Shabana is a proud feminist
Be it for her powerful roles or for the activist she is, Shabana Azmi is a name that rings a bell for many. The Padmashri and National Award winning actor was at an event hosted by Embassy Office Parks to celebrate International Women's Day at the Hilton recently. In a candid conversation with Tini Sara Anien, she expressed strong views on equality and recollected memories of Bengaluru.
How often are you in Bengaluru?
I visit the city at least four to five times in a year. I have a lot of memories with the city. 'Vishwasghaat' was shot here, not because it needed stills from the city but because Sanjeev Kumar was busy with 'Sholay' here. Our crew figured that while he was shooting for 'Sholay' there would be fallow periods, when we could get him to work with us. There was another interesting film called 'Shart'.
'Bhavna' was shot here. I clearly remember this film because of an interesting incident. We were shooting at a public garden and it was a really emotional scene where I was just about to drop a tear, when some of the onlookers started pushing each other and whistling. Mercifully, I am a trained actor and because of Stanislavski's concept of 'Public solitude', which is the ability of the actor to shut out the outside world and stay within the truth of the moment, I managed well.
Do we still need a day like International Women's Day?
We definitely need it. Firstly, I am fed up of women saying 'I am not a feminist' as if it is the worst thing ever. I am a feminist and a proud one at that. Women who claim themselves to not be feminists say it without a clear understanding of what feminism is. I am not sure why the word conjures up a very strident bra-burning kind of imagery. We have gone much beyond that. There was a time when a woman wore lipstick, she was not a feminist but that is not how it is now.
The day is a symbol of the struggles of the women's movement from years ago which has made it possible for women today to demand equality and get it.
Your discussion was about 'Women competing and rising on their own terms.' How should a woman do this?
The way anybody else should. Why should there be a difference for women? I feel that men and women are different and that difference needs to be celebrated. If women get empowered and start behaving exactly like men, the society is not going to improve in any way. Women as agents of change need to be put into decision-making bodies. Only then can their participation make any difference. Also, I hope that the change that they bring will be different from what men will.
What is the borderline between objectification and sensuality or expressing individuality?
The intent. It is the intention of the filmmaker, the artiste or anybody which defines this. I could find a nude image really beautiful and a fully-clad image totally obscene.
You recently said that 'India lives simultaneously in different centuries.' Will this ever change?
I don't think it can change a lot. But, we can demand equal rights for everybody whichever century they are living in. To homogenise India is firstly possible and not desirable. India's strength comes from her pluralism. Within this, if something goes against the law of the land, one has to abide by the system. We live in a country which has had a woman prime minister and president yet girls are being murdered because they are girls. This contradiction is what we have to deal with.