Pro­file: Azaan Sami

Azaan Sami Khan, de­ter­mined to step out of the shadow of his star fa­ther, has al­ready be­gun to cre­ate shock­waves in the world of cin­ema

Slogan - - FRONT PAGE - By Mahrukh Fa­rooq

On the sur­face, Azaan looks like your typ­i­cal 21-1-year-old - en­er­getic and with a vi­sion to change the world, al­beit with a slight air of im­pa­tience. How­ever, if one were too look at his tran­si­tion from so­cially awk­ward pre-teens, in­tim­i­dated by his fa­ther’s suc­cess in film and mu­sic, to a far­sighted and imag­i­na­tive film pro­ducer who is not only hap­pily mar­ried but also the proud fa­ther of a baby boy, one would really ad­mire his achieve­ments.

With O21,, per­haps his big­gest project ever, re­ceiv­ing rave re­views on its inim­itable sto­ry­line and ex­cep­tional act­ing and with ru­mours of it even be­ing next in line for ann Os­car nom­i­na­tion some­time this year, Azaan has since then worked at the helm of some rather unique mu­sic­sic projects for two of Pak­istan’s great-great­est mu­sic makers, Jal and Ko­mal Rizvi, each one be-be­ing hailed asas the artiste’s much-awaited come­back to the now de­te­ri­o­rat­ing Paki-Pak­istani mu­sic in­dus­try. With so many achieve­ments al­ready un­der his belt, one can­not help but be amazed by how far this young man has come.

“Un­like what most peo-peo­ple think, start­ing early has its dis­ad­van­tages, es­pe­cially when work­ing in a place like Pak­istan where ex­pe­ri­ence is al­most al­ways given pref­er­ence over tal­ent or knowl­edge, ex­plains Azaan. “Not to say that ex­pe­ri­ence doesn’t have its mer­its; yet, manyny times I have found that when-when­ever I haveave tried to make a sug­ges­tion that may be for the bet­ter­ment of a par­tic­u­lar project, I have been made to stay quiet by oth­ers say­ing, ‘But you’re only 20-years-

old.’” What has helped him get through such try­ing stages, as it did dur­ing other chal­lenges in life, is the sup­port Azaan gets from his mother. “My mother has helped make me feel a strong sense of own­er­ship of this in­dus­try. She very clearly told me that if God has put me in this place then I have re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and du­ties to both my­self and my craft,” says Azaan. “In my case, as I have a head start due to my age, it is my re­spon­si­bil­ity to do all the more in the next 20 years.”

It only makes sense for the young man, who has been la­beled as Pak­istan’s prodi­gal son, to take up a ca­reer making movies, con­sid­er­ing his par­ents’ as­so­ci­a­tion with the field for a num­ber of years. His mother, Zeba Bakhtiar, ven­tured into In­dian ter­ri­tory and starred in Raj Kapoor’s Henna (1991). She has had her share of the spot­light, both good and bad, what with her role in the highly suc­cess­ful Sargam, her highly pub­li­cized mar­riage and sub­se­quent di­vorce with the star of the film, the mu­sic com­poser Ad­nan Sami Khan, fol­lowed by a bit­ter cus­tody bat­tle. In all man­ners of speak­ing, Azaan Sami Khan’s early years held the at­ten­tion of an en­tire na­tion.

Af­ter years of liv­ing a some­what shel­tered life with his mother, Azaan first be­gan to ex­hibit tell­tale signs of in­her­ited tal­ent at the ten­der age of 7. “I had been re­ceiv­ing vo­cal train­ing from a very young age, thus I was able to com­pose my first song when I was just 7 years old,” re­mem­bers Azaan. “At 13, I di­rected and com­posed the mu­sic for a short film called Meri Ka­hani, a film that was screened at the South East Asian Fes­ti­val in Goa. At that point, I had fig­ured that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”

Of course, hav­ing not one but two well­known par­ents, did even­tu­ally guar­an­tee that Azaan would be­come a Pan­dora’s Box of tal­ent as not only did he delve into mu­sic – which ul­ti­mately cul­mi­nated in Sony Mu­sic In­dia sign­ing him for his de­but al­bum at the age of 15 – but also di­rec­tion and pro­duc­tion.

All of this was some­what over­shad­owed by Azaan’s es­tranged re­la­tion­ship with his fa­ther with whom he had vir­tu­ally no con­tact over the years. All of that changed, how­ever, once Azaan be­gan to dis­play a pen­chant for making mu­sic, just like his fa­ther. “When Sony Mu­sic In­dia signed me up for my de­but al­bum, that was when I fi­nally got the op­por­tu­nity to meet my fa­ther,” says Azaan. “Liv­ing in Mum­bai with him was a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence; he taught me a lot and felt that I was thor­oughly ready to go pub­lic.”

Even now, Azaan cred­its a lot of his achieve­ments to his fa­ther; al­though that has come at a price. “It re­sulted in a lot of pres­sure as sud­denly, I had to live up to peo­ple’s expectations,” ex­plains Azaan. “The only rea­son peo­ple ever took me se­ri­ously in the be­gin­ning was be­cause they wanted to see whether I mea­sured up to the level of tal­ent that my fa­ther ex­hib­ited.”

If any­thing, Azaan seems to be re­ceiv­ing ac­co­lades, at home and from across the border. His fa­ther, Ad­nan Sami Khan, who con­tin­ues to pack punch af­ter punch with mul­ti­ple projects in In­dia, seems ex­tremely proud at his son’s foray into film pro­duc­tion. In a sep­a­rate in­ter­view, he says, “I’m as proud as a fa­ther should be of his son’s suc­cess and, that too, when he has done ev­ery­thing him­self and built a ca­reer on his own grounds. Azaan never asked me for any sort of help and where he stands to­day is all due to his own hard work and ef­fort. I’m very happy and this is in­deed the proud­est mo­ment for me.”

As many of his fans and col­leagues at­test, Azaan dis­plays a level of sen­si­bil­ity that is, so far, un­seen in even the most ex­pe­ri­enced of in­di­vid­u­als. With the knowl­edge that he has at­tained so far as well as a pas­sion for making good films in Pak­istan, Azaan gives sub­stan­tial sug­ges­tions to as­pir­ing film­mak­ers look­ing to make their mark in the in­dus­try.

“We really need to get used to making films and test our grounds of what kind of films our au­di­ences want from us and what kind can we make well. For ex­am­ple, I am not say­ing that I am against the ‘item-num­ber’ cul­ture but let’s say I en­ter For­mula 1, I can’t go and say this is my version of a Fer­rari. Fer­rari makes a Fer­rari and I’ll make some­thing else and I’ll race it. Sim­i­larly, In­dia does item num­bers bril­liantly and I am not say­ing that we don’t do it well but the di­rec­tion that we need to take needs to be unique. We need to dis­cover our own iden­tity, align our ex­pe­ri­enced veter­ans by dis­solv­ing some of the egos and make films that are as good as any other film in the world.”

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