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Karan enjoys koffee with Javed Akhtar, Shabana

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Courtesy: IndiaFM
Friday, August 10, 2007
Karan’s guests this week are an extremely special couple. She is an actor par excellence…in fact, almost an institution! From path breaking alternate cinema to plausible mainstream… She’s been there, she’s done that! Her contribution to the society as well as the fraternity has never gone unnoticed and on a lighter vein, she can be the life of a party. He on the other hand, ruled the roost in the 70s! He gave dignity and stature to writing in Indian cinema. He then went on to become an impeccable poet and lyricist. Words alone are not enough to describe how beautiful his words can be and again on a lighter vein… he easily has the best sense of humor in town. Meet Javed Akhtar and Shabana Azmi in the next and very interesting episode of Koffee with Karan.

Excerpts from the interview:

Karan: I am very nervous today because I’m feeling compelled to sound very clever and intellectual and very social... socially relevant!
Shabana Azmi: And I am feeling very nervous because I am compelled to be very frothy and light!

Karan: You both have opinions that you like to express... you’re not afraid to express them. You both are individualistic in your own way and yet you have had a tremendous marriage. A marriage based on friendship. How have these 23 years been?
Shabana Azmi: I think we meet so rarely that, that is the reason for the success of the marriage. But also because I think we share a worldview, we belong to similar backgrounds and because we are friends, more than anything else.

Well I try to project that in all my films that friendship is the basis of love. Of course, slightly cheesily at times but, basically do you think that’s what kept the marriage ticking... the friendship that you share with each other?
Javed Akhtar: I suppose so. Ultimately any relationship ... marriage carries a lot of baggage... this word carries a lot of baggage... husband and wife have collected a lot of moss while rolling down the mountain of time. But the fact that 2 people can live happily only if they respect each other... they care for each other... they respect for each other’s space and individuality and help each other flourish. Otherwise if one is living or flourishing or growing at the cost of the other, the relationship may survive because of many other reasons but it won’t be an ideal or happy marriage situation.

But there is never an ideal situation. There are compromises made at both ends.
Javed Akhtar: No! Compromises are not against ideal. An ideal situation is when there are very happy compromises.
Shabana Azmi: I think marriage is an everyday adjustment but I don’t think society prepares us for that. You know they have this rosy picture ke aise hone wala hain and you never need to work towards it... but I think you need to work towards it

Do you have to work towards it all the time?
Shabana Azmi: Not consciously... but I think it’s good to be aware. You can’t take it for granted. In our case we can’t because we never meet.

Karan: Why? You’ll are both that busy?
Javed Akhtar: Yes!
Karan: So basically it’s a phone marriage!
Shabana Azmi: And we meet at airports once in a while!

Karan: Do you’ll agree on things? Like your opinion on films? Do you both have the same opinions?
Javed Akhtar: No, no, no!
Karan: Because once Shabanaji saw a film that didn’t do very well and she came and said, ‘Bhai, the bad news for this film is that I have liked it!’
Shabana Azmi: There are director friends of mine who live in terror when I see a preview because if I’ve liked it, it’s really doomsday for the film. That is standard...

Karan: And do you’ll fight at home about your opinions on films, songs, things...
Javed Akhtar: We have ultimately reconciled to the fact that we do not agree on many things. If people are totally similar then there is no point in living together because one is enough and if people are totally different then there is no point in living together because you won’t be able to live together. So you need certain similarities and certain dissimilarities and this tension is interesting.

Karan: Which is the one big fight you have had over a film or a political situation... Something because of which there was war at home?
Javed Akhtar: There was a film in which Shabana was the leading lady- Ek Pal. It was made by Kalpana Lajmi. It was appreciated by many people but I didn’t like it. They thought that it was about women empowerment but it was not my definition of women empowerment, their individuality and their assertion.
Shabana Azmi: The good thing is that Javed is truly a feminist. He is a confident enough feminist, not to want to be politically correct. He genuinely feels it.

Sometimes has the presence of mediocrity ever upset you? Like I remember a hysterical story which I want you to tell us again about how you were going to do a South Indian film and you were meant to play a mentally challenged individual?
Shabana Azmi: How did you get to know that story? (Laughs). Well I was doing a special appearance. It was a three-day part and I went on the sets and he was a south Indian film director who was ready with the scene. I told him, I need to ask you a couple of questions and he said fine. So he said “Madam, she’s mad!”, so I said, ‘What madness does she suffer from? Is it psychosis, is it schizophrenia, is it neurosis?’ and as I asked every question I saw him becoming paler and paler and he looked completely shocked and he said, “Madam, just play filmi-mad!” So I said, “What does that mean?” and he said, “It means nothing madam. It only means that you laugh HA HA HA HA and then start crying! That is filmi-mad”

But Shabanaji what made you ask him this question. How did you think there was any sense of plausibility in that situation or that film or that character?
Shabana Azmi: But I really, sincerely thought that if I knew what kind of madness she was suffering from, it would help my performance. I genuinely felt that, kya karoo! I have to tell you another story. I was working with Sanjay Dutt many years ago. He used to be very busy and had three shootings he was coming from and all. And I remember telling the director, ‘I think this question isn’t relevant because last time I said that!” and Sanjay would say, “You want to win an Oscar in this performance only? I have to go Shabanaji! Ma’am please let us go!”

Karan: Farhan, how do you perceive them as a couple?
Farhan Akhtar: They seem extremely happy for many many years now. It’s fantastic!

Karan: Javedsaab and you almost have like a healthy friendship. The interaction is almost hysterical, every time I’ve seen you’ll together its like two friends chatting... warring maybe at times, maybe the conflicts. Seems like a friendship, which is tough when there is a generation gap.
Farhan Akhtar: Yeah I know! Shabana calls me like a chamcha of Pa because I keep laughing at all his jokes but I don’t think I’m the only one. All of us do!
Javed Akhtar: You know so often people have told me... there is only one person in this world who is funnier than you and that is your son!

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