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Baba Azmi On His Directorial Debut Mee Raqsam



Baba Azmi On His Directorial Debut Mee Raqsam 12

 “Everything just fell into place,” says celebrated cinematographer Baba Azmi  about his directorial debut Mee Raqsam  which finally streams on August  21 on Zee5.

It’s not been easy for  Baba to  turn director. But it’s not  been so tough either.

 Says Baba, “The key cast  simply fell into place. Naseerudin Shah, a dear friend, was  my first and    only choice  of  the cleric’s role. We’ve known each other for  30  years. I was  the cinematographer in his  starrers Woh 7 Din and Bezubaan. We’ve remained friends. So when  I  asked him I wasn’t surprised  when he said yes. But  let me tell you. Naseer was in  no condition to shoot. He was  suffering  from  a severe back problem, so severe he couldn’t sit  and had to take  a nap standing.In that condtion he travelled  to Mijwan(the Azmis’native  village where  Mee Raqsam was shot).  Imagine travelling from Varanasi to Mijwan by car in that condition!  The minute Naseer arrived he  wanted to start shooting. His enthusiasm  was  infectious.”

Finding  the child actorAditi  Subedi  who plays  the other  protagonist   was far more difficult.

Says  Baba,  “I needed   a child who was  an actor and  a  Bharat Natyam dancer. Aditi had  no experience  in either field. But  she idolized  my sister Shabana and had told her she wanted  to be  an actor like her. I auditioned several girls but the minute I sawAditi I knew I had found my heroine Mariam.  I gave her  some scenes  to read and she  was magical. As for the dancing we  hired a Bharat Natyam  teacher  Deepali Salil. We gave her  three months to  train Aditi. But she said it won’t be  enough. Poor Aditi  worked really hard. She was in Mumbai staying with us.She would go into a corner and  cry over  her bruised  swollen knees.  But she  never complained .She  was afraid I’d put her on the first  plane  back to  Mijwan.She and her screen father Danish  Hussain are  exceptional.”

Mee Raqsam touches  on the  sensitive issue  of  a Muslim girl’s determination to learn Bharat Natyam.  Does  Baba Azmi foresee  any radical  group’s objecting to  the film?

He sighs, “Mee Raqsam was born out of a spirit  of  harmony and  peace. It is  inspired by  my father(Kaifi Azmi) secular  ideology in life. It teaches  us the value of cultural  assimilation.  But  yes , you are right. We are living in  acutely sensitive times when  anyone can stand  up and object to my  film for being just the opposite of what it  actually is. My film is  born out of a feeling of harmony, not hatred  and  strife.”

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