Connecting Dignitaries Column


Dr. Afshan Hashmi
Dr. Afshan Hashmi


Dr.Afshan Hashmi  is in conversation with a new Bollywood actor Mohammad Ali Shah also known as Bollywood’s new Major Saheb!!!-By Dr.Afshan Hashmi

Bollywood and Hollywood always inspires me!!!!

Anything related to these creative cinema/film industries have led me to be more inspired and I  admire the creativity of this industry. It leads an impact on me to be more creative and innovative.

Please listen and share this beautiful chat I had with a new Bollywood actor:

Dr Afshan Hashmi is in conversation with Bollywood artist Mohammad Ali Shah 09/17 by Dr Afshan Hashmi | Entertainment Podcasts.

Dr.Afshan Hashmi as an invited speaker in a non-profit organization in Washington DC
Dr.Afshan Hashmi as an invited speaker in a non-profit organization in Washington DC


Enjoy friends and would love to hear from you all with lots of comments!!!


Dr.Afshan Hashmi




Dr.Afshan Hashmi with filmmaker Kavery Kaul

Its an honor for me to write about Kavery Kaul.

Here is the beautiful conversation I had with Kavery:


1.What inspired you to become a director and producer of documentaries?

I’ve wanted to make films ever since I was a young girl.  Even before I saw documentaries,  I remember seeing Sambizanga, a film  that burst with enormous commitment to both art and social issues.  And it was directed by an African, a woman, Safi Faye.  I wanted to do what she was doing.  So I sought out the films of Indian directors like Satyajit Ray and Shyam Benegal as well as the directors of the French New Wave. I admired the passion and energy of their work, their need to tell stories that might get overlooked otherwise. And I couldn’t imagine doing anything else with my life.
2.How does the documentary film style enable you to convey your messages effectively?

Like fiction, nonfiction filmmaking is about storytelling, except that it combines creativity and authenticity. That’s what gives documentaries their power. You take a strand of reality, hold it up to the light. You explore its complexity, shape your own interpretation of it.  My goal is to engage the audience emotionally and intellectually.  Often ordinary people can offer extraordinary insights that hold resonance for many audiences. Working with real people, a filmmaker can open up surprising new worlds for viewers, and new ways of looking at those worlds.
And documentary filmmaking has evolved over the years. It’s an exciting time to be a part of this movement. Especially in the U.S., it’s wonderful to see a richness of form and content that pushes the boundaries of the genre.
3. Being an Indian by origin are you planning to make documentaries about India?

Yes. I’m currently developing a new documentary Streetcar to Kolkata, which takes Southern writer Fatima Shaik, an African-American Christian, from New Orleans, the city of her birth, to India, the homeland of her Bengali Muslim grandfather who left Kolkata for the U.S. in 1893. He was one of the first Indians in America. It’s a story about India and America, Christianity and Islam, New Orleans and Kolkata.

Like most of my work, it’s a project that interweaves and layers many themes, many textures. In fact, all my films are character-driven stories about the human experience.  They’ve been shown in India and to Indian diaspora audiences worldwide.  Back Walking Forward, about recovery from brain injury, for example, is shot in Brooklyn, but Indian audiences respond to it because brain injury doesn’t distinguish between Indian families and American families.  The themes are universal.

4. How much time does it usually take to make your documentaries?

I often work for a few years on a project. My documentaries take time because I work from the inside out. I like to get to know my characters and let them get to know me before I introduce the camera into their lives. I feel certain that’s the way to get the best material once I start shooting.  In the end, that’s what draws the viewer into any given subject — not just a good idea, but a well-told story.

5. What are some challenges and triumphs of this business?

It’s a privilege working with the people who are the subjects of my films. It becomes an unforgettable journey we take together. It’s also very satisfying knowing that through my films, I introduce audiences to people they may never meet otherwise. And the process is ongoing because films are longlasting and farreaching.

The biggest challenge is always funding. Every time you make another film, you have to convince people of the value of the arts, that it’s important to inform, engage, inspire, provoke – the way documentaries do. They have a tremendous impact that can’t be measured by statistics alone.

6.What would you like to say to the readers of my blog “Connecting with the Dignitaries” who are interested in creating a documentary of their own?

Find an idea you care about deeply, something exciting and meaningful to you. Make sure it’s a subject you can live with for a while, because filmmaking is a lengthy and demanding process. But don’t let anyone stop you. And be true to yourself and to your subject.
To know more about Kavery Kaul please visit the following website:


Farhan Mujib seen here with his work of art at his exhibition at Apparao Galleries, Triveni Kala Sangam, New Delhi, India.

I am honored to write about  the famous artist of India  Farhan Mujib who taught Physics for more than thirty years at  my Almamater Aligarh Muslim University(AMU). An exhibition of Farhan Mujib’s work was being held  from 20-30, March 2010 at Apparao Galleries, Garden Theatre, Triveni Kala Sangam, New Delhi India. I was mesmerized seeing the work of art, of  Mujib.  A physicist-turned- artist Mujib had beautiful  paper collages in the exhibition which had Bollywood stars in some of his work exhibited in the exhibition. We could see Bipasha Basu, Priyanka Chopra, to name a few.

Please enjoy the beautiful and interesting conversation I had with the artist:

1.      What inspired you to become an artist when all your

Farhan Mujib seen here with Dr.Afshan N.Hashmi at his exhibition at Apparao Galleries, Triveni Kala Sangam, New Delhi, India.

life you have been physicist?

You probably do not know this but I always used to paint, even as a child.  I chose physics as a career because when I was growing up, art was not considered a career option for someone from a middle class home.  I was my parents’ only child and they, like thousands wanted something more secure for me.  Though I must say my mother always encouraged me.  My father felt that art would help me develop my personality but no more.

All my life I have painted – pencil, crayons, oil paints, water colours, paper.  It has been with me always.  Seven years ago some people saw my work and through those I met the owner of the gallery who represents me, and here I am.

2.      How do you decide to explore your creative capabilities on the collage?

That’s a tough one.  At one level, I am sitting with hundreds of images and pieces of paper with the aim of creating some order out of it and creating something that would give me pleasure.  I feel almost like a child starting a game.

At another level, there are memories, thoughts and feelings in my mind, indirectly influencing what I do.  The sources are hidden from me and I cannot connect in any straight forward way to what is visible to you.

I am never conscious of how others will perceive my work; I create for myself.  It is a dialogue with my own self.  At the end of it, I need to feel I have done what I wanted to.

I do not know what you mean by “Creative capabilities”. I am a person who just wants to make a picture that feels right to me and comes out the way I want it to.  But I should say one thing:  its very hard work and I need to try again and again till I get it right.

3.      Can you talk about how were you inspired to work on Bollywood theme in a combination with interiors of homes and the various objects that can be found in house, arranged in a formal stylistic and symmetrical way?

What I see around me makes an impression on me.  Film posters, films, stars are a part of every Indian’s life who lives in a city, owns a TV and travels in a car.  They are everywhere.  It is only natural that they become a part of your aesthetics.  For me, one of the most exciting aspects of being an Indian is to be a part of a culture that is mixture of old and the new, of ugly and sublime, of innocence and wisdom, of transient and eternal – all at the same time.  The real life too is a kind of a dynamic collage of images changing all the time.

4.      Can you talk about your piece of art entitled “Room with Blue Walls ” ,”Still Life with Kites” and “The Entrance”.

The religious images in India are very characteristic of people’s attitudes and for me, they are absolutely beautiful.  I must point out that I am totally irreligious but very fascinated by the aesthetics of religious iconography.  What you see in The room with blue walls is my love for these images.  It’s a tribute to those artists and craft persons whose lives are devoted to bringing joy and beauty into our lives, our homes.  In a way, all my work is an acknowledgement of that.

I love Indian kites.  I think they are really beautiful objects and seeing them always give me deep pleasure.  They also remind me of my childhood.  There are kites in many of my works and I suspect they will continue to be.  Whenever you see a kite flying, you know there is child there who is happy.  It is a wonderful feeling.  The Entrance acknowledges the art of painting on glass.  This is an old art, still alive though the glass paintings shown in my work are from the past.

5.      How much time it takes to make a collage like “Room with Blue Walls”?

This painting remained unfinished for several months and I completed it only a few months back.  I do not generally make big pictures.  This is unusual for me.

6.      What would you like to say to the readers of my blog “Connecting with the Dignitaries” on your latest show held at Garden Theatre at Triveni Kala Sangam in New Delhi, India.

I wish more of your readers could see my work and tell me what they thought of it.   I wish to say to those who have a secret passion that they should remain connected with it and not to wait as long as I did to make that secret passion public.


Bollywood meets Hollywood via Peepli Live

Its an honor for me to write about this dignitary Anusha Rizvi who is my sister-in-law, congratulations Anusha for such a grand success. We all are very proud of you.

Anusha Rizvi’s debut film “Peepli Live” has been selected in the world cinema narrative competition section of Sundance Film Festival. The list was announced recently by new team of festival director John Cooper and programming director Trevor Groth. The 2010 Sundance Film Festival runs January 21-31,2010 in Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden and Sundance, Utah.

Here is Sundance Channel website:

PeepliLive has been produced by Aamir Khan productions and Ronnie Screwvala.

Anusha’s film takes a satirical look at the predicament of a poor farmer who creates a media frenzy when, beset with debt. Film’s cast includes names like Raghubir Yadav, Shalini Vatsa, Farukh Jaffer, Omkar Das and Nawazuddin Siddiqui.

Please see the film’s website:

Please see the link to Peepli Live in Sundance Festival:

Anusha Rizvi graduated with a history degree from St. Stephen’s College, University of Delhi and holds a diploma in human rights from the University of Jamia, New Delhi. She started her career in television production with India’s premiere television news company, NDTV. After five years, she turned independent and helped produce and direct two public-service documentaries commissioned by the BBC. Peepli Live, which she wrote in 2005, is her first feature film. Aamir khan wrote on his blog that: ” This is quite an achievement as Sundance is a festival which is extremely selective about which films it accepts. In fact, if I am not mistaken, it is the first Indian feature film to make it to the competition section there”. Please see link to Aamir Khan’s blog:

Please see the You tube Link of Aamir Khan’s press conference:


Dr. Farhan Nizami a world- renowned visionary India has produced: 

Dr. Farhan Nizami is a  world -famous dignitary India has produced and we all are  very proud of his achievements. I have the honor of knowing this dignitary since childhood. I have learned a lot from his vast knowledge.

Farhan Nizami CBE (Commander of the British Empire), is the Prince of Wales Fellow in the study of the Islamic World, Magdalen College, Oxford and the Founder Director of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies ( He read Modern History at Wadham College. From 1983 he has been a Fellow of St Cross College: Rothman’s Fellow in Muslim History, subsequently Fellow in Islamic Studies, and currently Emeritus Fellow. He is a member of the Faculties of History and Oriental Studies at the University of Oxford. He is Founder Editor of the Journal of Islamic Studies (OUP, 1990-); Series Editor, Makers of Islamic Civilization (OUP, 2004-). He specializes in Muslim social and intellectual history. (

The Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies is a recognized Independent Centre of the University of Oxford. It was established in 1985 to encourage the scholarly study of Islam and the Islamic world. HRH The Prince of Wales is the Patron of the Centre, which is governed by a Board of Trustees consisting of scholars and statesmen from different parts of the world, alongside representatives of the University of Oxford ( Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, is a world-recognized academic centre of excellence, attracting visiting scholars from all parts of the Muslim world. Dr. Nizami is working on a atlas of Muslim social and intellectual history forthcoming from Oxford University Press.


Javed Akhtar a famous  Hindi and Urdu  poet, lyricist and scriptwriter from India:

Dr.Afshan Hashmi seen here with Javed Akhtar
Dr. Afshan Hashmi seen here singing with Javed Akhtar AMU official song.

Recently I had the opportunity to meet famous  Hindi and Urdu poet, lyricist and scriptwriter from India Javed Akhtar. Javed Akhtar  was in Washington DC on the invitation of Aligarh  Alumni Association of Washington DC.

Javed Akhtar took admission in a well known school of Aligarh, UP, India  Minto Circle. The school is part of the  famous Aligarh Muslim University(AMU). He completed his matriculation from AMU. One of my very close friend Dr. Syed M. Naseem, in Washington DC,  is Javed Akhtar’s childhood friend. Javed Akhtar and Dr. Naseem went to same school Minto Circle in Aligarh and were classmates from fourth to tenth class. Col. Basheer Zaidi was then the Vice-Chancellor of AMU and he recruited Mr. Qaiser Zaidi  to form ”Children’s Club of Minto Circle for Non-Resident Students”, and Javed Akhtar and Dr. Naseem were very active members of this club. After completing his matriculation, Akhtar entered and began attending Saifiya College in Bhopal where he earned a B.A. The highly respected Urdu poet  Majaz was his maternal uncle. Majaz Lakhnawi  known as Majaz was a romantic revolutionary poet of India. Majaz real name was Asrar ul Haq and he composed poems  in Urdu. Majaz is also famous for his composition of the official song of AMU.

Being an alumnus of the AMU myself,  I also had the opportunity to sing the famous official song of the university termed as ”University Tarana”, alongwith Javed Akhtar at the poetry program organized by the Aligarh Alumni Association Washington DC. I thank Aligarh Alumni Association Washington DC for giving me this opportunity. I also thank Dr.Abdullah Abdullah one of the founders of the Aligarh Alumni Association Washington DC for bringing Javed Akhtar for this show in Washington DC.

Please see one of the first verses which is in Urdu language of  the official song of the AMU as follows:

” ye meraa chaman hai meraa chaman, maiN apne chaman kaa bulbul huuN
sarshaar-e-nigaah-e-nargis huuN, paa-bastaa-e-gesuu-sumbul huuN

(chaman : garden; bulbul : nightingale; sarshaar : overflowing, soaked; nigaah : sight; nargis :flower, Narcissus; paa-bastaa : embedded; gesuu : tresses; sumbul : a plant of sweet odor)”

Javed Akhtar was born on January 17, 1945, in Gwalior State now Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh India. Some of his most successful work was done in the late 1970s and 1980s with Salim Khan as half of the script-writing duo credited as Salim-Javed. Some famous Bollywood movies written as part of the Salim-Javed team are Zanjeer, Deewaar, Sholay Yaadon Ki Baaraat Trishul to name a few.

Akhtar continues to be prominent in Bollywood and is a sought-after lyricist. Javed Akhtar was awarded the  Padma Shri by the Government of India in 1999 and received the Padma Bhushan  in 2007. Javed Akhtar has won the prestigious Filmfare Award fourteen times, seven times for Best Script, and seven times for Best Lyrics for ‘ Ek Ladki Ko Dekha…’ in ‘1942-A Love Story’, ‘Ghar Se Nikalte Hi….’ for ‘Papa Kahte Hain’, ‘Sandese Aate Hain….’ for ‘Border’, Panchhi Nadiyan Pawan Ke Jhonke…’ for ‘Refugee’, ‘Radha Kaise Na Jale’ for ‘Lagaan’, ‘Kal Ho Na Ho’ for ‘Kal Ho Na Ho’ and ‘Tere Liye…’ for ‘Veer-Zaara’.

His father Jan Nisar Akhtar was also a famous Urdu poet. Javed’s original name was Jadoo, taken from a line in a poem written by his father – Lamba, lamba kisi jadoo ka fasana hoga”. He was given an official name of Javed since it was the closest to the word ”jadoo.

Please Enjoy the University official Song Video made by the Department of  Mass Communication, AMU, Aligarh (UP), India at AMU. The song is in Urdu language:



Swine Flu – a triumph for science

Source:    (A Blog by Dr.Shahid Jameel: Dr Jameel is a world renowed scientist from India) 

(This article is published with permission from Dr.Shahid Jameel)

(Dr.Jameel’s Scientific Interest:   Dr.Jameel’s research  deals with the biology and pathogenesis of hepatitis E virus (HEV) and HIV, especially the mechanisms through which small viral proteins modulate the host cell environment. (

Influenza pandemics happen about three times in a century. At least this is what 20th century history teaches us. There was the big Spanish Flu of 1918 (which did’nt really start from Spain), which infected an estimated third of the human population at that time and killed 40 to 50 million people. Then, there were the Asian Flu of 1957 and the Hong Kong Flu of 1968, each killing an estimated 1 million persons each.

Historically we were due for another big one. Is this the one? The swine flu (again a misnomer) started in Mexico around March of this year and has gone around the world, prompting WHO to raise its alert to Level 6, the first time in over 30 years. As of September 6, 2009, this disease has infected over 277,000 persons and killed at least 3200 (see If you believe that in infectious diseases you only see the tip of the iceberg, there are many more infections and deaths that have gone unrecorded. And we are just getting into the flu season in the Northern hemisphere.

So far this virus appears to be mild. It has killed about 1% of infected people, many of whom had underlying problems such as asthma, diabetes, hypertension and obesity. Yes, obesity! Thats a new one positively identified for this virus. But will it remain mild? No one knows. History tells us otherwise.

The ‘Spanish flu’ started as a mild infection in the summer of 1918, spread rapidly and the virus got a lot of chance to mutate. By November of 1918, the flu season in the Northern hemisphere, it became highly virulent and killed with disdain. We are into a similar situation with this one. It has already gone around the world, including Australia and South America (Southern hemisphere) in their flu season, and is getting a lot of chance to transmit and mutate. Health agencies are already preparing for the ‘second wave’. See

Are we then sitting ducks? Or pigs to be more appropriate for this one! Not really. Health systems are much better prepared to handle these emergencies today than they were 90 years ago. The agent for Spanish flu took over 11 years to identify. The ‘swine flu’ virus was identified in days.

This virus, technically called Influenza A H1N1 (2009), is a triple reassortant. Scientists have traced its 8 different gene segments to influenza viruses that have circulated in humans, birds and pigs (see: Garten et al, Science vol 325, pages 197-201; July 10, 2009). The cartoon below illustrates the lineage of different gene segments in this new virus.

The surface proteins of the virus – the hemeagglutinin (H1) and the neuraminidase (N1), are both of swine origin. This makes the virus new to the human population, not recognized by our immune system. This is obvious from the efficient manner in which it is transmitting between humans.

Every adversity has a lesson. The lesson here is how investments in biomedical science are paying up in unexpected ways. It took just days to identify this virus and weeks to come up with its origins. This is truly the power of molecular biology, built up over years with the Human Genome Project as a very visible high point. Many have criticized that megaproject, but consider that it enabled the development of technology, which is making all this possible. When SARS came around in 2003, the sequencing of its genome was also undertaken in facilities set up for the HGP. Chinese scientists sequenced the SARS virus genome in a facility built to sequence the rice genome! That is a great off-target effect and a lesson for science funders and planners.

Every day dozens of swine flu sequences are being uploaded in public databases (

Many scientific journals, normally driven by commercial interests, have made swine flu papers “open access”. This uninhibited access to knowledge and the power of internet is bringing the technical prowess of big science closer to where it matters – the hot zone.

Flu figure