From Padmavati to Nationalism, Javed Akhtar and Shabana Azmi’s No Holds Barred Session at Times Lit Fest Delhi! 

ASHISH KEDIA / ROHIT SHARMA

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NEW DELHI : Shabana Azmi and Javed Akhtar today took part in Times Literature Festival 2017 being organized at India Habitat centre, New Delhi.

They were guest speakers at session title “Nationalism and the arts” being moderated by Sanjay Roy.

Shabana started the conversation by talking about her roots and how her upbringing influenced her thoughts about art, culture, nationalism and interlinking between the three.

She said, “I grew up in a family where it was firmly believed that art should be used as a weapon of change.

Art really is ‘to each his own’. It can be purely entertainment, it can be a way of communication and so on”.

She was also critical about different narratives being put upon free art and speech and said, “For something to qualify as an art it should be free from propganda and leaflets”

She didn’t mince any word to speak upon Padmavati Controversy and said, “It is fine to criticize but it is ghastly wrong to threat someone and claim it be an expression of dissent. There have been a attempts to silence different artists and protest against different movies but it hasn’t reached to this limit ever. The situation as I see today was never so bad”.

She also indicated her opinion of nationalism and it’s connection with art. She said, “Any attempt to muzzle an artists voice is an attempt to curtail the spirit of our only loving country. We all have to stay together to keep our country free from such acts”.

On being asked about why does she think that people are so easily offended and stoop to such levels of protest she said, “When art asks uncomfortable questions it comes under attack”.

Javed Akhtar Adds Poetic Notes and Fierce Thoughts to Nationalism-Art Debate

Shabana Azmi was joined by her husband and famous poet lyricist Javed Akhtar in today’s debate on Nationalism and art.

Well known for speaking his mind and being a fearless opinion maker, Javed didn’t disappoint the gathering and touched freely through all subjects.

Javed Akhtar said, “There is a difference between brave and stupid or being coward and stupid. One should not speak just to feel brave or to defeat being labelled coward but should do so as per need of time and intelligence”.

On the connection between Nationalism and Art he said, “Nationalism is a political, social idea. But like any other idea it needs slogans, anthems and icons. This is provided by art”.

He stayed fairly critical of the right wing ideology and said that it has neither influenced nor contributed to any form of Art anywhere in the World.

He said, “The right wing thinking may have achieved anything in the world but whole of right wing hasn’t created one big poet or sculptour or artist. It is because art is a language of sympathy and harmony. No fascist philosophy in the world has been able to create any art or artists”.

He further added, ‘Every such thought that can not encourage or influence a painting or poem has something wrong in it’.

Touching upon the modern era of terming people national and anti-national on the drop of a hat he said, “The first writer who was called anti-national in this continent was Taslima Nasreen after writing her book “Lazza’. Jamaat-e-Islami or VHP of Bangladesh had branded her anti-national”.

He then went on to narrate a story about how he didn’t budge to any such narratives or threats and went out to support in organising a Taslima event at Mumbai.

He said, ‘Once when she was coming to Mumbai and a Muslim organization said that they will burn her alive if she arrives here. I called her and she said that she had dropped plans of coming to Mumbai. I was disturbed on listening this and convinced her to come. I said that I will organise everything and host her. We spoke to Minister of Maharashtra and organized the event with much fanfare and we allowed her the opportunity to speak. We did this because we believed in idea of freedom of expression. We did this to give out a message that fingers won’t dictate upon art in this country”.

Moderator Sanjay Ghosh raised the question about where people can interpret historical events or there needs to be factual analysis of it.

To which Javed replied, “People can be sensitive about historical incidents and there are way to protest and show dissent. But having said that it is also not right to say that I disagree with you and hence I will kill you”.

Javed also recited few couplets of Kaifi Azami and other renowned poets to deliver the message of Nationalism in poetry.

Shabana Azmi also didn’t disappoint and enthralled everyone with a beautiful poetic recitation of Faiz Aehmad Faiz’s “Bol ki Lab Aazaad Hain Tere’.

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