A Minute With: Zoya Akhtar

June 3, 2015

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Zoya Akhtar believes in looking good – at least when it comes to her films. Two films old, with a third on the way, Akhtar’s style of making films about places and people she is familiar with has earned her acclaim from critics and cinema-lovers.

Her third film, a family drama set aboard a luxury cruise liner, about a wealthy family that is celebrating an anniversary, is set for release this week. Akhtar, 42, spoke to Reuters about “Dil Dhadakne Do”, (“Let the Heart Beat”) why she shot aboard a ship and why she never compares herself with brother and fellow director Farhan Akhtar.

Q: It seems like your method when making a movie is to write what you know. Is that a fair assessment?
A: Well, kind of. At the same time, there are things you don’t know, which you research and find out about. If I went by that credo, then I could never write a science fiction film or a film about going to outer space because you don’t know these things. I don’t necessarily agree with that.

Q: Your films feel like they come from real life.
A: Yeah, that is my space, but having said that, if I want to make a movie about the IPL and I know nothing about it, I will research it and read between the lines and find out everything about it. Like “The Wolf of Wall Street” for example – what did Martin Scorcese know about Wall Street? So you research the subject and you try and find the human story in it.

“Luck by Chance” was where I grew up – I didn’t even know the things I knew about this industry. But the other two films…. This one, for example is a family drama, and it is not about my family. It is about things that I read, things I see. This is just observation, and how you put it all together. And I can people-watch for hours. I could be in a corner at a party, sitting on a couch, doing nothing but staring at people. That’s a great pastime. But stories interest me, and I like drama. That’s my favourite genre.zo3

My films will always have a certain amount of humour, a bittersweet quality, because that’s how I write. It’s always a germ of an idea that becomes a film. Like, I want to make a film about a sibling relationship at the core, or I want to make a film about three boys in a car or I want to make a film about struggling in the film industry and does your self-esteem affect your future.

Q: Bollywood has for long been obsessed with the big, fat happy family. Are you turning that on its head with “Dil Dhadakne Do”?
A: I don’t get the big happy family… I am not used to that. I don’t relate to that. It doesn’t move me. I can’t identify myself or people I know there. I can relate to films like “Khatta Meetha”, where everyone is a little dysfunctional. That’s my kind of family. I like that genre, and I wanted to make a family drama and that’s what I did. If it turns the genre on its head, then that happened inadvertently – I didn’t set out to do it.

Q: So what did you set out to do?
A: I set out to make a film to make a film about what family means to me. In our society, where we put such premium on everything being perfect, and everything being okay, and nobody should be able to say anything about us… I mean, forget about it! No one is perfect and no family is without issues. It does not matter.

Q: Why choose a luxury cruise as a setting?
A: Because I needed to get all my characters to come together, and you want them to have access to the same place. You could take them to a hill station or a bungalow, but a ship was new. It was also a metaphor for family – you can’t just get off. You are stuck with it. It made sense.  I cannot put a ship in Versova, so there had to be travel. When you see the film, you’ll know why.

zo2Q: You first wanted to make this film with Kareena Kapoor and Ranbir, and then your cast went through a lot of changes. When so many casting changes take place, does your script also change?
A: That’s an interesting question, but no, the script doesn’t change. Your characterizations may change sometimes. If I wrote” Zindagi na Milegi Dobara”, and I took boys in their early twenties, it would be a different film – they would do different things and they wouldn’t able to afford some of things we ultimately showed. At the end of the day, these guys were working professionals who were doing well for themselves, so it is not a stretch of the imagination for them to take a trip to Spain – they can afford it.

Q: Do you compare yourself with your brother?
A: I don’t compare. I can compare film to film, but not director to director. Also Farhan can make any film, in any genre.  I am still figuring out if I am that versatile. All my films are dramas – I haven’t made a war film or a thriller. I am more similar in my space than he is – I find that impressive. I don’t want to do anything just because people should think that I am versatile.  It has to come naturally to me. Making a film means devoting two years of your life, so I cannot do anything that bores me.

(Editing by Robert MacMillan. Follow Shilpa on Twitter @shilpajay and Robert @bobbymacReports | This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission.)

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mice intervies….honest opnions espressed by joya..

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