Back from the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) where her new film "5 Rupaiya" was screened, Shabana Azmi says it is a poignant, sweet and gentle story of a grandmother and her orphaned little grandson -- one that moved the audience to tears.
"We had three screenings of '5 Rupaiya' in Dubai. Lots of people were moved to tears. I've seen such a reaction earlier to my work in Pravin Bhatt's 'Bhavna' and Mohan Kumar's 'Avatar'. It ('5 Rupaiya') is a sweet gentle film beautifully photographed with an almost fairytale purity. Yohan Panjuani, who plays Hamid my grandson, is a big hit," the veteran actress said.
Shabana describes her bonding with little Yohan as "magical".
"When I met the boy, the connect was instant. I immediately took to him and he to me. So fond was I of the child that when I had to slap him for a scene - albeit a fake slap, I wouldn't dream of hurting him in reality. I was stricken with guilt. Sometimes, being an actor requires one to do unthinkable things," she said.
Shabana shot in Kashmir for debutant director Piyush Panjuani's film, which is based on Hindi literateur Munshi Premchand's celebrated short story about an orphaned eight-year old boy and his grandmother.
Its director is associated with Ram Madhvani's ad agency. Interestingly, Madhvani and Shabana worked a special magic in "Neerja".
Set in Kashmir, the story "Idgah" on which the film is based, was written in Urdu, although Premchand normally wrote in Hindi.
Of her experience of working in Kashmir, Shabana said: "I was shooting in a pristine valley called Nagin. It was peaceful, stress-free and highly conducive to creativity. I play a woman in the hills named Ameena who lost her only son and his wife in an accident and is left looking after their only son Hamid. It's a tender tale of grandma and grandson who is eight years old."