I mentioned a couple of days ago my excitement at meeting my favorite Hindi film actress, the brilliant, talented, and beautiful woman who started it all for me, Shabana Azmi. This came about because Shabana jii and her husband, the revered screenwriter and songwriter Javed Akhtar, are in the United States touring a show they have put together about Shabana's father, who was also a famous poet. I saw the show as well, and I'll tell you about that later. The day before the show, Shabana and Javed made a hastily-arranged appearance at Harvard, which is where I met her and took the pictures I posted the other day.
I found myself face-to-face with Shabana not long after I arrived at the venue; she was sitting inconspicuously on a couch and I walked up behind her unknowingly after spotting my Hindi teacher Naseem jii nearby. I looked down at Shabana, she looked up at me, and my brain short-circuited; I think I managed to say "Hello, how are you?" and she responded politely. My teacher introduced us. "Shabana jii," she said in Hindi, "this is Carla, one of my students; she loves you very much." She shook my hand, which was warm and sweating, I later realized. She asked me a couple of polite questions; I was incapable of thinking of anything intelligent to say, and then it was over.
I returned to my seat behind her and just watched and listened as she interacted with other people who came by to say hello; some fans, some friends. I had the completely surreal experience of listening to her exchange email addresses with my teacher; that felt more like something I would have witnessed in a dream than in real life. Eventually she and Javed took their places at the front of the room and the event was underway. They were there, they said, to listen to what was on students' minds, so they opened the floor immediately, without any prepared remarks, for questions about art and activism, the twin foci of both their lives.
I took copious notes on the presentation, and I wrote them up for my friends at BollyWHAT? I also want to present them to you here, but they are quite long, so they continue below the jump.