July 26, 2007

Javed Akhtar sahib

I said I would talk a little about Shabana Azmi's husband, Javed Akhtar. Many of you reading this know who he is; for those who may not, here is a little background.

Javed Akhtar is an absolute rock star. The influence he has exerted on Hindi cinema - and, by extension, on a substantial portion of Indian popular culture - cannot be overstated, I think. He came to prominence in the 1970s, with Salim Khan, as part of the scriptwriting team Salim-Javed. Together they wrote the films that defined Amitabh Bachchan's "angry young man" persona, and many other influential and popular films to boot. If you are a fan of Hindi films of the 70s, chances are they wrote some of your favorites - Zanjeer, Deewaar, Seeta aur Geeta, Don, and Sholay, just to name a few.

In the early 80s the Salim-Javed partnership ended, and at the same time Javed sahib shifted his focus from screenwriting to songwriting. He still wrote screenplays from time to time, but it is as a lyricist that he has made most of his contributions over the past 20 years or so. If you are a fan of modern filmi music, chances are he wrote some of your favorite songs - lyrics for 1942: A love story, Lagaan, Dil chahta hai, Veer-Zaara, and last year's Umrao Jaan, just to name a tiny fraction.

Javed sahib is also an outspoken supporter of secularism and other progressive ideals. One of the ways in which he supports his ideals is as spokesman for the organization Muslims for Secular Democracy. (When I heard Javed sahib and Shabana ji speak last year, Javed sahib made a lot of comments that illuminated his strong views and ideals. You can read my detailed notes on those comments here, on my general-purpose blog Geek of All Trades.)

Javed Akhtar is also father to Farhan Akhtar, who made Dil chahta hai and Don: The Chase Begins Again, among others; and to Zoya Akhtar, who co-produced Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd. with her brother.

As an friend of mine once said, what do they put in the water in that household?

Here's a nice interview with Javed sahib published earlier this week in the Hindustan Times. The best part is where I learn that at the moment I have something in common with Javed sahib and Shabana ji - a disruptive home remodeling project:

What have you been so busy with lately?
I've been shooting one day a week for Indian Idol. I've also been constantly travelling in and out of the city. I'm doing up our house with Shabana. It's taking up a lot of our time. Right now, it's in a mess.
My home too, Javed sahib - mine too.

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