Shabana wasn't the first choice for 'Ankur'
One of the Indian cinema's finest actors, Shabana Azmi, turns 62 today. Interestingly, she wasn't the first choice for 'Ankur', the critically acclaimed Shyam Benegal film with which she eventually made her foray into Bollywood
The movie fell into Azmi’s lap after many leading actresses of that time turned it down. The rest, as they say, is history.
Not only was the 1974 film a critical success, Azmi even went on to win the National Award for Best Actress for her stupendous performance. Inspired from a true story from Hyderabad, ‘Ankur’ had Azmi portraying the character of Lakshmi, a married servant and villager, who falls in love a college student, when the latter visits the place.
Other facts about Shabana
She has won a record five National Film Awards for Best Actress, including three in a row from 1983 to 1985 for ‘Arth’, ‘Khandhar’ and ‘Paar’
Both her parents Kaifi Azmi and Shaukat Azmi were members of the Communist Party of India. Azmi’s brother Baba is a cinematographer
Azmi has a graduate degree in Psychology from the reputed St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai
She graduated from the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune in 1973, following which she signed K. A. Abbas' ‘Faasla’ and also began work on a film named ‘Parinay’, but it was ‘Ankur’ that hit the screens first
Azmi received a National Award for Godmother (1999), taking her tally to five
For ‘Mandi’, where Azmi enacted the role of a madam of a whorehouse, Azmi put on weight and even chewed ‘paan’
Even as Deepa Mehta’s controversial ‘Fire’, in which she played a lesbian, led to severe protests in India, the same role got her international acclaim. She won the Silver Hugo Award for Best Actress at the 32nd Chicago Film Festival and Jury Award for Best Actress at Outfest, Los Angeles
Azmi even tried her luck on the small screen with ‘Anupama’, where she played the character of a modern woman who endorsed traditional Indian values, but also wanted more freedom for herself
Her play with Farooq Sheikh, Feroz Abbas Khan's ‘Tumhari Amrita’, ran for five years
Actresses Farah Naaz and Tabu are her nieces
A social and women's rights activist, Azmi is also a Goodwill Ambassador of the United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA)
Azmi was awarded the Padma Shri in 1988 and the Padma Bhushan in 2012