From the characters she chooses to play in movies to the initiatives she is involved in – all these choices echo just one thing – struggle to bring about a social change in the country. Her visit to the city on Sunday too talks about the same. Shabana Azmi was here in support of the Confederation Of Voluntary Associations (COVA) that conducted a special session ‘Empowering India - Through a Developed Telangana: Conversations with Celebrities on Films, Women and Social Issues’.
Inclination towards Social Change
Ask the veterans what motivates her and keeps her inclined towards social service? Credit goes to her communist parents who always taught her that art should be used as a medium for social change. “My father through his poetry and my mother through her acting have always talked about social change. They strongly believed in equality of women and helping the underprivileged. Working towards bringing a social change was a process of osmosis for me,” said Shabana.
She has been associated with a number of causes till date – women’s rights, human rights, population control, AIDS awareness, child care and child rights among many more.
Being a celeb Does being a celebrity help her get the much needed visibility?
She agrees and said that every activist has the capacity to bring social change. “Being a celebrity does add value and helps in reaching out much farther. There are so many people who are working at the grassroots and doing much more than a celeb can ever hope to do. Real strength is at the grassroots. Celebs just add their name to it and drag public’s attention to the cause,” feels the Padma Bhushan awardee.
The 64-year-old who feels strongly for the upliftment of women applauds the Justice Verma committee for encouraging women to report rape cases, through Nirbhaya Act.
Shabana points out that before the Act came into place, women, in a certain sense were raped ‘verbally’. “The victim has to repeat the episode at the police station and in court. Video tape recording of the case has resulted in more women coming ahead and booking case,” she said, and added, “It is usually the woman who is held responsible for being raped, by the society. They say she was wearing reveling clothes, walking in dark and inviting rape.”
But after the Nirbhaya incident, it was the first time so many young boys and girls came out on the streets and fought for justice and women’s safety.
Theatre and movies
The legendary actor who is around 120 movies old thinks that films can be instrumental in bringing equality for women. “Films show women wearing a yellow chiffon saree and doing nothing most of the time. Whereas, in reality women work. Films have to be made more realistically,” said the actress who worked as a theatre artiste before entering films. “There is something, an adrenaline rush in a live performance that can make you do completely crazy things. It’s as if the character takes hold of you and pulls the strings,” quipped Shabana.
Recalling how it all started she said, “It was decided when I was in my mother’s womb that I have to be a theatre artiste. When I was four months old, my mother would strap me to her back and take me to Prithvi Theatre where she would act. During vacations, I would also go for out station shoots. Even as a child, I would be taken in for any sequence that I suited for.”
Certify, don’t censor!
Having been in the business for over four decades, Shabana pleads to the Indian Censor Board to give up British system of censorship and adopt the American one, where filmmakers have a say on the content and certification is done accordingly. “I think it is very important that we discard the British system, which means you appoint a chief and then you have 30 different people who are willingly chosen according to the political dispensation of the day. This means every five years you expect the morality of your country to change,” Shabana pointed out and said that they should call the board as board of film certification and its job should be certifing films according to appropriate age and not censor the scenes.
She also gave the example of Broadcasting Content Complaints Council’s, of which she is a member.
“It is a self regulatory body which is liberal and if something objectionable is noticed, we ask them to move the show to the grave yard slot, instead of broadcasting it in the prime time,” she enlightened.
The activist who also runs an NGO named Mijwan Welfare Society, that works towards empowerment of women says ‘Khatte Baingan, Daccani Zubaan’. Hyderabadi biryani and her cousins call her to the city.
Keeping her acting spirit alive even after spending considerable time with social activities, she is will be seen in Jazbaa starring Aishwarya Rai and Irrfan Khan.