Regarded as one of the finest actresses in Indian cinema, Azmi hails from a family of creative personalities with her father Kaifi Azmi being a poet and mother Shaukat Kaifi being a theatre personality.
Mostly known for acting in parallel cinema while holding equal sway in commercial movies, the actress is an alumna of the Film and Television Institute of India of Pune.
Shabana's first release was Shyam Benegal's directorial debut 'Ankur', which earned her the National Film Award for Best Actress owing to her powerful performance in the role of Lakshmi.
She portrayed various kinds of roles in different films showing her versatility.
In 'Mandi' she acted as a madam of a brothel, in 'Khandhar' she played the role of a woman named Jamini resigned to her destiny, in 'Masoom' she portrayed a typical urban Indian wife, homemaker and mother, in 'Sati' she played a young Brahmin girl of a period setting.
Deepa Mehta's film 'Fire' was an important mark in Azmi's career, where she played the role of a young lonely woman Radha who is in love with her sister-in-law.
Though the film was much criticized in India for on-screen depiction of lesbianism, Azmi's role was praised by the critics and brought her international recognition.
Azmi worked with some noted directors including Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Gautam Ghose, Aparna Sen, Mahesh Bhatt, and Vinay Shukla.
She is also remembered for some of her strong performances in 'Godmother', 'Nishant', and 'Water'.
The iconic actress has appeared in a number of foreign films, most of which have won international acclaim, including John Schlesinger's 'Madame Sousatzka', Nicholas Klotz's 'Bengali Night', Roland Joffe's 'City of Joy', Channel 4's 'Immaculate Conception', Blake Edwards' 'Son of the Pink Panther', and Ismail Merchant's 'In Custody'.
She was recently seen in the film 'Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola'.
The actress holds the record of winning the National Film Award for five times in the category of best actress. She received the National Film Award consecutively for three years from 1983 to 1985 for her roles in movies, 'Arth', 'Khandhar' and 'Paar'.
Azmi debuted on the small screen in a soap opera titled 'Anupama'. She had also participated in many stage plays.
Azmi has been actively involved in various philanthropic works. She has campaigned against ostracism of victims of AIDS. In a Bengali film named 'Meghla Aakash' she played the role of a physician treating AIDS patients.
Besides her acting, she is a social and women's rights activist, a Goodwill Ambassador of the United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA), and a member of the Rajya Sabha.
Azmi married lyricist, poet and Bollywood scriptwriter Javed Akhtar in 1984.
She will be seen next in the upcoming Indian television drama series '24', based on the American series of the same name.
--IBNS (Posted on 18-09-2013)