Shabana Azmi recalls father Kaifi Azmi: 'There is not a single moment when I don’t feel his presence'

Shabana Azmi recalls father Kaifi Azmi: 'There is not a single moment when I don’t feel his presence'

Shabana Azmi recalls father Kaifi Azmi: 'There is not a single moment when I don’t feel his presence'

In A  Conversation With Firstpost, Shabana Azmi Recalls That Life-changing Moment When Her Father Kaifi Azmi  Was No More

It’s twenty years today since we lost your father the great Kaifi Azmi Saab?

Twenty years! It’s hard to believe he’s been gone that long. He has been with me consistently. There is not a moment when I don’t feel his presence.

He would have been so proud to see the progress you have made in his native village Mijwan in Uttar Pradesh which is now a throbbing hub of entrepreneurial activity?

Of all the dreams that my father had Mijwan was always his favourite. For my brother (cinematographer-director) Baba Azmi and me, fulfilling our father’s dream was the greatest challenge and joy. When we started we had one embroidery centre in Mijwan. Today we have ten centres across UP and counting.

How happy your father would have been to see the girls in Mijwan become self-employed and independent?

Abba was fiercely in favour of selfhood for women. He always encouraged my mother to follow her dreams. The girls and women In Mijwan now have a livelihood because of which their status within the family has changed. They are saying no to marriage before the age of 18, have opened bank accounts in their names and are being looked upon as assets, not liabilities. It’s a huge mindset transformation in a patriarchal society.

Do remember that day in May 2002 when he left us?

Every minute is indelibly printed in my heart and mind. My brother Baba’s early morning call, in a choked voice, ‘Abba’s gone ….’ . I took the first available flight back from Delhi.

When was the last time you met him?

I had met him in the ICU five days earlier as his nurse took him for a stroll in his wheelchair with tubes sticking out of him, but a smile on his face and a weak wave of his hand as he said goodbye to me.

What were your last words to him?

Minutes earlier I had asked him guiltily, ‘Abba, aap mujhse naraaz hain ke main aapse roz nahin mil pati hoon? (Are you angry with me because I can’t meet you every day?)’ He squeezed my hand and with as much strength as he could muster, nodded vigorously in the negative …nothing but love pouring out of his eyes.

After Baba informed you of your father’s going?

I remember I clung to my friend Tani’s message of strength as I boarded the flight ….Twenty years later the knot in the heart has been replaced by a huge sense of gratitude for all the values Baba and I received from Abba and Mummy. Both their children try in their way to live up to their legacy.

And what a legacy! Tell me which is your favourite Kaifi Azmi song?

Koi yeh kaise bataye ke woh tanha kyon hai from my film Arth. And there is a song in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Satyakam: Abhi kya sunoge suna toh hasega which I really like.

Subhash K Jha is a Patna-based film critic who has been writing about Bollywood for long enough to know the industry inside out. He tweets at @SubhashK_Jha.

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