Javed Akhtar's Marriage: Two Marriages, Two Children, Zero Regrets

“Sojaa… Sojaa beta, varna Gabbar aa jayega!”

Unless you have been living under a rock for ages, there is high likeliness that you would have heard that dialogue at least once in your lifetime. It is that iconic monologue from the cult classic Bollywood film Sholay, which if in case you didn’t know had its story, screenplay, and songs, written by the popular writer duo of Javed Akhtar and Salim Khan (Salman Khan’s father). Javed Akhtar’s marriage to Shabana Azmi was seen as a changing point in both their careers. Javed Akhtar came from a family of poets and writers, and therefore writing was more of something that was in his blood than just mere passion. In real life, he had an outright appealing sense of humour and that is exactly what brought Javed and Honey(his first wife) together. Honey Irani and Javed Akhtar’s marriage lasted for five years but even today Honey and Javed have no hard feelings, and in fact his second wife Shabana Azmi shares a cordial friendship with Honey. It is the story of three lives intertwined with one another, without any shikwah or gham.

Andaz, Zanjeer, Sholay And Javed Akhtar

Javed Akhtar's Marriage - Javed Aktar

Javed Akhtar was born on 17th January, 1945, in Gwalior, which was then part of British Central India. His father Jan Nisar Akhtar was a popular songwriter for the Hindi cinema, and Javed’s mother Safia Akhtar was a singer and writer. Javed Akhtar’s grandfather was a poet, and needless to say, he came from a family of epical writers. While he had an inclination towards writing poems and songs, he did not foresee himself to become the eminent screenplay writer he is known today. It was in late 1960s that he decided to make a foray into commercial cinema business, but it was only in the year 1970, after teaming up with Salim Khan, that he got his big break. The writer duo had a recommendation from superstar Rajesh Khanna, and soon they wrote their first film Andaz in the year 1971. Salim and Javed went on to write more than 20 films together, and they split in late 1980s, sometime around Javed Akhtar’s marriage to Shabana Azmi, After that, Javed had a solo career in which he wrote the scripts for over a dozen films and penned more than 100 songs. He continues to work even till today, and in an interview on his 70th birthday he shared that his thinking, his ambition, and even his greed for life is totally what it was perhaps when he was in his thirties.

[Read More: Farhan Akhtar’s Marriage]

Finding ‘Honey’ In Honey Irani

Javed Akhtar's Marriage - Javed And Honey With Zoya And Farhan In The 80s

Javed met yesteryear’s child actress Honey Irani during the making of his fourth film as a screenwriter in the year 1972. It was the shooting of Hema Malini’s double-role potboiler Seeta Aur Geeta, and the young Honey had a supporting role in it. The two started off as casual acquaintances, slowly became friends, and soon Honey realised that she was totally infatuated with Javed, and Javed reciprocated the same sentiment towards her. They were attracted to each others’ impressive senses of humour, which struck a chord. The two slowly drew closer. In an interview, Honey spoke about the moment when Javed proposed marriage to her.

“He was losing in a game of cards on the sets. I said, ‘Let me pull a card for you’. He said, ‘If it’s a good one, I’ll marry you’. The card was good. He declared, ‘Chalo, chalo let’s get married.”
– Honey Irani about the moment when Javed Akhtar proposed her

But Javed was a pauper back then, and he did not even own a proper house. And Honey was a young 17 yr old child artist, the sister of Daisy Irani, a Bollywood queen at the time, and Honey having already amassed a portfolio of over 40 movies; many were waiting for her to turn eighteen, to launch her as the next big starlet of Bollywood. Another fact that added issue, was the ten year age gap between them, so there was no way he could ask for Honey’s hands from her parents. Therefore, he sought help from Salim Khan who agreed to speak to her parents. Salim Khan visited Honey’s place, and frankly told her mother that “this boy (Javed) wants to marry your girl but he has no home, plays cards and drinks.” Honey’s mother was startled yet softened by his honesty and exclaimed in an equally scrupulous way, “Let her get married, she’ll learn a lesson and come back.” A line each spoken from bride and bridegroom’s side and Honey Irani and Javed Akhtar’s marriage was fixed. Honey and Javed soon tied the knot in a simple private ceremony within a few months.

Did You Know?
The scene in Sholay where Amitabh Bachchan’s character asks for Hema Malini’s hand for a friend is inspired by Salim Khan’s meeting with Honey Irani’s mother for Javed Akhtar’s marriage.

[Read More: Salim Khan’s Marriage]

Their Tiny Paradise

Javed Akhtar's Marriage - Farhan And Zoya With Javed Circa 1982

After Honey Irani and Javed Akhtar’s marriage, the newly-weds moved to the spare room at Honey’s elder sister Maneka’s house who was married to filmmaker Kamran Khan (Farah Khan and Sajid Khan’s father). The couple had lot of adjusting to do, and since Javed had not yet got his first big pay-check, he persuaded Honey to have a modest living, unlike what she had at her parent’s place. Honey Irani shared the following anecdote in an interview:

“Javed made me promise that I wouldn’t accompany him to parties, apply make-up or hire a maid. So, I’d get up at 4 am to fill water. Of course, when I got pregnant, we had a maid.”
– Honey Irani about her husband Javed Akhtar

Honey subsequently cut back on her career, and for the next few years didn’t take on any major projects. The couple was blessed with their first child in October 1972, a daughter whom they named Zoya. Having the maid was the only luxury the couple could afford but despite all the odds they never complained.

“I had two air-conditioners in my parents’ home. Javed felt bad for me as we didn’t have one. He got a second-hand air conditioner. We were thrilled and called our neighbours. And just when they had gathered, the AC conked off. I was so upset. We’d then sprinkle water on the floor, spread a chaddar and sleep.”
– Honey Irani on the first year of her marriage

The difficult times were there not to stay forever, and after a couple of commercially successful films, Javed soon started getting a steady inflow of large sums of money. It was a running joke for a while between the couple, that Honey was ‘lucky’ for Javed. For the couple who had seen tough times, they understood the value of the change, and therefore invested it in a comfortable abode. They purchased their very own apartment and just a year later upgraded to a bungalow in a plush locality. Between Honey’s connections and Javed’s new found friends, the couple hosted many events and gained a strong foothold on the personal front, making connections with big wigs like Amitabh. Javed Akhtar’s professional life was rocking like never before, and while their paradise was perfect, it was soon going to be rocked by its own set of troubles.

Hello Shabana!

Javed Akhtar's Marriage - Javed Aktar And Shabana Azmi

By late 1970s, rumours started emerging that Javed was growing close to young actress Shabana Azmi, who had just made an entry in commercial cinema. The rumours did not go unnoticed by Honey, and it would result in frequent quarrels every day between Javed and Honey. Honey Irani and Javed Akhtar’s marriage was soon on the rocks. The fights would be ugly but the couple made it a point not to scar the minds of their daughter Zoya and son Farhan (born in 1974). They would squabble discreetly, but the fact that Javed and Shabana’s relationship was out in the open for a couple of years finally took it’s toll. In 1978, Honey gave in, and asked Javed to leave her for Shabana; she couldn’t force him to love her. Javed left. He could not say anything to his children, so he asked Honey to break the news to them.

“Javed said he couldn’t speak to the children. So I spoke to them and said, ‘Your father is not leaving me because of you guys. It’s just that we don’t get along’.”

-Honey Irani on breaking the news to Zoya and Farhan

In spite of what had just happened, Honey didn’t want the kids to harbour any hard feelings towards Javed. Javed Akhtar’s marriage to Honey Irani was not dissolved soon after. Post the release of Shakti, Javed and Honey eventually, divorced six years after their separation in 1984.

“I never spoke a word against Shabana or Javed. I didn’t want the children to develop feelings of hate or anger. They’d go over and meet them. Javed would come over. Touchwood! Their relationship never went wrong.”
– Honey Irani on Javed Akhtar’s second marriage

In spite of the polite bonhomie between them, Honey says that she and Shabana are not ‘good pals’ and they just share a formal rapport. Honey Irani did not get back to her acting career, but later went on to become a full-fledged screenwriter, being hired by Yash Chopra for her first script project, and is still active till today.

[Read More: Bhagyashree’s Marriage]

The Akhtar-Azmi Union

Javed Akhtar's Marriage - Shabana And Javed At Their Marriage Reception With Shabana's Mom

Javed Akhtar would often visit the Azmi residence mostly to narrate poems to the well-known poet Kaifi Azmi who happened to be Shabana Azmi’s father. It was in these meetings that he crossed paths with the gorgeous Shabana Azmi, and the similar family background and upbringing soon brought them on the same page. They would try to avoid each other though since Javed was a married man. Finally, Javed took the first step at a page 3 event, and struck up a conversation with Shabana about Sparsh. That conversation marked the beginning of Javed and Shabana’s love.

Javed’s married status was a fact that raised the eyebrows of Shabana Azmi’s parents. Shabana’s mother was vehemently against it, and her father moderately opposed the relationship, mainly on the grounds that Javed was married.

“When I told my father, I asked him, “Is he wrong for me?” And he said, “He is not wrong, but the circumstances are wrong.”
When I asked him, “What if I change the circumstances,?” he said, “Then it should be okay.”
– Shabana Azmi about the moment when she spoke to her father about Javed

Shabana and Javed’s affair continued for the next six years, through Javed Akhtar’s marriage. Shabana and Javed eventually tied the knot in the year 1984 right after Javed got a divorce from Honey Irani. Javed Akhtar’s marriage to Shabana Azmi was a traditional Muslim wedding. Javed’s two children continued to stay with their mother, and Shabana and Javed could not have any children due to certain medical reasons. Nevertheless, Honey Irani was sweet enough to allow Zoya and Farhan to visit their stepmother which filled that vacuum in Shabana Azmi’s life.

Shabana And Javed Akhtar’s Marriage Life Now

Javed Akhtar's Marriage - Shabana And Javed; Inset Farhan, Zoya, Adhuna and Honey

Javed’s son Farhan and daughter Zoya went on to make their own mark in the film world, and in spite of the grey past, all the clan members get along very well. In fact, Shabana and Honey’s cordial relationship has become a textbook example of a sort for estranged couples. Javed has made it a point to maintain good relations with his ex-wife and children. Taking about Javed Akhtar’s marriage to Shabana Azmi, he had this to say:

“Shabana is basically my friend. We happen to be married. Our friendship is so strong that even marriage could not break it. We got married as people thought that you have to be married.”
– Javed Akhtar about his marriage to Shabana Azmi

That is what marriage should be about – the undying and unconditional friendship between two individuals who invest trust and time in each other for a lifetime. No person would have put it better than the poet and writer Javed Akhtar. We leave you with one more quote about Javed Akhtar’s marriage to Shabana Azmi, by Javed Akhtar, and sign-off by wishing him and his family all the happiness and joy.

“If we are totally similar, then you should not live with a person who is exactly like you as you are enough alone. And if you are totally different, then too, you can’t function together. So I think there should be a right kind of balance between similarity and dissimilarity.”
– Javed Akhtar about marriage

Images Source: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5