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Short story

December 07, 2007 - Source: Express India

Posted: Dec 07, 2007 at 0000 hrs IST

Within one year she has already worked with two debuting directors— Reema Kagti and Manish Acharya. And now Shabana Azmi will be seen under the baton of actor-turned-film director Rohit Roy in one of the stories of Dus Kahaniyaan this Friday. She talks about the power of exciting scripts, the challenge of short films and pairing again with Naseeruddin Shah after nearly two decades.

On working with debuting directors:
I think I have an instinct for recognising talent because if you look at my career I have worked with the maximum number of first-time directors be it Shekhar Kapoor (Masoom) or Vishal Bharadwaj (Makdee) to Manish Acharya (Lions of Punjab Presents) or Reema Kagti (Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd.). I find their passion very infectious.

Rohit Roy, the director:
Being an actor himself, Rohit knows how to deal with an actor. He was extremely respectful, but not artificial and when he asked for a retake, I always felt he was justified. Ultimately it’s in the DNA of actors to respect his director. He attempted something difficult on the very first day by shooting in the chaos and traffic of the Bandra station with absolute control. His meticulous management of that shoot went strongly in his favour as a director.

On Rice Plate:
I play a Tamil woman who dislikes Muslims but a small incident that happens with her through the course of a day leads to softening of her stand. I think prejudice is something that all of us have, but don’t realise at what point it gets so internalised that we end up making a lot of sweeping judgments about entire communities. Rice Plate without any sloganeering makes a plea for a humanistic approach to tackling prejudices and I found that very touching. Though a lot of people have wondered how a film’s story can be told in just 10 minutes, I feel that the power of a story is that it should be able to be told on a postage stamp.

On the Naseer-Shabana pairing:
Mine was just a day’s work with Naseer, but I hope it will serve as a reminder to people of our past work and we will be able to do more work together. The near two-decade gap in our pairing had just happened; there’s no explanation for that whatsoever. I have enjoyed doing Paar, Mandi, Masoom, Libaas and so many other films with him. A good pairing cannot happen if one of the actors gets a major part and the other gets a smaller one. To be cast in roles that connect with the audience memorably both actors need to get something substantial to do.

On film selection:
I have to be first sent a script. If the script is interesting then the person has to come and meet me.

The judgment call on doing a film happens in the manner in which the person narrates the script to me. When Shekhar narrated Masoom, he hadn’t even looked through a lens in his entire life till then, but the way he told the story or the way Vishal narrated Makdee to me got my nod. Something in that indescribable moment of communication between the director and an actor happens that makes one feel that a certain script will work and another won’t.