Happy Birthday Shabana Azmi! Did not realize you are the same age as my mother! Here are 18 reasons I love you, in honor of being born on September 18th!
1.1. I love you because you were inspired to attend IIFT after seeing a diploma film of Jaya Bhaduri, and you are proud to tell that story in interviews now, honoring an actress that others might see as your “rival”.
2. I love you because your very first movie post-graduation, Ankur, was a classic, and you effortlessly carried the whole film.
3. I love you because you were never afraid to take a controversial role, whether it was an unfaithful wife in Ankur or a woman who finds happiness in divorce in Arth or the most controversial role, a woman who falls in love with her sister-in-law in Fire.
4. I love you because you were also willing to take commercial parts. From Amar Akbar Anthony to Matru ki Bijli Ka Mandola.
5. I love you because you were in Son of the Pink Panther! 16 years before Aishwarya joined the franchise. And in the last version directed by Blake Edwards.
6. I love you because you married Javed Akhtar in 1984 when you were 34, he was 39, and his kids were 12 and 10. And today, 32 years later, it can be hard to remember that you were never a family, half the people I talk to don’t even realize they are your stepchildren!
7. Speaking of Amar Akbar Anthony, let’s take a look at a song from your turn towards commercial cinema! It starts with Amitabh and Parveen Babi, but give it a minute to swing around to you and Vinod.
8. Not the last time you worked in Manmohan Desai! And this song from Parvarish is even cuter.
9. Of course, you were mostly known for your art films. Which tended to be too dark and serious to have songs. The exception being Masoom, which not only had songs, it was also a lot lighter and gentler than your usual social dramas.
10. Masoom was where you played the loving stepmother onscreen. But what is a bigger sign, to me, of you being a loving stepmother is when you were in Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Limited, your stepdaughter’s first movie.
11. You took a risk on her first film, but that is a risk you have also been willing to take for strangers often. For instance, you lent your name to Manish Acharya’s Loins of Punjab Presents that same year, one of my favorite Indian-American movies, with this amazing end credits song (graphics by Nina Paley, who did Sita Sings the Blues)
12. And just this year you took a risk on Neerja, a female based film by an unknown director, and provided the heart and soul of the movie.
13. I love you because you have not just chosen unconventional roles on film, but have supported unconventional causes in real life, whether it is slum dwellers or child AIDs victims.
14. I love you because you refuse to slow down, continuing to take challenging and interesting roles now at the same rate as when you were starting out.
15. I love you because those roles only become “interesting” in your hands. Any other actress, and they might be just the “mother” role or the “teacher” or “doctor”, but you make them something else.
16. I love you because you are part of one of the most talented families in Indian film, not just your husband and stepchildren, but also your sister-in-law Tanvi Azmi, and your niece Tabu.
17. I love you because you are so good, even the government can’t ignore you, giving you the National Award 5 times, making you the most awarded actress in the history of Indian film.
18. And finally, I love you because you weren’t afraid to make fun of yourself in this fabulous cameo in Om Shanti Om!