Shabana Azmi’s home was a beehive of activity on Tuesday when the actress turned, in her words, “a very proud 62”. Guests poured in, since her home is an open house of birthdays.
However the birthday girl was nowhere to be seen. Her husband Javed Akhtar, mom Shaukat Azmi and sister-in-law who greeted an avalanche of guests from theatre, cinema and politics sheepishly kept up a face repeating the line, “Shabana will be back soon.”
However it was a good 3.5 hours before Shabana returned.
When we asked about her mysterious disappearance and the panic it created Shabana laughed, “I took off on my own to see Anurag Basu’s film Barfi. Can you believe it? On my birthday. I didn’t want any company for the film. I like watching special movies in isolation so that conversation doesn’t come in the way. Why on my birthday? Because a good film to be savoured on my own is the best gift I could give to myself.”
Shabana couldn’t stop raving about Ranbir and Priyanka’s performances in Barfi. “For Priyanka to completely get away from her glamorous image and submerge herself in her characters shows her to be a fearless actress.”
The previous day Shabana brought in her birthday in Mijwan where the villagers gave her a very special gift. “They, for the first time, baked a cake. I was deeply moved. I also inaugurated a school in Azamgarh. There, the students presented me with many albums of my photos from my films. It was a very special moment for me. I think I am blessed. I really don’t need my birthday to feel special. Each day brings its own blessings.”
Shabana says she was delivered into this world by a blind mid-wife. “Can you imagine, a blind mid-wife! We need to empower women at the grassroots level. Mid-wives should be given a chance to be trained in child delivery. It is one way of out-smarting the shortage in rural healthcare.”