Shabana Azmi is not big on celebrating birthdays, but likes to spend the day quietly with her close friends and family around. Husband Javed Akhtar, she says, is always more excited about having some sort of a celebration. There was a grand bash on Shabana’s 50th birthday, another on her 60th as well. The pandemic put a dampener on her 70th birthday celebrations last year, as she couldn’t celebrate the way she would have ideally wanted. This year, now that the rules have relaxed a bit, the actress will celebrate her 71st birthday with a high tea attended by family and friends.
She’s currently shooting for Karan Johar’s directorial comeback Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani, and it was supposed to be a working birthday for the actress. But she now has an unexpected day off and plans to make the most of it.
“I’m not one for big birthday celebrations at all, but my husband for some strange reason gets all very excited. I was supposed to be on set working on Karan’s film, and at the last moment we’ve had a turnaround day, so it’s going to be just family and close friends for high tea. That’s what I enjoy the most, more than dinners, I like high tea. So just a small, intimate gathering,” Shabana told News18 a day before her birthday.
Birthday celebrations were not a part of the actress’ life when she was growing up. “My brother Baba and I grew up never celebrating our birthdays. I had a brother before me, who passed away just one week before his first birthday. My mother had made lots of preparations for his birthday, and when he passed away, that made her really superstitious. In school, birthdays meant that that was the one day you were allowed to wear frocks, rather than the uniform. Queen Mary School had a mix of people, from the very rich to the middle class – it was a happy mix. Irrespective of who you were, nobody was allowed to distribute more than two sweets, that’s about it,” she recalls.
The big gatherings became a part of her life much later. “I think I started having a big celebration on my 50th birthday and then on the 60th. Last year we haven’t been able to do much because of the pandemic.”
Not just for birthdays, Shabana and Javed Akhtar’s Holi parties, Diwali and Eid gatherings are also known for bringing together their friends from the world of art and cinema. The actress often shares those happy moments with her followers on social media. “My family and friends are my lifeline. And especially when we’ve been traveling for a long time it’s almost given that the day we come back then everybody gathers together. Obviously during COVID one is actually very, very careful. Now that the rules have sort of relaxed when you meet each other, we’ve been behaving like we haven’t seen each other for years. So the same group of people behave as if we have been deprived of each other’s company, although we speak to each other everyday,” she says with a laugh.
Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani is the first time she is working with Karan Johar. The filmmaker has managed a casting coup by roping in Shabana, Dharmendra, Jaya Bachchan, Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt in the same film. Shabana says she was offered a Karan Johar film earlier, but couldn’t do it due to prior commitments.
“Karan and I have waited long to work together and it’s nice how the atmosphere on the set is so warm. It’s a comedy movie, but it raises some important issues in light, breezy way. It’s a very interesting script. I always enjoy being part of ensemble projects. I have done two films with Dharamji and one with Jaya, none with Ranveer and Alia, so it’s a new group, that’s always interesting,” she says.