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Raga time

Tehzeeb may have failed her, but Shabana Azmi has bounced back with Morning Raga



Shabana Azmi sings a new tune in Morning Raga: "I've never played such a role before. The swaras in Carnatic music are so intricate that mastering them is no mean feat." — Photo: R.V. Moorthy.

HER HONEST smile reverberates with invigorating thoughts and sitting pretty in a resplendent salwar-kameez, she radiates endless warmth and energy as you walk up to her. Her latest film Morning Raga, directed by playwright Mahesh Dattani, is due for release and the lady seems excited about the whole new concept.

"I was always curious about working with Mahesh Dattani," reveals Azmi, "I've watched his plays before and I seemed to like the complexities of his characters. When he offered me the film it clearly had the essence I was looking for."

The film is about the life of a Carnatic singer who's lost her confidence due to a gory incident in her life. How she comes to terms with her traumatic life many years later forms the crux of the story. The music of the film is also highlighted.

Never-before role

Talking of her tryst with Carnatic music, Shabana says: "I've never played such a role before. The swaras in Carnatic music are so intricate that mastering them is no mean feat."

Ranjini, who is a violinist and plays a pivotal role in the film, was a great help to her. Not only did she explain the nitty-gritty about the form but also helped her sing.

The film seems to have garnered an excellent response from those who've seen the rushes. "Whoever has seen the film has come out exhilarated," exclaims Azmi, adding, "Friends like Anup Jalota and Alka Yagnik, who are ace singers, themselves have expressed surprise at the way I've done the last bit of the film where I exercise my vocal chords."

She takes pains to clarify that the film is not an `art' film as most would expect but quite racy and mainstream. "My mother and brother, both of who never seem to like my roles, have for once complimented me wholeheartedly for this one. I guess that explains it all."

Her brown eyes darken into a dreamy hue and her husky voice hits you with its intensity. As she talks animatedly about Morning Raga, there is no perceptible regret over the lukewarm response to her Makdee and Tehzeeb.

She strongly defends the films. "I think they've got it all wrong. Makdee was a huge success. Here I'd like to say that Makdee has done for me what Arth did years ago. After Arth, the womenfolk connected to me and now it's the children who've been thronging my house with all sorts of comments about Makdee."

She emphasises that the market for children's films is huge in India but no one seems to tap it in the right way. Though she agrees that Tehzeeb floundered immediately after its release, she insists that it did appeal to the masses.

After `Raga'

After Morning Raga, she's eagerly looking forward to the release of Water Borne, a Hollywood production where she plays a Sikh woman running a shop out to fleece her customers after a terrorist threat to the water supply system in Los Angeles. "The film's complete and should hit the theatres soon."

Life after her father Kaifi Azmi's death has definitely not been the same for her. "I had a cosmic connection with him. But his soul lives on among the people who believed in him and his work."

Today she actively works for the NGO Mijwan Welfare Society started by her father in Mijwan, his birthplace. The progress of Mijwan seems to be her sole dream today.

SHEKHAR CHANDRAN

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