News & Interviews

Shabana Azmi On Turning 69, Quietly

On September  18 when  India’s most celebrated  living  film actress Shabana Azmi turns 69, she will be packing  her bags to leave for a performance dedicated to her  father the legendary  poet Kaifi Azmi.

Shabana who lives out of suitcases and  jokes  that she  gets to meet her husband Javed Akhtar  on  airports  when their  flights converge, says she is out of the country  on  September 18 when she turns 69. “I’m leaving for a 10-day trip of the  USA on  the night of September 28.  Kaifinama a documentary by Sumantra Ghosal on the life and works of Kaifi Azmi has been selected for four Film Festivals in the USA  in  Washington DC , Chicago, Seattle and Montreal. Both the director and I will be attending them.”

Shabana  doesn’t like  celebrating  her birthdays, though her friends  do.

She  chuckles, “Since the last three years  Ive been having a tea party at home with only very close friends and family. I try to persuade them to leave by 7.30 pm but inevitably it rolls into an impromptu dinner which is khichdi and qeema ! This year I have been warned to make it khichdarather than khichdi !!”

Once an  avid gift-receiver Shabana now avoids  getting birthday gifts, “I’ve strictly said no to presents .I’m getting into the Marie Kondo mode and want to de-clutter my cupboards. Of course flowers particularly mogra, sontakka and rajnigandha are  welcome 365 days of the year.”

So what  is  the  best birthday gift Shabana has  ever received?  “On my 50th birthday Jadu(husband Javed Akhtar)  wrote me a beautiful note which I treasure more than the many extravagant gifts he has given me.”

Any unfulfilled dreams?  “I wish I could have learnt to play the piano. I wish  I could fight to win rather than be influenced by my school motto,  “Play The Game”.

But it is  widely believed that  Shabana  is fiercely competitive.

She disabuses  us .  “I know that’s what most think about me but I perceive it differently . Javedplays to win or he doesn’t get involved at all. It’s a key difference between him and me.Javed also says that Shabana is not afraid of failure and that is her biggest strength.People think I’m fiercely competitive but the fact is that I surrender just before putting the ball into the goal.Because school ( Queen Marys High School Bombay )taught me it doesn’t matter whether you win or fail what matters is that you play the game.”

 What would  Shabana’s message to the nation be?

She quotes her father Kaifi Azmi, “Ek diya jisska naam  hai ummeed jhilmilata hi raha.”

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