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Janaab Javed Akhtar Aur Begam Shabana Ki Unkahi Kahaniya

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By Ali Peter John

I am not fit to touch the shoes (or did he wear sandals or chappals?) of the great poet, Rabindranath Tagore, but I firmly believe in Thai one line message he wrote, “Ekta chalo re” in which he talks about how a man walks all alone in the beginning and how people keep following him……

I have been walking more than alone, but I have never stopped to know how people have come into my life at different times and under different circumstances. Jaane bhi do yaaro, thodi si baat karte hain iss ajeeb insaan ke baare mein aur uske saath chalte hue logo ke baare mein ……

I had only heard about Shabana Azmi as a brilliant actress, but never in my wildest imagination did I think that I would be working with her one day and soon become her very good friend.

I had joined K.A Abbas who like I have always said and will say till the end of my life is the man who gave meaning and direction to my life.

Abbas was making a film called‘Faasle’at that time with Shabana who was a gold medalist in acting from the FTII and a very wooden kind of actor whose only ambition was to be,“at least one-tenth of Rajesh Khanna” who was the superstar then.

Abbas asked me to join him as one of his assistants and how could I say no to him and how could I forget that he was going to pay me hundred rupees a month. I had no idea of what an assistant had to do, but came to know when one morning I was asked to carry the sarees of Shabana to the location and see that I kept her in a good mood all the time. I must have impressed Abbas because he even gave me a small role with a line of dialogue which I had to speak to Shabana who was playing a lawyer…

It was around the same time that some of my neighbours in my ancient village told me about some ‘filmy people’taking shelter in the nearby Mahakali caves and the local raddiwala and the hooch-selling aunty told me about a young man called Javed Akhtar who was a poet, a writer and who worked as an assistant to directors like S.M Sagar.

Time passed. Shabana became the leader of what was known as the parallel cinema movement and besides making a name for herself as an actress, she had also grown into a favourite of the gossip magazines because of her many affairs. On the other hand, Javed who was working as an assistant in the story writing department of Sippy Films had joined hands with another assistant called Salim Khan and they had become the,“emperors among film writers”and were charging lakhs and driving in cars stars couldn’t afford, but could only envy.

This team of Salim-Javed wrote some of the biggest hits and had created history in the field of film writing.

Javed married the one-time child artist, Honey Irani and they had two children, Farhan and Zoya and Javed had a bungalow at Bandstand in Bandra which was next door to the bungalow of Rekha.

Javed and Honey had serious differences and Javed who was a fan of Kaifi Azmi, the progressive poet spent a lot of his time at his cottage in Janki Kutir in Juhu where a number of his other Communist comrades for whom it was a big promotion from the communes of Madanpura where all the comrades lived in tiny rooms and shared a common bathroom and toilet.

Javed spent several evenings with Kaifi and also became a friend of Shabana. The friendship grew into love. Javed seperated from his wife, Honey and their children and got married to Shabana in a very private ceremony…

It was when they got married that I realised that my column, Ali’s Notes had some importance and influence. One evening, both Javed and Shabana called me in my office. Shabana spoke first and said,“Ali, Jaadu and me have just got married. No one is going to take us seriously. Please write about our marriage in your column because people take what you write seriously”. I took them seriously and inserted a new item after replacing a piece I had already written. They were very happy when they read about their marriage in Ali’s Notes.

Life continued and we were at a big party hosted by Deepti Naval. It was her house-warming party at the Oceanic building in Seven Bungalows. The party was attended by the who’s who of the industry with Raj Kapoor being the star attraction. Suddenly, there was a big and highly abusive fight between Javed and the well-known filmmaker Basu Bhattacharya and Shabana threatened to leave the party calling Javed a ‘junglee’.

I was in for one more surprise from Mr and Mrs Akhtar. They told me they had recommended my name for the National jury for the awards and that I would have to spend about twenty days in Delhi. I didn’t know whether it was something to be taken seriously or celebrate, but being young and hungry for adventure, I accepted the honour they were doing to me.

I was at peace in Delhi, watching three and four films a day with the day beginning with a buffet breakfast followed by a buffet lunch, but to this day I cannot believe why the jury was not served dinner and those who were sincere walked to find some cheap food while there were other members of the jury who were feasting on Scotch and tandoori chicken. I was still a duffer and didn’t know anything about the game. The liquor and food came from a sardar who was an agent of those who were lobbying for awards.

It was only during the last three days of the screening of films that I started recieving calls from Mr and Mrs Akhtar. It was mostly Javed who spoke and he said, “huzoor, ab waqt aa gaya hai. Zara hum logo par dhyan rakhiye.Humari izzat aapke haath mein hai”. I didn’t understand what he meant till the day of declaring the awards dawned. I now knew that Mr and Mrs Akhtar were lobbying in a more sophisticated way. I didn’t know whether what I was doing was wrong or right, but I worked very hard to convince the jury, a majority of who were from the South. I finally was successful and shameful of getting awards for both Mr and Mrs Akhtar.

I returned home to be given a warm welcome and a very delicious breakfast by Mr and Mrs Akhtar. Then Javed in his flamboyant manner said ,“janab, Ali sahaab aapne toh hamara kaam  kar diya, ab bataaiye hum aapke liye kya kar sakte hai”? I felt genuinely embarassed, but when be persisted, I asked him if he could get Shah Rukh Khan to release my new book and he said,“aap bhi kamaal karte hai, aapne humara itna bada kaam kiya aur kitni chhoti cheez maang rahe ho. Arre batao kab Shah Rukh ko aapke saamne khada Kiya jaaye”? Mr and Mrs Akhtar never took my call for the next three months till I gave up in disgust and sheer anger.

It was the time for the Screen Awards. I had already retired from Screen and Javed was the chief guest at my farewell launch of some very cheap biryani and raita. Javed forgot all about the past and made his secretary Carol call me. I was again treated in a rich breakfast and then Javed came to the point. He asked me to get him the list of the members of the jury. I reminded him that he was the chief guest at my farewell party, but he said,“woh toh patah hai, lekin yeh bhi patah hai ki aap jadugar hai, aap kuch bhi kar sakte hai”. I don’t know why I took that as a challenge and some how got him on the names and he said,“mujhe maaloom hai, aap kuch bhi kar sakte hai”.

This time I asked him to release the Marathi version of my autobiography and he said,“kitne baje aana hai. Main aadha ghanta pehle pahunch jaaunga”. I had all the best literary figures as my guests. The function was to start at eight. It was eight-fifteen and there was no trace of Janaab Javed Akhtar and I almost cried when I thought of the most difficult and dangerous man according to many, Nana Patekar. I told him about the trouble I was in and in Marathi he said,“mee endrah mintaat yeto. My heart was full of joy when I saw Nana being driven in a Scorpio by his girlfriend, Deepti Naval who was my best friend. Nana saved me and the evening by making it memorable by speaking about me to the audience in Marathi.

After all this, I once came face to face with Janab Javed Akhtar at the J.W Marriott and he had lost his voice and could not even say hello to me. I neglected him then and I neglect him now when he has found a new job for speaking his views on every small and silly subjects. The industry has boycotted him and he only writes lyrics for the films of his children, Farhan and Zoya.

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Tags: Bollywood, Bollywood News, Bollywood Updates, Television, Telly News, Ali Peter John, Shabana Azmi, Love Story

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