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Farhan Akhtar, a good chef! - Without Malice- Ravi V. Chhabra

Javed Akhtar related family ties with Subhash Chandra Bose

Javed Akhtar: Farhan

is a superb chef!

Without Malice Ravi V. Chhabra


Javed Akhtar and Farhan Akhtar

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The paparazzi began to click as the door opened to welcome the legendary poet-cum- lyricist Javed Akhtar. Clad in a spotless white kurta , he was flanked by his wife Shabana Azmi. Shabana dressed in a magenta salwar kameez seated herself on the rostrum as she posed coyly for the shutterbugs.

The event at New Delhi's Oberoi Hotel began on a disparaging note as the journalists were mis-communicated on the proceedings for the afternoon. The media had gathered for the book launch of  "Jama Masjid - Call of the Soul" written by N.L Batra, to be inaugurated by Javed Akhtar. The event was turned into an impromptu press conference, not without much ado by the press corps - who vociferously spelt out being let down by protesting that it was only befitting for a press conference to be followed after the book launch and not the other way round. Shabana Azmi eloquently forwarded author, N.L Batra, to do most of the talking.

After a brief conversation with the journalists, everyone disbanded for a lavish four-course buffet! Taking advantage of the dispelled clout of reporters, I approached Javedji. The warm smile was in its place as always. On asking about his love for food, Javedji replied with zest "non-vegetarian" with love for the Uttar Pradesh food!


Although he felt not many restaurants had the finesse in preparing Lucknowi delicacies these days. But he is fond of the chicken preparations by his wife Shabana. Is Farhan a foodie?, I probed about his film-maker son. He is a great food buff, and well endowed to be a chef, dropped the spontaneous answer. Farhan Akhtar, a promising film-maker known for introducing a new breed of cinema with Dil Chahta Hai is an amazing cook, he explained. Farhan excels in preparing Thai, Chinese and Continental cuisine.

As for himself, Javed Akhtar prefers to eat all the specialty food prepared by Farhan, rather than cook himself. Are you a foody?, I asked Javedji. Who does not like good food?, he quipped. I am fond of north Indian cuisine with a special liking for Lucknow's Biryani and Kebabs of Tunda's. That is his favourite restaurant in Lucknow, popular for its spicy Kebabs (minced meat on skewers) and Biryani (marinated goat meat cooked in flavored rice pullav). He also has a special liking for Punjabi cuisine among others. Pakistan is home to many a Punjabi cuisine. Food in Pakistan has a similar flavor as in Punjab, suggested Javed Akhtar.

What about hard drinks then? Do you take a fancy to wines? I enquired. I was an alcoholic - back then in the Eightees, with a quota of one bottle every night, he said assertively. But, I left boozing overnight on 31st July 1991. A clear message for all alcoholics! Cocktails might be a no-no for Javed Akhtar but he maintains a palate for mocktails. I love Virgin Mary, he declared, provided there is no Vodka in it! , he completed the sentence in jest. Bringing the conversation back to what he does best - poetry, Javedji said he was awaiting the release of his forthcoming film for which he has written the lyrics - The Rising. It is a period film taken from the pages of history after Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose' The Forgotten Hero.

It is a challenge to write lyrics for such films, he stated.  And a great responsibility too, as knowledge of history is intrinsic to bring out the period and the personality alive. These are important contributors to the freedom movement, one has to maintain certain decorum and a level of decency, while doing the lyrics.  But he felt that such films at the box office usually belied his expectations. "I guess the audience does not enjoy watching historical films in this age of fast- track commercial cinema. Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose is a well-made film".

Javed Akhtar related a family connection with Subhash Chandra Bose. "My maternal uncle was close to him. He left the Congress party along with Netaji and joined him in forming the INA. Later on, he was arrested and spent ten years in the prison before he was released on 15th August, 1947 from Calcutta jail, he added. Javed Akhtar's family's affiliation to the INA influenced him to be a rebel himself. Born to sublime Urdu poet and film lyricist Jan Nisar Khan and Safia Akhtar, a writer and teacher, Javed Akhtar squandered a few years in Bhopal before packing off for Mumbai, the city of dreams.

He got his first break in Bollywood in 1969. Soon his writing skill came into notice by scripting and writing lyrics for films like Seeta Aur Geeta, Deewar, Zanjeer, Sholay, Trishul among many others. His flair with pen gave Amitabh Bachchan the persona of the angry young man. Javed Akhtar has swept many Filmfare awards and National awards for films like Refugee, Godmother, Border and Lagaan, to name a few.


So much so that even in the present generation, Javed Akhtar's contribution to Hindi cinema walks unprecedented. Apart from writing, Javed Akhtar likes to voice his opinion on social issues and says "A lot of communalism and fundamentalism is prevalent in our society. All those having faith in the secular ethos must stand against communal ideology, as it hampers growth in a democratic set-up". The shutter-buggers trailed behind him as he swaggered out of the conference hall.

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