Enjoy the spotlight, but share it: Shabana to Vidya

FP Staff

Mar 22, 2012 14:54:06 IST

When Shabana Azmi warns Vidya Balan against taking on strong roles that dwarf her male co-actors as it will prevent her from getting films with the best scripts, could she have a point?

Azmi, one of Balan's newest fans after watching her performance in Kahaani, said that even though she has done all the right things and made the right film choices over the years, they could deprive her of the chance to act with leading men of her day. And roles that are part of a subject bigger than what any single actor can pull off.

 Enjoy the spotlight, but share it: Shabana to Vidya

AFP Photo

"Somewhere I feel Vidya has made the daring but right career choices. I see glimpses of my own involvement with my roles in Vidya Balan," Azmi said.

Azmi said this out of personal experience; she says her strong performances scared off the successful men of her time, and she was left with acting alongside the Kulbhushan Kharbandas and the Raj Kirans.

"Vidya should avoid the pitfall of only doing central parts. She should also enjoy doing peripheral parts as much as the pivotal ones. Being the centre of attention could be addictive. She must learn to also be part of a cinema that doesn't focus on her but has something important to say," Azmi said. 

Azmi would know. A successful actor who even now, at age 61, continues to bag enviable roles and has won five national awards so far, Azmi has never shied away from roles in which she had to share the spotlight with other actors in order to tell a good story.

Her start itself was strong, with her first film Ankur in 1974 and winning the National award for it. With the benefit of having directors like Shyam Benegal and Govind Nihalani at her time, she had the advantage of being offered roles that perhaps are not even being written today.

Once established as a strong actor, she automatically attracted strong characterisations that only a few could have pulled off at her time. That's what brought to Azmi films like Sai Paranjape's National-award-winning Sparsh; Shyam Benegal's Mandi, in which she played a brothel Madam; and Deepa Mehta's controversial film about lesbianism, Fire. Though these roles weren't completely centred on her, she played characters crucial to the story and one who was not easily forgotten once the credits started rolling.

Subsequently, Azmi has also pulled off solo acts like her searing performance in Godmother (1999) and the memorable Makdee (2002) but some of her most memorable performances have been those where she was unafraid to share the  spotlight if that's what it took to tell a good story.

But that being said one can't really forgive Azmi's attempts at doing roles for the masses like forgettable roles in Manmohan Desai's Amar Akbar Anthony and JP Dutta's Umrao Jaan.

Balan has done her share of Bollywood tripe like the unforgettably bad Kismat Connection and Salaam-e-Ishq. But despite a short career she has managed to pick out some gems even in the mainstream before hitting a purple patch with The Dirty Picture and now Kahaani, both centred around strong woman characters.

So what is Azmi, the veteran of Bollywood trying to tell her? Maybe all she's telling Balan is that you might get the awards but they're not going to do you much good if you don't get films and co-stars, something you might quickly run out of if you pick movies in which you're the only notable character.

But do you think Azmi has a point? Or can Balan continue to carve a niche for herself in the traditionally male-centric Bollywood?

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Updated Date: Mar 22, 2012 15:03:05 IST