By Quaid Najmi
Mumbai, June 5 (Ajit Weekly News) Legendary actress Shabana Azmi, renowned for her stunning acting skills that have bagged her five National Awards, recently opened up an unknown side of her persona at a book release event here that regaled the gathering and left them asking for more.
Addressing a select audience at the launch of “The Oldest Love Story”, a collection of essays on mothers and motherhood by famous ‘daughters’, Shabana revealed some secret gems of her relationship with her own mom, the famed stage actress, the late Shaukat Kaifi Azmi.
Shabana recalled an incident when she was just 9 but had become a very ill-mannered and grumpy girl as she felt her mom (Shaukat) loved her brother (Baba Azmi) more.
One day, Shaukat directly confronted the naughty little Shabana, asking “what’s your problem”, and the small girl blurted out her perceived maternal atrocity vis-a-vis her sibling.
Without batting an eyelid or mincing words, Shaukat lambasted little Shabana: “Listen, I am your mother and also a human being… But you’re a very rude and obnoxious girl… And that’s why I don’t like you. Look at your brother, he’s so well-behaved and gentle, so obviously I react to him like that…”
Stunned at how her mother could say to her face that she ‘hated her’ and how this could have ‘decimated’ her forever, Shabana learnt her ‘relationship lessons’ pronto and from the very next day, reverted to her nice, lovable self.
Later, Shabana quizzed her mom, with an indignant “how could you have the guts to talk to a 9-year-old girl like this”, and Shaukat airily replied that she “didn’t even think about it”.
“I realised that she was so steadfast in her love for me and she could be totally blunt… Imagine today’s parents, they would have gone ‘how the poor child could develop an inferiority complex, blah-blah, etc’… So, if any of your kids are misbehaving, then you just follow Shaukat Azmi’s style!” declared Shabana amidst cheers.
In 1984, Shabana married the celeb poet-writer Javed Akhtar, another five-time National Award winner, who divorced his wife Honey Irani, and was promptly labelled as a ‘home-breaker’ in many quarters.
However, Shabana graciously credits the yesteryear actress Honey Irani, for helping develop the strong bonds that she (Shabana) now shares with her (Honey’s) children, Farhan Akhtar and Zoya Akhtar, and never attempted to “poison” their minds against her.
“The kids obviously could not call me Mom 2.0… So, I once told Farhan, ‘why don’t you call me Shabana’. He heaved a visibly huge sigh of relief and since then, both (Farhan and Zoya) call me Shabana and we share the most wonderful relationship,” said Shabana, who, akin to Javed, has completed a stint in Rajya Sabha, both as President’s nominees.
She urged anxious parents to “let children evolve on their own”, without using external pressures and help resolve delicate situations with an honest approach.
Thereafter, she had proudly gone on record gushing how Farhan had become the third-generation in the family to bag a National Award for his debut blockbuster film ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ (2001) and continuing in the footsteps of his illustrious parents and grandparents.
Harking back to her parents, Shabana remembered her maiden film, ‘Ankur’ which bagged her the first National Award and later ‘Faasla’ (both 1974 releases).
During a screening of ‘Ankur’, Shaukat Mom, who was sitting two rows ahead, suddenly turned around in the dark theatre and hollered, “Shabana, you are a very good actress, I am very proud of you and this is a very good film!”
The embarrassed 23-year-young Shabana slumped into her seat, with all kinds of people looking at her and wondering “what exactly was going on”.
A couple of months later, at a screening of ‘Faasla’, a peeved Shaukat Mom shot out in a similar tenor: “Shabana, such a ‘behuda’ (ridiculous) film and your acting is atrocious… If you had shown me this film first, I would have got you married off to some handicapped boy but would not have permitted you to enter Bollywood!”
“That’s what she was, point blank, take it or leave it. She was not one of those Nirupa Roy characters, never entertained your tantrums and showed you your place,” smiled Shabana as the audience roared.
Om Books publisher Ajay Mago, Editor-in-Chief Shantanur Ray Chaudhuri besides Co-Editors Maithili Rao and Rinki Roy-Bhattacharya were present at the launch besides a host of other celebs.
“The Oldest Love Story” has personal and honest essays with homage to the parents or children, penned by Kamala Das, Shashi Deshpande, Nabaneeta Dev Sen, C.S. Lakshmi, Vaidehi, Mannu Bhandari, Chitra Palekar, and Saeed Mirza.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at [email protected])
–Ajit Weekly News