Happy Birthday, Shabana Azmi

2 min readSep 18, 2023

Born on September 18, 1950, Shabana Azmi celebrates another year of a remarkable life and career in the Indian film industry. A celebrated actress with a versatile career spanning film, television, and theatre, Azmi has appeared in over 160 films.

Her work primarily focuses on independent and neorealist parallel cinema, although she has also ventured into mainstream and international projects. Highly regarded for her nuanced portrayals of unique and often non-traditional female roles across various genres, Azmi is a synonym for the authentic cinema that has always been cherished in India and loved by audiences worldwide.

She holds the distinction of winning five National Film Awards for Best Actress, along with five Filmfare Awards and numerous international honors. In recognition of her contributions, the Indian government awarded her the Padma Shri in 1998 and the Padma Bhushan in 2012. The daughter of renowned poet Kaifi Azmi and stage actress Shaukat Azmi, she is a graduate of the Film and Television Institute of India in Pune. Azmi made her cinematic debut in 1974 with the film “Ankur,” quickly becoming a leading figure in parallel cinema — a movement known for its art films characterized by serious content and realism, often receiving government support.

Many of her films are considered progressive and socially reformative, offering an authentic depiction of Indian society and its cultural norms. Beyond her acting career, Azmi is also an advocate for social and women’s rights. She is married to Javed Akhtar, a noted poet and screenwriter. Serving as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA), Azmi has been honored with a nominated membership in the Rajya Sabha, India’s upper house of parliament, by the President of India, in acknowledgment of her life’s work and contributions.