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Seven Shabana Azmi roles to remember

ACCLAIMED actress Shabana Azmi turns a year older this week and will no doubt receive birthday wishes from all over the world. To mark the Indian national treasure’s 67th birthday, Eastern Eye went back through her distinguished career to select seven of her most memorable performances.

Ankur (1974): Shabana won the first of her five record-breaking National Awards for Best Actress with her powerful portrayal of a poor villager’s wife. She goes through a range of emotions in the story of two individuals from very different backgrounds who are brought together by circumstances. The stunning cinematic debut signalled her arrival to the big time and kick-started a distinguished career that is still going strong more than 40 years later.

Arth (1983): This story of an extra-marital affair is regarded as one of the greatest Indian films of all time and was powered by standout performances including a stunning turn from Azmi herself. She won the Filmfare and National Award for her portrayal of a housewife having to cope with the aftermath of her husband’s extra-marital affair.

Masoom (1983): In 1984, Shabana Azmi garnered four of the five Filmfare Best Actress award nominations and won for Arth. She was also nominated for this classic about a married couple dealing with the sudden arrival of a boy fathered by the husband in an extra-marital affair. She demonstrated her impressive range with her portrayal of a wife dealing with her tranquil life being turned upside down.

Khandahar (1984): The actress won a third National Award for her role in this touching drama based on a Bengali short story, Telenapota Abishkar. She gives a standout performance as a lonely, heartbroken woman who is waiting for the suitor who will never
come and she is destined to live her life in the ruins. The emotion-filled classic pivots around her central performance.

Bhavna (1985): The actress won a well-deserved Filmfare Best Actress award for the title role of a single mother who is abandoned by her husband and has a turbulent life well into old age. She goes through a remarkable transformation in the classic weepie and once again bought realism into commercial cinema.

Fire (1996): The groundbreaking film was one of the first to show a homosexual relationship in mainstream commercial Hindi cinema. Shabana plays a lonely housewife who falls in love with another woman, who is also shunned by her husband. The taboo busting drama caused a lot of controversy when it released, but also sparked an important debate and was globally praised for its bravery.

Godmother (1999): Shabana won her fifth National Award for her commanding portrayal of a female mafia don. The biographical drama based on real life events had a perfectly nuanced performance from the actress as she goes from being an innocent housewife to taking the law into her own hands.