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Shabana wasn't the first choice for 'Ankur'

The movie fell into Azmi’s lap after many leading actresses of that time turned it down. The rest, as they say, is history.

Ankur
A still from 'Ankur'

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 

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