Born - September 18, 1950 in Hyderabad, India
Occupation - Actress, Politician
Nationality - Indian
Years Active - 1974-present
Height - 5' 6" (1.68 m)
Spouse(s) - Javed Akhtar (m. 1984-present)
Shabana Azmi (born 18 September 1950) is an actress of film, television and theatre. Regarded as one of the finest actresses in India, Azmi's performances in films in a variety of genres have generally earned her praise and awards, which include a record of five wins of the National Film Award for Best Actress and several international honours. She has also received five Filmfare Awards, and was honored among "women in cinema" at the 30th International Film Festival of India. In 1988, the Government of India awarded her with Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian honour of the country.
Azmi has appeared in over 120 Hindi and Bengali films in both mainstream and independent cinema, and since 1988 she has acted in several foreign projects. Several of her films have been cited as a form of progressivism which portrays Indian society, its customs and traditions. In addition to acting, Azmi is a social and women's rights activist. She is a Goodwill Ambassador of the United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA). In appreciation of Azmi's life and works, the President of India gave her a nominated (unelected) membership of the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of parliament.
Shabana Azmi was born into a Saiyyid Muslim family, in Hyderabad, India. Her parents are Kaifi Azmi (an Indian poet) and Shaukat Azmi (a veteran Indian People's Theatre Association stage actress), both of whom were members of the Communist Party of India. Her brother, Baba Azmi, is a cinematographer, and her sister-in-law, Tanvi Azmi, is also an actress. Shabana was named at the age of eleven by Ali Sardar Jafri. Her parents used to call her Munni.
Azmi attended Queen Mary School, Mumbai. She completed a graduate degree in Psychology from St. Xavier's College, Mumbai, and followed it with a course in acting at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune.
Azmi graduated from the FTII in 1973 and signed on to Khwaja Ahmad Abbas' "Faasla" and began work on Kanti Lal Rathod's "Parinay" as well. Her first release, however, was Shyam Benegal's directorial debut "Ankur" (1974). Belonging to the arthouse genre of neo-realistic films, "Ankur" is based on a true story which occurred in Hyderabad. The film went on to become a major critical success, and Azmi won the National Film Award for Best Actress for her performances.
She went on to receive the National Film Award consecutively for three years from 1983 to 1985 for her roles in "Arth", "Khandhar" and "Paar". "Godmother" (1999) earned her another National Film Award, taking her tally to five.
Azmi’s acting has been characterised by a real-life depiction of the roles played by her. In "Mandi", she acted as a madam of a whorehouse. For this role, she put on weight and even chewed betel. Real life portrayals continued in almost all her movies. These included the role of a woman named Jamini resigned to her destiny in "Khandhar" and a typical urban Indian wife, homemaker and mother in "Masoom".
She also acted in experimental and parallel Indian cinema. Deepa Mehta's 1996 film "Fire" depicts her as a lonely woman, Radha, in love with her sister-in-law. Her role as Radha brought her international recognition with the Silver Hugo Award for Best Actress at the 32nd Chicago Film Festival and Jury Award for Best Actress at Outfest, Los Angeles.
She was the initial choice for Deepa Mehta's "Water", which was planned to hit the floors in 2000. A few scenes were already shot. Azmi had to shave her head with Nandita Das to portray the character of Shakuntala. However, due to political reasons, the film was shelved and later shot in 2005 with Seema Biswas replacing Azmi.
Some of her notable films are Shyam Benegal's "Nishant" (1975), "Junoon" (1978), "Susman" (1986), and "Antarnaad" (1992); Satyajit Ray's "Shatranj Ke Khilari"; Mrinal Sen's "Khandhar", "Genesis", "Ek Din Achanak"; Saeed Mirza's "Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai"; Sai Paranjpye's "Sparsh" and "Disha"; Gautam Ghose's "Paar"; Aparna Sen's "Picnic" and "Sati"; Mahesh Bhatt's "Arth"; and Vinay Shukla's "Godmother".
Her other films include the commercially successful Manmohan Desai's "Amar Akbar Anthony" and "Parvarish" and Prakash Mehra's "Jwalamukhi". Azmi starred in Hollywood productions such as John Schlesinger's "Madame Sousatzka" (1988) and Roland Joffe's "City of Joy" (1992).
Azmi debuted on the small screen in a soap opera titled 'Anupama'. She has participated in many stage plays: notable among them include M. S. Sathyu's 'Safed Kundali' (1980), based on 'The Caucasian Chalk Circle'; and Feroz Abbas Khan's 'Tumhari Amrita' with actor Farooq Sheikh, which ran for five years. She toured Singapore on an assignment with the Singapore Repertory Theatre Company, acting in Ingmar Bergman's adaptation of Ibsen's 'A Doll's House', which was directed by Rey Buono. She toured the UK, Dubai and India with British production Happy Birthday Sunita by Theatre Company Rifco Arts in 2014.
Shabana Azmi was engaged to Benjamin Gilani in late 1970s, but the engagement was called off. Later, she married Javed Akhtar, a lyricist, poet and Bollywood scriptwriter, on 9 December 1984, making her a member of the Akhtar-Azmi film family. It was Akhtar’s second marriage, the first being with Bollywood scriptwriter, Honey Irani. However Shabana's parents objected to her being involved with a very much married man with 2 children (Farhan Akhtar and Zoya Akhtar). Indian actresses Farah Naaz and Tabu are her nieces and Tanvi Azmi is her sister-in-law.
Azmi has been a committed social activist, active in supporting child survival and fighting AIDS and injustice in real life.
She has participated in several plays and demonstrations denouncing communalism. In 1989, along with Swami Agnivesh and Asghar Ali Engineer, she undertook a four-day march for communal harmony from New Delhi to Meerut. Among the social groups whose causes she has advocated are slum dwellers, displaced Kashmiri Pandit migrants and victims of the earthquake at Latur (Maharashtra, India). The 1993 Mumbai riots appalled her and she emerged as a forceful critic of religious extremism. After the 11 September 2001 attacks, she opposed the advice of the grand mufti of Jama Masjid calling upon the Muslims of India to join the people of Afghanistan in their fight by retorting that the leader go there alone.
She has campaigned against ostracism of victims of AIDS. She has also given her voice to an HIV/AIDS education animated software tutorial created by the nonprofit organisation 'TeachAIDS'.
Since 1989, she has been a member of the National Integration Council headed by the Prime Minister of India; a member of National AIDS Commission (of India); and was nominated (in 1997) as a member of the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian parliament. In 1998, the United Nations Population Fund appointed her as its Goodwill Ambassador for India.
|1974||Ankur||Laxmi||Dakhani (Urdu) film|
|1974||Ishq Ishq Ishq||Pammy|
|1976||Fakira|| Geeta/Neeta C I D Police
|1977||Adha Din Adhi Raat|| remake of telugu film
|1977||Amar Akbar Anthony||Laxmi|
|1977||Ek Hi Raasta||Ketki|
|1977||Hira Aur Patthar||Gauri|
|1977||Jallian Wala Bagh|
|1977||Kanneshwara Rama||Malli||Kannada film|
|1977||Khel Khilari Ka||Rachna|
|1977||Kissa Kursi Ka||Janta|
|1977||Shatranj Ke Khiladi||Khurshid|
|1978||Atithee||Leela M. Kumar / Julie|
|1978||Khoon Ki Pukaar||Shano|
|1979||Lahoo Ke Do Rang||Roma|
|1980|| Albert Pinto Ko Gussa
Kyoon Aata Hai
|1980||Ek Baar Kaho||Aarti Mathur|
|1980||Thodisi Bewafaii||Neema Chowdhary|
|1980||Yeh Kaisa Insaaf||Madhu R. Nath|
|1981||Ek Hi Bhool||Meenakshi||Guest appearance|
|1982||Arth||Mrs. Pooja Inder Malhotra|
|1982||Raaste Pyar Ke||Shyama|
|1982||Anokha Bandan||Annapurna (Anu)|
|1983||Log Kya Kahenge|
|1983||Masoom||Indu D. Malhotra|
|1983||Sweekar Kiya Maine||Gopika K. Shukla|
|1984||Aaj Ka M.L.A. Ram Avtar|| remake of telugu film "MLA
|1984||Hum Rahe Na Hum||Mohini P. Sahani|
|1984||Ram Tera Desh||Advocate Ratna Pathak|
|1984||Yaadon Ki Zanjeer|
|1985||Ram Tere Kitne Nam|
|1985||Rahi Badal Gaye||Bhavna|
|1986||Samay Ki Dharaa|| Madhvi A. Verma/Madhvi
|1988||Madame Sousatzka||Sushila||English film|
|1988||The Bengali Night||Indira Sen||French film|
|1988||Mardon Wali Baat||Seema|
|1989||Ek Din Achanak||Neeta|
|1989||Main Azaad Hoon||Subhashini Saigal|
|1989||Oonch Neech Beech|
|1990||Amba||Amba Bhanupratap Singh|
|1990||Ek Doctor Ki Maut||Seema|
|1990||Muqaddar Ka Badshaah||Advocate Sharda Singh|
|1992||City of Joy||Kamla Pal||English film|
|1992||Immaculate Conception||Samira||English film|
|1993||In Custody||Imtiaz Begum|
|1993||Son of the Pink Panther||Queen||English film|
|1997||Saaz|| Bansidhar (Bansi
|1998||Earth||voice of older Lenny|
|1998||Side Streets||Mrs. Chandra Bipin Raj||English film|
|2000||Gaja Gamini||Premchand's Nirmala|
|2001||Daughters of This Century||Kadambini|
|2002||Devi Ahilya Bai||Harku Bai|
|2002||Meghla Akash||Doctor||Bengali fim, Special Appearance|
|2004||Morning Raga||Swarnlatha||English languge|
|2005||15 Park Avenue||Anjali "Anju" Mathur||English languge|
|2005||Odakalu Bimba||Manjula Sharma||Kannada film|
|2005||Waterborne||Heera Bhatti||English film|
|2006||Banglatown Banquet||Sofia||English film|
|2006||Umrao Jaan||Khannum Jaan|
|2007||Dus Kahaniyaan||Short story 'Rice Plate'|
|2007||Om Shanti Om||Herself|| Special appearance in song
|2007||Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd.||Nahid|
|2007||Loins of Punjab Presents||Rita Kapoor|
|2008||Sorry Bhai!||Mother Gayatri|
|2010||It's a Wonderful Afterlife||Mrs. Sethi||English film|
|2012||Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola||Chaudhari Devi|
|2012||Midnight's Children||Naseem||English film|
|2013|| The Reluctant
|2014||A Decent Arrangement||Preeti Mehta||English language|
|2016||Chalk n Duster||Vidya|
|2017||The Wishing Tree (2017)||Gypsy Woman|
|2017||The Black Prince||Maharani Jind Kaur|
- 2013: '24' (Indian TV series) - Abhilasha Grewal
- 2016: 'Ek Maa Jo Laakhon Ke liye Bani' - Amma
Awards and Honours
Azmi has received the National Film Award for Best Actress five times, making her the overall most-awarded actor in the function:
- 1975 – National Film Award for Best Actress for "Ankur"
- 1983 – National Film Award for Best Actress for "Arth"
- 1984 – National Film Award for Best Actress for "Khandhar"
- 1985 – National Film Award for Best Actress for "Paar"
- 1999 – National Film Award for Best Actress for "Godmother"
- 1978 – Filmfare Best Actress Award for "Swami"
- 1984 – Filmfare Best Actress Award for "Arth"
- 1985 – Filmfare Best Actress Award for "Bhavna"
- 2006 – Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award
- 2017 - Filmfare Best Supporting Actress Award for "Neerja"
- 1975 – Filmfare Best Actress Award for "Ankur"
- 1981 – Filmfare Best Actress Award for "Thodisi Bewafaii"
- 1984 – Filmfare Best Actress Award for "Masoom"
- 1984 – Filmfare Best Actress Award for "Avtaar"
- 1984 – Filmfare Best Actress Award for "Mandi"
- 1985 – Filmfare Best Actress Award for "Sparsh"
- 2003 – Filmfare Best Villain Award for "Makdee"
- 2004 – Filmfare Best Supporting Actress Award for "Tehzeeb"
- 1993: Best Actress award for "Libaas" in North Korea
- 1994: Best Actress award for Gautam Ghose’s "Patang" at the Taorima Arte Festival in Italy
- 1996: Silver Hugo Award for Best Actress for "Fire" at the Chicago International Film Festival
- 1996: Outstanding Actress in a Feature Film, for "Fire" in L.A. Outfest
- Azmi won the award for Best Actress (Hindi) at the Bengal Film Journalists' Association Awards (BFJA) for "Ankur" in 1975, "Paar" in 1984, "Ek Pal" in 1987, and "Godmother" in 1999. She won the Best Supporting Actress (Hindi) award for "Tehzeeb" in 2003
- 1998: Star Screen Award Best Supporting Actress for "Mrityudand"
- 2004: Zee Cine Award Best Actor in a Supporting Role- Female for "Tehzeeb"
- 2005: Star Screen Awards – Best Performance in an Indian Film in English for "Morning Raga"
Honours and Recognitions
- 1988: Awarded the Padma Shri from the Government of India
- 1988: Yash Bhartiya Award by the Government of Uttar Pradesh for highlighting women’s issues in her work as an actress and activist
- 1994: Rajiv Gandhi Award for "Excellence of Secularism"
- 1999: Mumbai Academy of the Moving Image, Significant Contribution to Indian Cinema
- 2002: Martin Luther King Professorship award by the University of Michigan conferred on her in recognition of her contribution to arts, culture and society
- 2003: She was conferred with an Honorary Doctorate by the Jadavpur University in West Bengal in 2003
- 2006: Gandhi International Peace Award, awarded by Gandhi Foundation, London
- 2007: She was conferred with an Honorary Doctorate in Art by Chancellor of the University Brandan Foster by the Leeds Metropolitan University in Yorkshire
- 2008: She was conferred with an Honorary Doctorate by the Jamia Milia Islamia on Delhi in 2008
- 2009: She was honoured with the World Economic Forum’s Crystal Award
- 2012: Awarded the Padma Bhushan by the Government of India
- 2012: She was honoured by Walk of the Stars as her hand print was preserved for posterity at Bandra Bandstand in Mumbai
- 2013: Awarded the Honorary Fellowship by the National Indian Students Union UK
- 2013: She was conferred with an Honorary Doctorate by Simon Fraser University
- 2014: She was conferred with an Honorary Doctorate by TERI University on 5 February 2014