Of life, love and lots of wine

A case in point is the latest film, Sonata, featuring stellar actors Shabana Azmi, Aparna Sen and Lilette Dubey.

At a time when the film industry has almost completely accepted the belief that it’s not an easy game for an actress above 40 to stand her ground strong in cinema, there has been a sudden surge of older actresses onscreen in Indian films — proving the age-old adage that age is just another number!

A case in point is the latest film, Sonata, featuring stellar actors Shabana Azmi, Aparna Sen and Lilette Dubey. Sonata revolves around the lives of three middle-aged, unmarried, contemporary, urban Indian women discussing their lives, sexuality — of course, all of it spoken over copious amounts of wine. The three actors were in Chennai recently to discuss the film, at an event held by FICCI Flo. The veterans also put up a marvellous display of their acting chops through a stage reading. On the sidelines of the event, we caught up with the vivacious actors for a quick chat.

The film, based on a play by Mahesh Elkunchwar, celebrates female friendship, which is often not explored, says Aparna, who has also directed the film. “It was a deal-breaker kind of situation where I had to act even though I didn’t really want to, because the producer wanted us to be in the film together,” Aparna laughs.

“When Aparna told me about it (Sonata), I immediately said yes. We’ve been friends for a very long time... she even bullied me into singing Rabindra Sangeet for the film! But we had a ball of a time even though it was a short shoot,” a high-spirited Shabana recalls.

As someone who’s played many acclaimed roles in female-centric films, Shabana says, “I think it’s inevitable that women-centric films come back. If we see what’s happening across the world, women are making conscious effort to overthrow patriarchal mindsets, to say that we want equal opportunity. Women constitute 50 per cent of the world, and we need to be included in the dialogue that’s taking place — be it in art or politics or finance. It is important for the health of a society that women be given their due place.”

Answering our query about probable cuts from the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) for the F-words that figure in the film, she opines, “Everything must be seen in a context. The purpose of art is not just to entertain but also to provoke. I have every right to offend you, provided there’s no violence attached to it, and there’s no breaking of law. Dissent is the very essence of a democracy. For someone to act as an extra-constitutional authority is something that must not happen.”

On the subject of nepotism, that’s got many in the industry talking, Shabana feels that it exists in every profession. “If you’re a businessman, a doctor or a jeweller, you’d favour your son or daughter. Why should there be any embarrassment about it? I would much rather work with people I’m comfortable with. It’s only the first one chance that someone is favoured — and afterwards it’s just the person’s hard work. This has not prevented anyone from casting other people,” she asserts.

The theatre veteran has been busy with many diverse films in hand, playing varied roles. “Earlier, it was unthinkable that a woman beyond 30 could have any chance of getting substantial roles. I’m getting the widest variety of roles I ever got — a villain, a mother, etc. It’s a very happy time for me!” says Shabana, signing off.

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