Shabana Azmi says while growing up, Urdu language was like music filling her ears | bollywood | Hindustan Times
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Shabana Azmi says while growing up, Urdu language was like music filling her ears

Actor Shabana Azmi reminisces her growing up years amid literary giants, and love for Urdu language.

bollywood Updated: Dec 11, 2017 12:11 IST
Naina Arora
Actor Shabana Azmi says she inherited a love for acting and theatre from her parents Kaifi Azmi and Shaukat Kaifi.
Actor Shabana Azmi says she inherited a love for acting and theatre from her parents Kaifi Azmi and Shaukat Kaifi.(Raajessh Kashyap/HT Photo)

Actor Shabana Azmi says, “Culture cannot be kept under lock and key.” Best remembered for her performances in classics such as Ankur (1974) and Arth (1982), Azmi was in Delhi to speak at Jashn-e-Rekhta — the annual three-day festival celebrating Urdu’s cultural heritage and history. In a tête-à-tête with HT City, she waxes eloquent about her love for Urdu, recollects fond memories of her growing up in a culturally-rich atmosphere, and stresses on the importance of going back to one’s roots to be able to reach one’s full potential.

“We were fortunate that we had literary giants such as Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Firaq Gorakhpuri, Josh Malihabadi, and Begum Akhtar as house guests. I would be very fascinated when I would see these evenings from behind the curtains — the tinkling, and laughter” — Shabana Azmi

Azmi, who comes from a family of poets and artists, shares she feels blessed to have grown up in an atmosphere full of cultural influences. “In my growing years, it was almost by a process of osmosis, that I inherited a love for acting and theatre from my mother [Shaukat Kaifi] and father [Kaifi Azmi]. We were fortunate that we had literary giants Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Firaq Gorakhpuri, Josh Malihabadi, and Begum Akhtar as house guests. I would be very fascinated when I saw these evenings from behind the curtains, the tinkling, and laughter. My father would always encourage me to come and sit with those people, but provided that this did not become an excuse for me to bunk school the next day. At that time, I couldn’t even understand the language, but it was like music filling my ears.”

About her role in attempts to revive the Urdu language, she says, “Urdu celebrates our Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb (a cultural and linguistic phenomenon in North India, that celebrates cultural and linguistic syncretism between the Hindu and Muslim communities). Urdu is actually Hindustani with a couple of words that are different. To celebrate our composite culture, in what language can we do it? Urdu seems to be a very good receptacle in which that can happen. I find it heartening that there are so many young people who not only come to the festival, but are actually learning the alphabet. There is a definite interest in the language. And the computer has made things much easier.”

“In a country like India, we should give an impetus to all our regional languages, whether it’s Tamil, Hindi,Telugu, Gujarati, or Marathi. Since our languages are our strength, we will have to give them real support, so that learning a language, and becoming true to them becomes an asset, rather than a liability,” she adds.

The actor urges people to go back to their roots, as it gives one strength and depth. “In today’s day, where expression, language is getting compressed, where messages no longer respect spellings, grammar, all that is easily accepted as cool. What it is doing is [that] it’s taking away our roots completely. I think first you need to be very deeply rooted. Only then can you spiral upwards and spread your branches. But if you have weak roots, in the spreading of the branches, you will uproot the tree. Humari joh tehzeeb hai, culture hai, zabaan hain, woh humare andar jar pakadegi, tabhi jaake, hum phir international zabaan bhi bol sakenge (Only after our roots are composed of our own language and culture, will we be able to embrace foreign languages and cultures).”

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