06/18/1998 AT 12:00 AM EDT
Thursday's luncheon of the New York Women in Film and Television honored four women who set the tone, play the characters and run the show in their respective professions: actresses, Annette Bening and Madhur Jaffrey, composer Rachel Portman and Lifetime president and CEO Carole Black. "Recently I have abandoned the idea of balance," Bening told PEOPLE about the effort of staying sane as an actress ("American Beauty"), wife (to Warren Beatty), and mother (of four). "I am just basically trying to embrace the chaos instead of looking for balance. Besides, balance to a degree can be a bore after a while." Jaffrey, from India, has achieved a different sort of balance in her career, which, she says, started "in a crouched position as a little child . . . playing a brown mouse." Since then her profile has risen considerably, and the veteran of British TV and Broadway has appeared in "Six Degrees of Separation" and "Flawless" with Robert De Niro. But what she really wanted to do, she confides to PEOPLE, is to have acted with Marlon Brando. "I wanted to be in the country that produced Marlon Brando," she raved. "He was absolutely the best thing for me at that time."