Shabana is married to Javed Akhtar, urdu poet, film lyricist, and the finest script
writer in Hindi cinema.
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