Shabana Azmi is an internationally celebrated Film and Theatre actress who believes Art should be used as an instrument for social change. Her entry into films marked the way for the Parallel Cinema Movement with Shyam Benegal’s Ankur in 1974. She has won five National Awards for Best Actress, three of them in a row, which is an unprecedented feat. She has also won five International Awards for Best Actress. Satyajit Ray in his book ‘Our Films Their Films’ says of her “In her very first film Shabana Azmi establishes herself as the finest dramatic actress in the country.”
She is also highly respected as a social activist and tireless campaigner for the rights of women, slum dwellers and the underprivileged. She heads the Mijwan Welfare Society an NGO that works for empowerment of the girl child in rural India. MWS works on education, primary health and sanitation, skill development and employment generation. Leading Bollywood designer Manish Malhotra has brought the craft of chikankari (exquisite traditional hand embroidery) of the Mijwan women to the doorsteps of the Indian Film and Fashion Industry. From being non existent on the map of India, Mijwan is today known all over the world as a model village that is replicable and scalable.
Shabana Azmi was nominated to The Rajya Sabha by the President of India in 1997. She is a recipient of the Padmashri and Padma Bhushan. She was awarded the Gandhi International Peace Prize at the House of Lords in 2006. At the Bicentenial celebrations of International Human Rights in Paris 1989 she was honoured along with Mother Theresa by President Mitterand of France. She also won the Crystal Award along with Mohammed Ali and Michael Douglas at the World Economic Forum 2006. She has been conferred five Doctorates by renowned universities both national and international. She has received the prestigious Martin Luther King, Rosa Park and Chavez Award and is Visiting Professor of the University of Michigan. A former UN Goodwill Ambassador for Population and Development she continues to work on issues of Public Health. She has recently been nominated as Global Leadership Ambassador for Women in Public Service Project initiated by Hillary Clinton.