Shama Zaidi

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Shama Zehra Zaidi
Born (1938-09-25) 25 September 1938 (age 78)
Occupation screenwriter, costume designer
Spouse(s) M. S. Sathyu

Shama Zaidi (born 25 September 1938, at Rampur, India) is an Indian screenplay writer, costume designer, art director, theatre person, art critic, and documentary film maker.[1][2] She is the wife of M S Sathyu, a filmmaker, designer, and art director who made the Urdu cult film Garam Hawa.


Shama Zaidi is the daughter of Bashir Hussain Zaidi, a politician and educationist, and his wife Qudsia Zaidi. Her mother Qudsia was an associate of Habib Tanvir, the communist ideologue and theatre personality. Shama was the only daughter of the couple and she has two brothers. Both her parents were closely associated with the "progressive" communist movement in India, and Shama grew up in a strongly left-wing environment. She was educated at Woodstock School, Mussoorie, and then at Miranda House, New Delhi. She has a bachelor's degree in English from Delhi University, and a diploma in stage design from the Slade School of Art, London.



  • Art critic for The Statesman, Patriot and Shankar's Weekly, New Delhi.
  • Written numerous articles on film, theatre and television for Cinema Vision, Cinema in India, etc., and other journals and newspapers.


Zaidi became interested in costume design while in school at Woodstock, Mussoorie, which had extensive theatre activities. Also due to the influence of her mother Qudsia Zaidi, who started the Hindustani Theatre in the late 1950s with Habib Tanvir and other friends. In her college days at Miranda House she started helping out with the stage productions there, apart from taking active interest in Hindustani Theatre.

After B A Shama went to Slade School of Art, London, for a one-year course in stage design and costume design. Then worked in Germany at the Frankfurt Municipal Theatre as an apprentice and for some time as an observer in the Berliner Ensemble. (Apprentice in stage, film and TV design to Herr Hein Heckroth, Frankfurt am Main, West Germany. Herr Heckroth was the designer of Red Shoes Hoffman's Tales, etc.)

Returned to Delhi in 1961 and designed costumes for Hindustani Theatre before shifting to Bombay in 1965 where she worked as Writer, designer, Performer and Director for Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA), Mumbai. Since 1980 she has designed more for films and television than theatre.

Worked as writer, director, costume designer or art director for the following stage productions –

Stage productions[edit]

  • Chou En-lai, a historical costume pageant for at Lodi Gardens, New Delhi

Hindustani Theatre[edit]

  • Shakuntala (1958) – Costume Design
  • Mitti ki Gaadi (1958)- Costume Design & Artiste
  • Khalid Ki Khala (1958)- Costume Design & Artiste
  • Mudrarakshas (1962) – Direction & Costume Design
  • Sufaid Kundali (1963) – Costume Design & Artiste
  • Mera Naam Trufaldeen (1964)- Adaptation & Costume Design

Indian People's Theatre Association, Mumbai[edit]

Associated with the IPTA's Inter collegiate Drama Competition since 1972 as a jury member.

  • Translated/adapted over a dozen plays into Hindustani from various languages.


Written scripts/dialogues for documentaries and feature films with Satyajit Ray, Shyam Benegal, M. S. Sathyu and others. Also done Costume Design and Art Direction.


Direction Shyam Benegal; Screenplay Shama Zaidi Based on Habib Tanvir's retelling of a famous Rajasthani folk tale. Songs were by Habib Tanvir and most of the dialogues were improvised by the folk artistes.

Based on a short story by Ismat Chugtai, which she expanded into a film treatment. Filmfare Award for Best Screenplay (shared with Kaifi Azmi).[3]

  • Manthan (The Churning) 1976 / Colour / 134min / Hindi

Direction Shyam Benegal; Art direction Shama Zaidi

  • Shatranj Ke Khiladi शतरंज के खिलाड़ी (Chess Players) 1977 / Hindi

Direction Satyajit Ray; Costume Design Shama Zaidi Also assisted Ray with research on the background material and translated dialogues with Javed Siddiqi for the Indian characters in Urdu.

  • Kanneshwara Rama (The Legendary Outlaw) 1977 / Colour / 137min / Kannada & Hindi

Direction M S Sathyu; Script Shama Zaidi Based on the exploits of a legendary dacoit of the Malnad region in Karnataka.

  • Bhumika (The Role) 1977 / Colour / 142min / Hindi

Direction Shyam Benegal; Art direction Shama Zaidi Based on the biography of Hansa Wadkar, a star of the Marathi folk theatre and cinema of the 1940s.

Direction Muzaffar Ali; Script Shama Zaidi & Javed Siddiqi Based on a 19th-century Urdu novel.

  • Chakra (The Wheel) 1980 / Colour / 140min / Hindi

Direction Robin (Rabindra) Dharmraja; Script & Dialogues Shama Zaidi & Javed Siddiqi Based on the novel by Jaywant Dalvi.

  • Bara/Sookha (Famine) 1981 / Colour / 140min / Kannada & Hindi

Direction M S Sathyu; Screenplay & Dialogues Shama Zaidi & Javed Siddiqi Based on a short novel by U R Ananthamurthy.

Direction Shyam Benegal; Script Shama Zaidi Based on a famous land dispute case.

  • Mandi (The Marketplace) 1983 / Colour / 160min / Hindi

Direction Shyam Benegal; Script & Screenplay Shama Zaidi, Shyam Benegal & Satyadev Dubey

Direction M S Sathyu; Original Screenplay Shama Zaidi

  • Susman (The Essence) 1986 / Colour / 140min / Hindi

Direction Shyam Benegal; Screenplay Shama Zaidi Original screenplay on the Ikat handloom weavers of Andhra.

  • Trikaal (Past, Present, Future) 1986

Direction Shyam Benegal; Screenplay Shama Zaidi & Shyam Benegal Based on an idea by Shyam Benegal.

Direction Shyam Benegal; Screenplay Shama Zaidi & Sunil Shanbag An original screenplay based on the Swadhyaya socio-religious movement founded by Pandurang Shastri Athavale.

Direction Shyam Benegal; Screenplay Shama Zaidi A puzzle screenplay based on the novel by Dharamvir Bharati.

Direction Shyam Benegal; Screenplay Shama Zaidi & Khalid Mohamed

Direction Shyam Benegal; Script Shama Zaidi, Shyam Benegal & Fatima Meer An Indo-South African co production on Mahatma Gandhi's life in South Africa.

Direction Shyam Benegal; Screenplay Shama Zaidi & Khalid Mohamed

Art direction Shama Zaidi

Costume Design Shama Zaidi

Direction Shyam Benegal; Script & Dialogues Shama Zaidi A film on women's empowerment made for the Ministry of Family Welfare.

Direction Shyam Benegal; Additional screenplay and dialogues Shama Zaidi

  • Netaji 2002-04/ Colour/Hindi-English

Direction Shyam Benegal; Script and Dialogues Shama Zaidi & Atul Tiwari A film on the last years of Subhas Chandra Bose for Sahara Entertainment

Direction Shyam Benegal; Screenplay and dialogues Shama Zaidi & Atul Tiwari A film inspired by the 19th-century novella "Carmen" by Prosper Mérimée

Short films[edit]


  1. ^ Shama Zaidi filmography New York Times.
  2. ^ "Music in her lines". The Hindu. 1 October 2011. Retrieved 6 June 2013. 
  3. ^ "Best Screenplay Award". Filmfare Award Official Listings, Indiatimes. Retrieved 28 April 2014. 

External links[edit]