Shabana Azmi on her film Kaali Khuhi, empowering women to break stereotypes and foreseeing the streaming boom.
Q. Kaali Khuhi reflects on a social evil that still haunts India. Is that what drew you to it?
Yes. Female infanticide is an issue I feel very strongly about. I find it unacceptable that we are aware it exists and yet brush it off and not associate with it the kind of horror we do with murder. It all comes from the patriarchal mindset, where a woman is seen as not equal to men and only as somebody’s daughter, sister, mother, wife.
Q. In a recent address to young Muslim women during a convocation ceremony, you said, “Know that you can own a space that you wish to occupy.”
Women have been raised to believe that there are certain things we can’t do. A lot of it has to do with working mothers. Why is it that only mothers are expected to stay home with their sick child? My upbringing was not gendered. My mother would travel for months for theatre shows and my father looked after us. Now I see what I took for granted is really an exception rather than the rule.
Q. You congratulated Pratik Gandhi on Twitter for his web series Scam 1992. Are you a binge-watcher?
I am very interested in all new things in every field. Fifteen years ago, I did what was almost a student film, Waterborne, made for release only on Google. Everyone said, ‘Are you mad that you are giving up your valuable time to do this?’ I said this is the future. And here we are.
Q. You will feature in an international series, Halo, which has Steven Spielberg as an executive producer. What can you tell us about it?
Asian actors have been talking about colourblind casting for a long time. Why should our ethnicity decide the roles we do? In this project, there are actors from different continents. My character’s name is Margaret Paragonsky. I am not putting on an accent or looking different. That, to me, is really exciting. That colour-blind casting is finally becoming a reality.