My mum beat me only once in my life and that is because of Mr Bachchan
Mohammed Azharuddin has turned 50. He lost his grandfather, the man he loved the most on November 17, 1984. He debuted on December 31, 1984, with three triple centuries. In his 17-year cricketing career, he was captain for nine years. A life ban on playing cricket, divorce with his wife Naureen, second marriage and separation from Sangeeta Bijlani, losing a 19-year old son to a road accident — he has seen it all. In the words of Ekta Kapoor, who has now bought the rights of making a film on his life, he is a victim and a victor who has emerged victorious. He had led a glorious life but one that was never picture perfect. He is humble, emotionally strong and very stylish. We spoke exclusively to both about their reasons for making and agreeing to this film on one of India’s greatest cricketing icons.
IN CONVERSATION WITH EKTA KAPOOR:
There are several cricketing legends. Why a film based on Azharuddin?
My dad is an obsessive cricketing fan and for him, Azhar sir is a cricketing god. My dad has shifted his interest in the construction business and is usually not interested in any of the movies I have made. But, he is jumping in this movie. Like my mother, Azhar sir, too, is an Aquarian and number 8. She too likes him, does not cry and is strong for everybody around her. He has been the captain all his life, be it on the field or off it. Some people are victims and some are victors, but those who are victorious have their collar up like he always does.
You can make a documentary on 100 cricketers. But that is only one level of the film. I remember I was 26 when I was awarded the Ernst & Young award for being the youngest and the first woman to be given the award. But four days after, I was told that the award could not be given to me as my TRPs were fake. No one really takes you to a courtroom as in the minds of people, they want to believe that you are wrong. Eventually, it got proved that I was right when Rahul Bajaj called me and gave me the award. I have never enjoyed picking up an award more than that, sitting amongst such old men. At the same time, on the day I was being given the award, due to a personal issue that morning, my happiness was diluted. And that’s what happens in life too, where life is not picture perfect. And I am here to tell his story. Here is a man who has been condemned but has stood up. Some people wear age on their face, some wear experience. He wears his experience. I had decided that I will just pick up the phone and tell him that we want to present your life. It’s a life with a lot of blemishes, a lot of colour. The best thing about his life is that it is not picture-perfect as one thing was always missing. For instance, he played only 99 matches, not 100. I am not a cricket fan. I am a fan of the man. People have pushed him down, but he stood up and walked and at 50, stands tall. He is an icon whose story needs to be told.
IN CONVERSATION WITH MOHAMMED AZHARUDDIN:
You are 50. Are you excited about a film being made on your life?
I am happy. I was very reluctant and took one year to agree. I realised that people want to know my story. I have gone through a lot of ups and downs and a lot of hardwork. The biggest thing I possess is infinite patience. Once you are patient, things fall in place. During that period of time, I could have said so many things that would have backfired on me. But I didn’t, only due to my patience. At the end of the day, it took a long time but you can’t fight destiny. Whatever is destined to happen will happen. I am excited to see how the film will be made. There are many struggles that I have forgotten, but the film will probably remind me of those. I am a positive person and the story is finally a positive one.
Where do you get your patience from?
My religion. Allah is with people who show patience. If you are down in the dumps, Allah will help you if you have belief. But this is a personal thing between you and him. You can’t fool Allah. I remember after I scored my three 100s in my first match, this photographer saw me praying and wanted to take pictures. I was reluctant, but allowed him to. He came the next day and wanted to take them again as he said that despite him taking so many pictures, his reel was blank.
Why do you always have your collar standing?
I used to always field at silly point or point, where the rays of the sun were always very strong and my neck would burn. So, I started wearing a handkerchief, but it was uncomfortable. I later moved to collar that has now become my style. People like me this way.
What do you consider your strengths?
My strength is my humility. When you are humble, people like you. I feel happy when people tell me, ‘Sir, you should play now also.’ I know I can’t physically. I keep myself fit. Somebody today tells me, ‘Why don’t you go and play in New Zealand?’ They know I can’t play, but it’s their feeling that makes them say that. I have always been strong and never show my emotions. I will be the last person to come and say, ‘Well done.’ Number 8 is an up-and-down number, When you are up, nobody can touch you, but when you are down, everybody pulls you down. Emotionally I depend only on myself. My strong belief in the Almighty carries me.
What do you think are the qualities the actor who will play you should possess?
He needs to be stylish. People tell me that my game was very stylish. I learnt to be stylish over time. Allah gave me the talent. I showed it on the field. Saif Ali Khan, due to his cricketing background and style, would be my first choice, but Ekta is the boss and will decide.
Do you watch Hindi movies?
My favourite movie is Abhimaan as my favourite actor Mr Amitabh Bachchan was in it. The only time my mum lifted her hand at me was when she caught me listening to Sholay dialogues by the roadside. That is the only time she beat me. Long back, I told Mr Bachchan that, ‘Sir, because of you I got beaten.’ Nobody can touch Mr Bachchan in style.
You never showed your emotion on the field. Have you ever broken down in life?
I broke down only when I lost my grandfather Mir Vajehuddin (nana). I was 21 then and it was November 17, 1984. I debuted a month later on December 31 and made three 100s. Till his last day when he died of a heart attack, I would sleep in between my nana and nani. He was a very pious man, who was a descendent of Prophet Mohammed’s family, so he belonged to his lineage. I can always feel him next to me. At times, I was not even allowed to watch films when I was growing up as he would say, ‘No, this is not your line.’ I would get frustrated. I would tell him, ‘You let everybody watch films, but not me.’ And he would say, ‘You will remember me one day.’ Can you imagine that the autograph I sign was taught to me by him? He signed for me and would make me practise it 50-60 times a day. He was a brilliant mathematician, who could count in Arabic and Persian and give the answer in English. He taught me a lot of things. He said, ‘Stay humble as that is the best thing you can possess in life. The day you think you are somebody, you will come down.’ You couldn’t talk to him looking into his eyes, as he had very powerful eyes. He would never look into a camera as he would say that the camera would break if he did so. He never told me but he told my mother, ‘Don’t tell him but he will become a big cricketer’ My parents too were very supportive of me playing. My father had only one wish that I should score a 100 at the Lords cricket ground, which made him very happy when I did. I would get up at 4.30 in the morning and before going to practice, I would give my grandmother tea. At that time she would give me her blessings, which were very powerful. I am the eldest son (five younger siblings) and it is my job to play captain even at home. I never show my emotions. When my son passed away, so many times I felt like crying, but then there are so many people behind me, like my parents. If I break down. they will break down and I need to carry them with me. My mother even today keeps telling me, ‘Allah should have taken me.’ It was very tough for them as within a week, they had lost two grandchildren.
Talk about your relationship with Kapil Dev?
Kapil pajiis a very nice man.He understands people. He could take anything from my kit bag and so could I. We did not need to ask each other.Usually people don’t give even their broken bats to you. You have to a have a big heart to give. If you give, you get. If you don’t give, you don't get. I had that rapport with him. I played under him and he played under me. As a captain, I didn’t need to tell him anything as he knew everything exactly what he had to do. I would just give him the ball. I knew he knew his job and if he goes on to the field, he will do his job. I learnt from him.If he is convinced,he will support you. Mr Kamal Morarka and Mr Raj Singh Dungarpur also helped me.I didn’t meet Mr Morarka many times, but at that time he really supported me.He is a nice person who is not scared of anybody. That’s what is most important. He will express what he feels. I never forget people who help me.