In a special conversation Ajay Mathur spoke to Atika Farooqui, a well-known poet, actor, and a versatile TV personality, who has become a celebrity. In this candid interview Atika shared some of her reflections and life experiences with Awaz-The Voice.
Ajay: Welcome Atika
Atika: Thank you so much for inviting me over here.
Ajay: Your journey has been exemplary and inspiring at the same time. Let us start begin this conversation from the initial days in Lucknow. What are your reflections of those days?
Atika: I belong to the beautiful city of Lucknow. The place has a very mixed culture. The confluence of the cultures makes it magical. My father was a senior government officer and we have lived in close to 10 cities, including Lucknow, Agra, Mathura, Rampur, Delhi, and Mumbai. But Lucknow has a lot of positive influence on me because I ended up spending my graduation years there.
My father was basically on the move so we were shifting places and moving from one school to the other. My college years in Lucknow are one of the most prominent phases of my life, those years shaped my personality.
Ajay. Could you share with us your fond memories of your college days?
Atika: Yes of course. I was crowned Miss college.
I like quintessential beauty contest. There was one in our campus every year and I had to go through both the question and talent rounds. I did a lot of things like the catwalk. It was a great moment when I was crowned the Miss College. In the late 90s I got a camera, and in those days a camera was supposed to be a big thing. Portable Kodak cameras had just I started developing a passion for photography. I also happen to come from a family, which put a lot of emphasis on dramatics. I have been very good at sports and academics.
Ajay: My research tells me that you have been a theater catalyst. Could you share your experiences as an actor?
Atika: Well, I have done a lot of theater. I started in a school called St Thomas. There I was very active in my school dramatic theater activities. From there I did my 11th and 12th in Modi Academy there also I did a lot of theater. After that I came to Lucknow very popular play called Out of sight out of murder was supposed to be a very drugged about playing those times. I played a male character there. It got good coverage in the local media as well.
Ajay. Interesting. How did you play the gender in a patriarchal society?
Atika: I was always a fan of Hugh Grant. And I liked his mannerisms. The character given to me was a Hollywood star, he had big sideburns and long hair, a bit of a longish hair. He was in love with another Hollywood actress girl called Simon who by the way, I'm still in touch with. Actually, I am in touch with all my college mates and things like that. So that was the first big role or the kind of very a role that still stays with me because that taught me how to dabble in gender on stage. I have played many characters I played the wife of army officer who have dropped bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Ajay: Tell us how did you start doing talk-shows, was that in your mind from the very beginning?
Atika: Oh, I do have kind of dual personality in a way by nature, I am quite sober person who likes to be quiet at home. I like to read I like to be quiet not talk for hours. But my profession demands me to be always high on energy high on charm, high on a little bit of a drama you know, when we work in television, I have always been in television. And I started my career back in 2003 with TV media, television requires a certain kind of body posturing, certain kinds of voice modulation and articulation because time is precious, right? For 10 seconds people pay about like 50,000 right so one must be good. Let that go. So, I worked on the requirements on my profession. Then I devised a strategy of how to utilize every second of my airspace well, and every second must be filled with humor, information, happiness quotient, something new, something creative. So that is how I developed a personality on screen. On screen personality is quite different from my real self.
Ajay: That's reflected all in Saaz Bahu and Sazish episodes you did. That is reflected in the Ray film that you have done on Netflix. Enactment that you have done and I am proud of you. Any pleasant memories of your acting on in films or in theater?
Atika: In theater, I do have this very pleasant memory. There was a play called Supra Ka Sapna about poor classes. My friend Jamie and I were a part of a theater group, Behroop, while I was studying at IIMC. It is called Indian Institute of Mass Communication and it is just situated right inside the JNU campus. In the morning, I used to do the classes and then we used to walk to the the campus for rehearsals with the theatre group in the JNU. We did a lot of work together. I did stage theatre I did nukad natak.
Ajay. You have been a charm when it comes to a talk show with top Bollywood actors. Tell us about that.
Atika. Well, you know very early in my career I have been a very lucky person with the kind of people I met in my career. I am totally self-made I do not think anybody pushed me up, I did everything by myself. I spent a lot of time with Dilip Kumar Sahab, Saira Bano used to call me over to her house every week. That was my first brush with class and culture and adab. At that time, I was interviewing tall personalities. I was young when I joined the industry. Maateno my friend used to call me (Bhudi khoopdi) so I credit the people whom with I interacted early on in my career.
Ajay. How this idea got germinated that you thought of Urdu poetry with such legends. Javaid Akhtar Sahab, Dilip Sahab, they all have appreciated your poetry. Who is your inspiration?
Atika. You know I grew up reading Kaifi Azmi and Ali Jaffri’s work. When I used to live in a Meerut another feather in my cap is that my father though he worked in the government culture. We ended up renting houses in army cantonment. I was groomed by all kind of people from very rich and diverse culture.
Ajay. Could you please share some of your Urdu verses of communal harmony.
Atika. You know I have traveled far and wide. I will tell you India is most beautiful country in the World.
(Mere ankhou nea Makkah b dekha hai, Mathura b.
Mera purvajou nea eid b banayii, aur diwali bhi.
Mandirou k raastou mai raftaar deemi ki hum nea, masjid k sedhiyon pai rukk k azan sunii.
Esayon ke schoolou main taleem payi, Sikhou ke gharou mai zandgi bitayi.
Mere dostou ke farisat mai rang both hai.
Mera duniya ke dariou mai tarang bahut hai.
Mera khanea mai mera Mazhab saaf nhi dekhta .
Mera ghar ke darwazea par mazhab nahi rehta.
Kayamat ka intezaar kya krna hum watnov .
Aani wali nasel ki taraf apna faraz aaj he nibhate hain.
Ajay: Wonderful. You joined Star News in 2003. Tell us about that.
Atika. I am very blessed you know the big thing is I always believe diversity in life. I also believe in diversity of work. During my professional life I used to do editing, shooting. I never restricted myself to a single work. Aap Javed Sahab ko dekhayea, MP bhi thea , singing bhi karte hain aur zindagi bhi enjoy karte hain.
Ajay. What is your future plan?
Atika. Politics is not the way for me I tried thinking my way through it. I could not wrap my head around politics. Though I have lot of friends in politics, I will not join them.
Ajay. What is your take on India hosting G20?
Atika. India is the most beautiful country. When I sit with people and tell them I am India they will sit with you they will try to know more from me. Sky is the limit. I do want to get back into acting. Irfan khan was a dear friend. I have spent so much time with him. He has brought lot on to the table.
Ajay. Atika Farooqui ka news channel kya kehta hai?
Atika. I have stopped watching news channels. I get my news from in shorts.
Ajay. As we come to the end part of the interview. I will request Atika Farooqui to sing any favorite song for us.
Atika. Jeene issi ka naam hai, jeena isi ka naam…
Ajay. Thank you very much for joining us.