Posted on January 10, 2019 at 1:13 pm

Entertainment News! Events Interviews

UA Exclusive | Shabana Azmi: It was for a family to come together to pay tribute to an artist that they all respect

Tabla maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain, singer-composer Shankar Mahadevan, lyricist Javed Akhtar, actor Shabana Azmi, and filmmaker Feroz Abbas Khan have come together for a special premiere show called ‘Raag Shayari’ to mark the beginning of the centenary celebrations for renowned poet and activist Kaifi Azmi.

Shabana Azmi
Shabana Azmi

We at UrbanAsian got a chance to interview the legendary Shabana Azmi, daughter of Kaifi Azmi, where she gave some amazing details about the show Raag Shayari and her fond memories with her father.


Read all Shabana Azmi had to say here:


  1. Can you tell us about the celebratory evening?

It’s actually a yearlong activity where various programs are going to be done to celebrate Kaifi’s centenary celebration. The premiere event is called Raag Shayari, that is being conceived by Javed Akhtar. It has Shankar Mahadevan singing Kaifi’s poetry that has been chosen by Javed, Ustaad Zakir Hussain will interpret it on the table, Javed will recite it in its original form and I will translate it in English. The intention is to reach out to people who don’t understand the original poem.  It is a lovely concept and won’t be that long. It will be for about an hour or so.


  1. Was it easy or difficult to get such big artists together?


It was very easy I must say. I just rang them up and they immediately said yes. They are like a family. Zakir’s father and my father have worked together as colleagues and were friends also. Zakir and I have worked together in films. You know it’s beautiful that the parents worked together and now the children also. Similarly, the first song of Mahadevan that Javed wrote was directed by Zoya and Farhan which not many know about. I know the production designer since she was 16. So basically it was for a family to come together to pay tribute to an artist that they all respect


  1. Last 2 years you haven’t done many films, was there any particular reason behind it?


Last year I was most of the time abroad. I worked in 2 television serials, which took a lot of my time. This year I am working in 3 web series and also a movie.


  1. How excited are you for this big event?


I am extremely happy. I was just thinking and looking at all these activities happening around me. I was just thinking how would Abba (father) be reacting to all this. Because he was somebody who never exulted in praise. I think he would have said what a waste of energy. It would have been nicer to take all this energy and putting into a rally or starting a new program. But I think what would give him a lot of happiness is the little things.


For example, every year on his birthday, Baba used to have a small mehfil here (at her house). Youngsters would come and sing songs, say poetry, which would have made him happier. Then we have painting and drawing competition on Kaifi Azmi’s Park. Then the play that we are doing, Kaifi Aur Main. And Baba is very fond of fountain pens. A pen festival is happening on the 2nd and 3rd February. 100 special edition pens in Kaifi’s name are going to be released.


  1. One fond memory with your father.


There are many. I have heard accounts of celebrity parents when they are working for greater common good they are all out there for the public but when it comes to their own families they are not available. But that was not the case with Abba. He was always available. I remember walking into his study while he is in middle of writing something and asking him something and he will put down his pen and take down the trouble of answering me. He used to even help my Mother remembering her lines. It was a role reversal in my case. Mother used to travel and my Father used to comb my hair and send me to school.


But the most important thing that he told me was in the last 20 years of his life. He settled in a tiny village called Mijwan, which was the village in which he was born. This was when his left leg and left hand was paralyzed and instead of resting he went back to Mijwan and decided to stay there for the development of the people and he was able to achieve that, but there were many obstacles that came on the way.


So I had asked him when you are working for change and if it doesn’t happen at the pace that you wanted to, don’t you get frustrated?

He said, “When you are working for a change you should build it to that expectation, the possibility that change might not occur within your lifetime. But you must have the conviction that if you carry on working with sincerity then change will happen even it does so after you are gone.”


Now that for me is the mantra.



‘Raag Shayari’ will be a special evening of music. It will be a show directed by Khan, with production design by Anuradha Parikh, and will have three shows — two in Mumbai and one in Kolkata.

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