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Life is an actor’s research base

December 06, 2007 - Source: DNA India

Shabana Azmi  still experiences the rush of adrenalin each time she faces the camera reports Farhana Farook

What makes your role in ‘Rice Plate’ (part of Sanjay Gupta’s Dus Kahaniyaan’) different?
It’s about a Tamil woman who doesn’t like Muslims and the transformation that takes place in her life. We don’t realise when we internalise prejudice. We make sweeping generalisations about communities, which cause a lot of miscommunication. Prejudice can be against any caste, race or religion. Without any naarebazi or jhandebaazi ‘Rice Plate’ tells a story about humanism.

What made you agree to do a film with debuting director Rohit Roy?
I have a sense about young directors, whether it was Shekhar Kapur (‘Masoom’), Reema Kagti (‘Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd’), Manish Acharya (‘Loins of Punjab Presents’) or Vishal Bhardwaj (‘Makdee’).

Rohit was respectful but not intimidated. He was able to ask us (Naseeruddin Shah and me) for a retake. I wanted a tutor to learn Tamil, he got me one. He shot some complicated scenes at Bandra station. Rohit definitely has a spark.

What gets you charged each time you face the camera?
Acting allows you to inhabit different characters and worlds. It’s a two-way process. You give to the part and the part gives to you. Life is the actor’s research base.

So you have to be sensitive and an observer. Observing should come as naturally as breathing. You watch something, it gets stored and at some point you pull it out. Aapke andar ki mitti geeli hona bahut zaroori hai.

What’s the one truth that an actor must know?
You cannot lie in front of the camera. If you don’t feel the emotion and are just doing it upar upar se then the camera catches it. The camera requires you to churn your insides. Any amount of complacency or overconfidence doesn’t work!

What has been the influence of your husband and writer Javed Akhtar in your life?
He has been my friend. We share the same world view. The fact that he’s intelligent, witty and sharp is for the world to see. But he’s also a good human being with correct values. I respect him and constantly learn from him.

Do you enjoy being part of reality TV ‘Jjhoom India’ Sahara One) with all its animosity?
I find it exciting because it’s unpredictable. One day it can get all unpleasant and the next all emotional. These are all established TV actors, putting their reputation at stake. To sing in front of a live audience is terrifying.

Some hurts do get carried forward. Then there are some misunderstandings, cajoling and coming together that happens in any group. While in Parliament, I would be amazed to see that people who were ready to kill each other, would then go to the central hall and have coffee together. That’s what civilised behaviour is about.