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
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.”