Friday, 21 June 2019

SHABANA AZMI : “As Women, We Don’t Need To Be Treated As Goddesses But As Equals”


One of the leading lights of the now-largely-defunct Indian New Wave, Shabana Azmi was one of the main female actors who dominated the films of the so-called "Parallel Cinema" in India in the 1970s and 1980s. Born to noted Urdu progressive poet and lyricist Kaifi Azmi and theatre actress Shaukat Azmi, Shabana has acted in films by virtually all of India's most famous art-house directors including Shyam Benegal, Satyajit Ray, Aparna Sen and others, as well as in commercial and middle-of-the-road Hindi films. She is noted for her naturalness and intensity on-screen, matched by her fierce advocacy of the rights of women, minorities and slum-dwellers off-screen, both through activism and in her role as a Member of Parliament, where her consistent stand in defense of liberal values and the freedom of expression is noteworthy. She started working in films which were about social issues as well as enacted characters who stood up against social injustice. With such a background, a time comes when all these factors combine and make you ask the question – why is there social injustice, why is there a difference and why are some privileged and the others not.  According to her, once you ask those questions, you get Apart from being a well known actor of her time.

 Shabana Azmi has always been an active social activist. Shabana is known to raise her voice against various social issues, but her attention goes to women and child-related issues. Shabana has advocated for the cause of slum dwellers, victims of Latur earthquake, and displaced Kashmiri Pandits.involved in the process of making a change. Shabana involved with Nivara Haq, which is a housing rights organisation and in May 1986, I went on a hunger strike with Anand Patwardhan and three other slum dwellers demanding alternative land for a slum in south Bombay. It was unheard of at that time that a female actress be involved in social issues to this extent. Five days later, the government agreed and allocated alternate land. This propelled her into social work following which I did a lot of work with Nivara Haq and then I got completely involved with her father’s NGO, Mijwan Welfare Society.

Way back in 1989, she took a four-day march against communalism from Delhi to Meerut. In 1998, Shabana Azmi was appointed as the Goodwill Ambassador of the United Nations Population Fund as well for the HIV/AIDS programme for the SAARC region. Today, Shabana Azmi runs an NGO named Mijwan Welfare Society in Azamgarh district, UP, which works for the underprivileged children. Under Mijwan, she has set up a school, a college, a computer centre, and a sewing centre in a small remote village. She also organizes various fund-raising activities. Actor Shabana Azmi spelled her vision of an India driven by social change, where dissent, debate and differing voices are welcome.

“Are you satisfied with the way world is? If not, then work towards your idea of worldview, work towards your idea of social change through dissent, contesting voices and debate!” – Shabana Azmi



Navpreet Kaur

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