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LOVE LINKS – The Sound Of Friendship ft. Imaad Shah & Saba Azad

The Gucci x Runway Square anthology ‘LOVE LINKS puts a spotlight on lesser known, yet enduring bonds shared by known faces. This is the story of Imaad Shah and Saba Azad.

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What started as an actor-director equation is now a friendship that has seen memorable events and tours across the world. Behind the inimitable energy on stage, the visually captivating performances, and auditory surprises of Madboy/Mink is a bond that’s as true and uplifting as the music they make. Yet, Saba and Imaad’s relationship is a celebration of each other’s differences that make for the missing pieces of the puzzle in their musical journeys. Her tunes need his technical prowess, his knowledge needs her instincts, she preps for the stage in silence, while he rehearses and relies on food – to deliver a performance together that offers a peek into their ever-stretching horizons; their music grows, and so does their friendship. They’re as much cheerleaders to each other’s big and small victories, as they are a part of it.

As an ode to love, and a celebration of Gucci’s first-ever fine jewelry collection launch in India – Link To Love, we explore the many different bonds shared amongst and as friends, father and daughter, artists, collaborators, or with our own selves through Runway Square X Gucci LOVE LINKS Anthology wherein we tell five beautiful stories to honour these connections. We live multiple lives in a lifetime, but love was, is, and always will be there – and that’s why this anthology puts a spotlight on the lesser-known, yet enduring connections shared by these known faces. And this is the story of Imaad Shah and Saba Azad.

Runway Square: How would you say your approach to making music differs? Or is it similar to an extent?

Imaad Shah: I know that Saba has loads of natural musical talent which I definitely lack, so I try to make up for it with heart, soul, and hard work.  

Saba Azad: Imaad is technically sound and more educated than I am in the field, while my approach is entirely instinctual. Often there is a sound in my head and I struggle to translate it, but Imaad can do it in seconds. He of course also has the knowledge of instruments behind him but, all in all, it’s a process that complements each other.

RSQ: Can you recall one memorable stage performance of Madboy/Mink?

Imaad Shah: I can recall so many. Some of the most memorable ones might have been in Oslo, Imphal, and Alsisar.

Saba Azad: I think performing in another country whose culture you’re unfamiliar with is such a rush because you don’t know your audiences at all and they are often not familiar with your music either. There was this one gig at Khartoum Contemporary Art Center in Oslo, it was packed to the brim with the kind of audience who knows their music. I remember how over the course of the gig we won them over. It was a fantastic gig for us because one of our favourite musicians ever was in the audience. And the gigs we collaborated with Asha Puthli for were also for the books.

RSQ: Would you say you connected as individuals first or as musicians?

Imaad Shah: Both of those happened at the same time, I think. Our first connection was actually as actor-director. We met and started spending time together first on the play ‘Lovepuke’ which Saba directed and we both acted in.

RSQ: Outside the stage, what kind of friendship do you share?

Imaad Shah: I think we have a really genuine, easy friendship. We hang, watch films a lot, while Saba eats ice cream.

Saba Azad: Imaad is my best friend and family, and I’m so thankful for him in my life. We’ll be in each other’s lives making new things and pissing each other off, even when we’re old and grey.

RSQ: Even after all these years, do you continue to have creative friction or is the process seamless?

Imaad Shah: All that is part of the process of creating something as a band. Differences of opinion are healthy, and we don’t run away from them. We still live in a democracy, I hope!

Saba Azad: It would be no fun without friction, would it? We are two highly opinionated people and disagreements only make for better music. It makes you question yourself and come up with better ideas.

Imaad Shah Saba Azad Runway Square X Gucci Love Links
Saba Azad & Imaad Shah dressed in Gucci Overture collection and Link To Love Jewelry.

RSQ: How have you seen Imaad grow both as individuals as well as musicians over the years of your collaboration?

Saba Azad: Imaad is constantly learning, constantly evolving, and teaching himself his art. He has really taken his skill to another level just by persistence and practice. I’ve seen him grow in magnificent ways into a confident producer with such a distinct style and aesthetic. I can recognize an Imaad tune from a mile and yet, he has a handle on so many different styles in his own incredibly unique way; nothing sounds like something you may have heard before. I also believe Imaad is a genius lyricist. His head thinks in ways I haven’t ever seen before. So lucky I get to make art with this person.

RSQ: What speaks to your creative soul about Saba/Imaad?

Imaad Shah: Her instinctive command of art forms, her wealth of experience in life, her empathy for all living beings, and lots of other stuff.

Saba Azad: His sense of wonder and need to educate himself is insatiable, his creative instincts, and the way his head thinks, whether it’s music or writing scripts or lyrics or even his acting, is unlike anyone I know. His is such a unique mind, one that needs to be protected at all costs. I see big things coming from him in both the fields of music and cinema. I’m just thankful I get to watch his growth and journey live.

RSQ: What is Saba/Imaad’s one idiosyncrasy as a musician that you adore?

Imaad Shah: Her love for melancholic music.

Saba Azad: He is a bag of surprises, this one. My favorite will be his way of disappearing a minute before we are about to go on stage. At first, I used to panic, but I learned that he always somehow magically appears when it’s time to go on.

RSQ: What do you think are Saba/Imaad’s strengths as a musician and performer? And weaknesses?

Imaad Shah: She understands and listens to so many styles of music, she sings beautifully in many languages (special mention: she’s amazing in Punjabi), and she has a natural ability as a singer and musician. This very thing might also be a weakness, as she gets things quite easily.

Saba Azad: He’s an electric performer. You can’t take your eyes off him when he’s on stage; he reminds me of the biggies from the 60s and 70s. His style is so unique, he knows his music. Also, nothing phases him – you’ll never see him panic no matter what happens. Live music comes with its fair share of technical difficulties, but he is always calm in the face of problems. And weaknesses? Nah, not this one. He’s the backbone of our band, the glue that keeps it all together!

RSQ: How does Saba/Imaad prep for a live performance?

Imaad Shah: Saba, having studied Odissi dance very seriously as well, actually has a very clear routine in the lead-up to the show. She prepares and gets ready in her own way, and likes silence around. It’s her thing.

Saba Azad: The basics! Rehearsal and food!

RSQ: How would you describe Saba/Imaad as a friend?

Imaad Shah: The definition of a true friend. She’s a very, very real and genuine person. I can always rely on her to be honest with me about my work and life.

Saba Azad: He is the most reliable, kind, and honest friend I have. He knows me better than I do on most days. And he has this ability to see the best in people and situations, no matter how terrible they may seem – which is so admirable. They don’t make ‘em like this one anymore.

RSQ: Does it ever get hard to draw a line between the friendship and creative connection you share and the professional demands of being a band?

Saba Azad: Of course! Try being in a band with your best friend! It’s all too close to home and lines get blurred all the time, personal things come in the middle of creative differences but that’s bound to happen when you work so closely on so many different mediums. Even so, I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. Over the years, I think we have found a way to create and exist in our own crazy way, which complements our individual lunacy. Imaad is my partner in many crimes, and I’m so thankful for our differences.

RSQ: How has the journey been so far for Madboy/Mink and how do you envision the future?

Imaad Shah: We’ve been finishing a lot of music. The last year sent us into a zone with having to focus on some of our film work, but we’re now back in the studio finishing a bunch of music that we’ll be releasing in the near future. Recent events have taken us in a political yet playful direction, I guess.

Saba Azad: It’s been full of surprises and adventures, and I have a hunch it will continue to be.


Editor + Creative Director: Charu Gaur
Photographer + Videographer + Art Director: Pretika Menon
Stylist: Ekta Rajani
Junior Editor + Creative Assistant: Karishma Gulyani
Make-up + Hair + Manicure: Jean-Claude Biguine India
Text: Shubhanjana Das
Styling Assistant: Swity Shinde
Photography Assistant + Photo Editor: Karan Sarnaik
Music: JBABE / Third Culture
Set Designer:  Jangu Sethna
Production House: Anomaly Production Pvt. Ltd.
Artworks: Shaista Syed / Kitsuné India

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