What the mirror says

Shabana Azmi in a still from the play. Photo: Special Arrangement  

She’s had little success as a Hindi writer and is despondent. But then she strikes gold with her writing in English. Torn between her success and perceived betrayal of her own language and identity, Manjula Nayak is in a faces a facing a tug-of-war with her own image, as she comes to terms with her choices. Staged several times the world over, Broken Images sees Shabana Azmi engage in a soliloquy as her character engages in a battle of words and wits with her twin. Written by Girish Karnad in 2004 and directed by Alyque Padamsee, the play has seen Shabana make the character her own.

Set to stage the play in Chennai this weekend, the actor speaks in a quick interview with MetroPlus talks to MetroPlus about what drew her to the play.


What was your first reaction when you were offered the script for Broken Images?

I was drawn to both the characters as I read the script, and the part seemed very challenging. Since I like taking up challenging roles, I immediately made up my mind about Broken Images.

How has it been working with Alyque Padamsee and Girish Karnad?

Alyque worked with my mother Shaukat Kaifi 40 years ago, and it’s remarkable that he’s still going strong. Nothing misses his eye. He directs his actors very closely and helps when you get stuck. He also has a strong sense of the audience’s pulse. Girish is one of our best playwrights. He has a lot of subtext that you discover anew as you go along.

After so many successful shows of the play, is there anything you’d like to change about how you play your character? Any organic evolution that you have seen yourself undergo with respect to the character?

The play is written too beautifully for any of its aspects to be changed. It’s perfect the way it is, and hence its performance is uniform and loved by all.

Which aspect of Manjula do you most identify with?

Manjula Nayak is not a very successful short-story writer. She suddenly becomes wealthy and internationally famous by writing a best-seller in English. A little-known face in Hindi, she has now acquired an international image and has inherited problems of loyalty and betrayal. All of us can relate to both Manjula and Malini in a little way; we’ve all got positives and negatives, we are flawed in some way, and that’s what makes us human.

Which character do you empathise with more: Manjula or Malini?

In some shows, I empathise more with Manjula, in others with Malini. It happens spontaneously on the day.

How do you feel about using technology (in this case, a television) to enhance the theatrical experience?

Technology always advances the art and gives a good script, such as this, the support it needs. People are usually shocked at the coordination between Malini and Manjula and how precise the movements are.

As an artiste, what, according to you, is the most challenging aspect of this play?

Malini is a pre-recorded image on the TV screen and Manjula is the live character on stage. I had to do Malini in one single shot of 44 minutes, and I got it right in the first take! It is a first in my career.

The timing is crucial. Also, if I make a mistake while playing Manjula, I have no co-star to rescue me, because Malini is a pre-recorded image! It requires fierce concentration...

Broken Images will be staged on November 12 at 7.30 p.m. at Sir Mutha Venkata Subba Rao Concert Hall in Lady Andal School.

To book tickets, log on to or call 93201 30013.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2022 5:15:37 PM |

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