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    Shabana Azmi elated with her play in Singapore

    [Interview by Subhash K. Jha]
    Wednesday, October 19, 2005
    Shabana Azmi is just back from Singapore after doing a play there and is feeling on top of the world. And her new haircut and slim figure are adding to the happiness.

    Shabana played a leading part in Harold Pinter''s "Betrayal", by the Singapore Repertory Theatre.

    "Pinter''s ''Betrayal'' is such a clever piece of writing. Javed (Akhtar) simply adores it," gushed Shabana, speaking of her writer husband.

    Shabana, who has given stellar roles in theatre earlier, including the much-lauded "Tumhari Amrita", feels theatre is challenging.

    "Here, you can forget your line in front of a live audience. In cinema you use your voice differently. Cinema makes you smug. If you don''t get it right the first time, you can give a retake," Shabana told IANS.

    She will be seen as Aishwarya Rai''s mother in J.P. Dutta''s much anticipated "Umrao Jaan". Shabana''s mother Shaukat Azmi had played the role in Muzaffar Ali''s film of the same name (as Rekha''s mother).

    Excerpts from the interview:

    You're as usual brimming over with joie de vivre.

    I've come back from Singapore on top of the world. I've lost weight. I cut my hair for the play. I think it rather becomes me... This play that I did - Harold Pinter's "Betrayal" - is by the Singapore Repertory Theatre.

    For the Theatre I had earlier done "Nora" which was Ingmar Bergman's version of Ibsen's "Doll's House". My interest in the Singapore Repertory is to do with their 'colour-blind' casting.

    The best parts don't automatically go to white Caucasians. Indians and Black Americans are also eligible.

    I believe you had the main role.

    Pinter's "Betrayal" is such a clever piece of writing. Javed simply adores it. When they offered me the play I wasn't aware of its content. But Javed was. Although my name is Emma and I dress in Western clothes, the accent and some of my gestures are markedly Indian.

    I even get to hum "Dekha ek khwab to yeh silsilay huey" (from the film "Silsila") during the play. But there's no mention of my being an Indian. Race is not an issue today. There was one English, one American and one Indian character in the play.

    Does a stage performance rejuvenate you?

    've always believed it's essential not only for film actors to do theatre but also for theatre actors to do cinema. They're different disciplines, both important. "Betrayal" was a very important step for me. It featured me with the twice Tony-nominee Peter Friedman.

    Just being around such a seasoned actor teaches you so much about theatre acting, for instance how to carry your voice from stage to the last row. Here, you can forget your line in front of a live audience. In cinema you use your voice differently. Cinema makes you smug. If you don't get it right the first time, you can give a retake.

    I say, why? Why shouldn't we attempt to get it right the first time? You know, during my earlier phase as a film actor I used to give so much of myself to the rehearsals that I'd dry myself up for the final take. It was Vinod Mehra who taught me to hold back. He'd hold my hand and say, "Remember this is a rehearsal".

    What have you come back to?

    At the moment in terms of films there's just "Umrao Jaan". Doing my mother's role is such an exciting thought.


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