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Shabana sidesteps Lata controversy

March 13, 2003 19:46 IST

Actress-MP Shabana Azmi refused point blank to explain her attack on the parliamentary record of legendary playback singer Lata Mangeshkar, saying the matter is buried and "I don't want to talk about it".

Both women are members of the Rajya Sabha and Mangeshkar was taken aback by Azmi's observation that she [Mangeshkar] mostly remains absent from Parliament.

Clearly distressed by what she saw as a personal attack, Mangeshkar issued a statement to the media: "When I was offered the prestigious position, I had expressed my inability to be constantly present in Parliament. I don't understand why Shabana Azmi or anyone else needs to pull me up for it!

"If she was really my well-wisher and really respected me as she claims, why didn't she ring me up or write a letter instead of going to the press?

"Instead, I'm berated and ridiculed like a schoolgirl for not attending classes. I'm answerable to no individual. And people have no business pointing accusing fingers at me. Why such hostility towards me? I don't understand."

Azmi, who is on a month's visit to London for a retrospective of her films, has used her trip to lecture at Oxford and London universities and speak on International Women's Day at the invitation of London Mayor Ken Livingstone.

Asked if she would explain the circumstances in which she criticised Mangeshkar, an embarrassed Azmi said, "I really wouldn't even want to speak about it. I'm not going to respond to this, ok?

"I am not going to respond to it, it's finished. It's buried, the matter is over. When I say I don't want to talk about it, I don't want to talk about it, the matter is over."

When told that she was a public figure who should expect to be questioned about her statements, Azmi said, "It's perfectly legitimate for you to ask me and perfectly legitimate for me to say I don't want to respond."

Azmi is returning to India on Saturday.

Shyam Bhatia in London