“Television is tomorrow’s medium,” says Shabana Azmi, who is currently seen essaying the protagonist as Amma in the weekend prime time drama, Ek Maa Jo Laakhon ke Liye Bani Amma.
Much to everyone’s surprise, the five time National Award-winning actress readily agreed to play protagonist Zeenat on the show. After playing author-backed roles in numerous films in the past, one wonders what drew the veteran to take up the lady don’s role in a fiction television series produced by not-so-well-known producers.
“I loved the concept, since it is very different from the kind of shows one generally sees on television. Additionally, it is a finite series and a weekend show, so I don’t have to work 26 days a month,” she explains.
She also adds that it was the character Zeenat that drove her most to eventually accept the role. “In terms of layering, there is a lot to explore within the role,” she points out.
However, this is not the first time she is playing the role of a lady don. In 1999, she played an underworld character in Vinay Shukla’s The Godmother, which bagged her a National Award for Best Actress.
Looking at the similarities between the two characters, she says, “Although people will compare the two characters, there are a lot of differences between them. My character Rambhi from Godmother was political in nature and Zeenat from Amma is involved with issues of the masses — delivering justice and arriving at resolutions to the problems of the common man. Zeenat believes that had the law and order system been effective, her interventions wouldn’t have been necessary.”
Elaborating further on her character, the actor adds, “Zeenat or Amma, is a woman way ahead of her times. She is an ordinary woman, who in the face of extraordinary circumstances, chooses to rise above and beyond the limitations and boundaries laid down by the society for her. Her resilience makes her bounce back, gain in power and achieve a stature whereby millions look up to her as a messiah. Zeenat or Amma is a villain for some people and heroine for others. She’s a Robin Hood who takes from rich and gives to the poor.”
“The character,” Shabana says, although is influenced by real life events, it has been ‘majorly fictionalised’ too. “The producers have tried to make it look as realistic as possible within the framework of storytelling on television,” she adds.
The role has also given the veteran actor a chance to sing to her father, famous Urdu poet Kaifi Azmi’s poetry and she says, “The feeling is amazing”.
On the future of television, Shabana seems to be quite hopeful too. “Television has a greater reach. In America, we see a number of shows being made.” She thinks that the medium has the potential to “take over completely.” “And if one gets an opportunity to play something big and interesting on TV, it’s definitely worth one’s time,” she adds, hinting at why she agreed to play Zeenat....