Shabana Azmi and Javed Akhtar were the only couple to be invited at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s dinner in Delhi on Sunday evening in honour of the American Presidence Barack Obama and his wife Michelle.
Apparently Shabana hit it off instantaneously with America’s President and the First Lady. Javed and Shabana spent considerable time in conversation with our honoured guests.
While Javed donned a Sherwani for the occasion Shabana wore her mother Shaukat Azmi’s old Kanjeevaram silk saree in flaming Orange and deep maroon colours. And the first thing that Michelle Obama did on being introduced to Javed and Shabana was to congratulate her on her choice of colours.
Says a friend of Shabana, “Yes, Michelle did compliment Shabana on her saree. Michelle said Indian colours just fascinated her so much. If you notice, Michelle is adventurous with colours. She doesn’t adhere to just a safe black.”
Shabana and Javed were introduced to President Obama and Michelle as both being in the parliament. Obama smiled and said, “Oh, so you’re both artistes and you combine it with politics.”
Then looking at Javed Obama said, “You’re a very lucky man.”
Shabana told Michelle that Shabana and her best friend Parna was there cheering lustily at the Union Square when President Obama was elected.
Says a friend of Shabana, “Shabana hit it off with Michelle immediately. They were soon laughing and joking together. Shabana suggested that Michelle take a look at some Indian designs and designers.
Shabana was overheard telling Michelle, ‘I wish I could get you to see some work of our Indian designers.Our craftsmanship finds its way in the works of all the top designers of the world.To this Michelle said, she’d love to.”
Obama was at his charming best, sparing a few minutes for each one of the 50-odd VVIP guests. Only Shabana & Javed and Aamir Khan were invited from the entertainment industry.Among the industrialists there were only Ratan Tata, N.R Narayana Murthy and Azim Premji.From the arena of sports there was only the chess champ Vishwanathan.
There were ten tables in all with seven people seated on each table. Shabana was seated with the Indian minister for external affairs S.M Krishna and the national security advisors of India and the United States.
A friend of Shabana’s says, “It was a rather unconventional table to be seated at. But she being erudite on every topic Shabana was soon discussing security issues with her dinner guests.
She also discussed nucleur with the guests.Shabana expressed reservations about Indian losing their jobs in the US. To this, Obama’s staff reassured her that the President’s visit was a goodwill gesture and it had to be a win-win situation for both countries.
They also spoke about Shabana’s play Broken Images with which she had just toured the US and when Obama’s entourage heard that she has been invited with her play to the Kennedy Centre in March they wanted to watch it. Shabana also spent time conversing with the prime minister’s daughter Upender Singh who has just written a book on ancient India. ”
At the dinner in Delhi it emerged that President Obama and his entourage were very impressed with the questions that the students at the St Xaviers College in Mumbai had asked Obama the previous evening. Apparently Obama commented that those questions by the students were far more significant than what he had been asked by mediapersons in America.
The President was specially impressed by the Xaviers girl who asked him why The US did not declare Pakistan a terrorist state.
Reluctant to talk about the private dinner Shabana says, “It was a very pleasant evening. Serious and informal issues were discussed.This is the first time I met President Obama and Michelle.
Yes, I did recommend Indian designs. And she seemed really eager to do so.The reason why Michelle is the darling of the US people is that she promoted young American designers when she became the President’s wife.
There is a paradigm shift in the Indo-US relations. We used to be recipients of aid from the US. Today we’re in a position to provide jobs in the USA. So a confident India welcomed the American president with its head held high.”
Adds Javed Akhtar, “I felt proud to be representing the film industry. All the arrangements at the dinner were impeccable. The décor and the ambiance were so graceful and understated.”