News: Shabana Azmi’s New York MinuteBy Lavina Melwani • Mar 25th, 2012 • Category: Cinema
New York Toasts Shabana Azmi
This has been quite a year for noted actor and activist Shabana Azmi who was awarded the Padma Bhushan by the Government of India. She’s just finished Deepa Mehta’s ‘Midnight’s Children’ based on Salman Rushdie’s novel and is currently making a film with Vishal Bharadwaj. She has been chosen by TIME Magazine as 1 of 25 Asian heroes and is the only woman amongst four Indians on the list.
Now comes her New York minute! Shabana Azmi was presented a proclamation by New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Office for Motion Picture and Television Development for her commitment to the arts and contributions to New York City’s film industry.
So it was that over 150 guests turned up at the Time Square offices of Proskauer Rose LLP, not for legal advice but for a glamorous cocktail evening with Shabana Azmi! The event was organized by IAAC’s 12th Annual New York Indian Film Festival to felicitate Azmi, who is its Advisory board member, on her Padma Bhushan award. The hosts of the evening were Neerja Sethi and Bharat Desai. It was also a kick-off event for the upcoming New York Indian Film Festival.
Pat Kaufman, Executive Director of the New York State Governor’s Office for Motion Picture and Television Development, gave an eloquent introduction of Azmi before presenting her with the proclamation. Azmi, who was honored as the chief guest at a gala event for AmeriCares the night before, is almost a New Yorker, since she comes in so often for her theater performances. She also happens to be on the advisory board of NYIFF, and caring as she does for cinema, she turned the focus that night totally on the upcoming film festival in May, which offers a mix of independent, diaspora and art houses films.
Rooting for the New York Indian Film Festival
Shabana Azmi said she had been there since the inception of NYIFF and seen it grow. She recalled that in the early days there was no space for an Indian film festival and it was a struggle. “Now so many film festivals have sprung up all over north America – it’s absolutely wonderful – and we should say that’s the way to go and Aroon was the pioneer,” she said, referring to Aroon Shivdasani, the never-say-die founder of NYIFF. “We are embracing all such festivals and holding hands with them, and very significant films are being screened at the festival in this 100th year of Indian cinema.”
She traced the beginnings of the NYIFF, which started out showcasing films from within the Diaspora and then created a space for itself where besides independent and art house films, even mainstream cinema and regional films have started getting visibility and a larger audience.
The power of Regional Cinema
” I think it’s very important for regional films to find an audience because India is not a monolith and Indian cinema is not only the Hindi film industry. And if you look at the strengthening of regionals in India, it’s very good for a democracy because ultimately we hope the sum total of its parts will be more than the whole; and that’s the aspiration regional cinema is looking at and that is becoming available more and more all over the world and particularly here.”
For global thinking Shabana Azmi, New York is yet another hometown and she seemed happy to be here, amongst friends, with the proclamation from the State of New York right behind her, and the glittering city waiting outside the picture windows.