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    '15 Park Avenue' was easy for me: Shabana Azmi

    [Interview by Subhash K. Jha]
    Monday, January 09, 2006
    Seasoned actress Shabana Azmi says she played her natural self in Aprana Sen''s "15 Park Avenue".

    "I look the closest that I do in real life. I have worn a lot of my own clothes. Javed said I have never sounded like I do in ''15 Park Avenue''," she said.

    The actress talks highly about her director: "I think she''s an auteur in the true sense."

    Commenting upon Mahesh Dattani''s "Morning Raga", which has been nominated for the Oscars, she asserted there was a market for offbeat films.

    "Smaller films like ''Morning Raga'' should be allowed to remain in theatres for at least four weeks for the word-of-mouth to spread."


    We haven't seen you on screen for a while...

    I don't think that is true. "Morning Raga" was my last release. And its submission for the Oscars proves a point. Everyone who saw it loved it. But enough people didn't see the film because it got pulled out of theatres in two weeks. Ironically, the big films, which do not need publicity, get loads of money spent on the marketing.

    Smaller films like "Morning Raga" should be allowed to remain in theatres for at least four weeks for the word-of-mouth to spread. I understand the budget constraints. One still works for free when required. I am absolutely convinced that a market for films like "Morning Raga" exists. And the fact that it continues to be in the news proves it.

    Would you consider "Morning Raga" one of your most satisfying performances?

    My entire concentration was on getting the Carnatic singing right. And if Ravi Shankar, Rajiv Menon (whose mother is a Carnatic singer) and Alka Yagnik say I got it right, I am happy.

    "15 Park Avenue" is your first release in a while.

    The thing is, I haven't seen it yet. But Javed has. And he wept. He told Aparna (Sen): 'Stop making me cry like this in every film'. The only other film he cried in was "Aparna's 36 Chowringhee Lane". I have a super part.

    How has Aparna evolved since she last directed you in "Sati"?

    I think she's an auteur in the true sense. She writes her own scripts. She understands lighting, editing, music and acting... everything. She sees the film so clearly in her mind's eye that it is already made in her mind even before she reaches the sets.

    I loved my character, Anu, in "15 Park Avenue". She's compassionate without being sentimental. She's a typical urban woman of today, hard pressed for time, juggling several jobs. Coping with life for a working woman, who is also the caregiver in the family, isn't easy. She is not the giving martyr like the protagonist in Anil Ganguly's "Tapasya".

    Anu is short-tempered, impatient. She is a giver but not a martyr. For my character, her younger sister, played by Konkona (Sen Sharma), is the core of her existence. I was very moved by Anu's relationship with her family. It was very easy for me to identify with the role.

    Konkona is an actor you have nurtured from her childhood.

    I gave her the nickname Koko. She played my daughter in Aparna's "Picnic". And if you remember she had a small role with me in "Sati". I knew all along she would be an actor, nothing else.

    Konkona is a very intelligent actor. She works from truth. At the moment all her work springs from honesty. She hasn't developed any craft to play her characters. There were points in "15 Park Avenue" when she took my breath away because I completely believed she was the character she was playing. I have tremendous respect for her because she has the courage to take on roles that are off the beaten track.

    But those are the only roles being offered to her!

    I don't know about that. But I see her making brave choices. Konkona is very intelligent, very argumentative. She and I had countless arguments on films, life and other matters. She is full Aparna Sen's daughter.

    Rahul Bose calls you an empress.

    I know... And Kanwaljeet... He was my classmate. He's got a tiny part. But the performances are all very good.

    And your performance?

    I can't comment. But I look the closest that I do in real life. I have worn a lot of my own clothes. Javed said I have never sounded like I do in "15 Park Avenue". But that is because I sound exactly like Aparna Sen.

    It also comes from the very natural lines that I had to speak. In most of our films dialogues sound like dialogues. In "15 Park Avenue" I've tried to make the lines sound like everyday conversation.

    Silent close-ups are easier to do, if you are lit and packaged correctly. That's why a lot of non-actors appear very moving. In Shahji Karun's "Piravi", a man who had never acted got the National award because of those silent close ups. But my mother taught me it is speaking dialogues that demand the most out of an actor.

    Even if you have rehearsed 15 times you have to make it sound like the first. Dialogues should not sound pre-meditated and labored. Now with sync-sound, I hope it will improve. In a French film you can never tell whether it's documentary or fiction. In "15 Park Avenue" I worked on making the dialogues normal.

    You have just won the prestigious Crystal award at the Economic Summit at Davos.

    I am very, very honored. Because the list of people who have won the award before is completely breathtaking, like Paulo Coelho, Peter Gabriel, Nikita Mikhelkov (who's my favorite Russian director), Richard Gere. It fell into my lap and I am really honored. I will be flying to Davos Jan 28.

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