Director Zoya Akhtar on Bombay Talkies,and the movies she loves and the ones she makes.
The first film you ever wanted to make was Kismet Talkies,which didnt take off,and now youve made Bombay Talkies,which is a celebration of the 100 years of Indian cinema. Destiny can be weird,right?
True. I feel fantastic though on various counts. Im just two films old (Luck By Chance and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara) and Ive been given a chance to pay my tribute to our cinema in its 100th commemorative year. To be present and relevant is such a wonderful feeling. Also,quite flattering. I also got to work with three friends Anurag Kashyap,Dibakar Banerjee and Karan Johar. Im the most junior of the lot and to be sharing director credit with them is super.
So what is your film about?
This film has been waiting to be made for 12 years. Reema (Kagti) and I wrote a film about a little boy who danced to Helens songs. It was titled Zoom Zoom Darling. Somehow,we never got to make it since the market is not receptive of short films. When the idea of Bombay Talkies came my way,I dusted this old story and updated it. Its an unlikely fairytale and we have Katrina Kaif playing herself in the film with two children,Khushi and Naman,who are incredibly talented. We shot the film in 10 days on a budget of Rs 1.5 crore. Even if its a short,I treated it as my third film. Bombay Talkies is an ode to the audience.
How do you view the work of your co-directors?
In my opinion,Karan makes the best Hindi commercial cinema. He does the big numbers,the larger-than-life feel,the set pieces so well and he really manages to move the audience. His fan base is massive. Dibakars films have a searing quality and he knows his craft so well the way he directs his actors,his gritty take on life and the subtle world he creates. I applaud the way Dibakar can say so much without overdoing it. Anurag,of course,I adore. Black Friday is one of my favourite films. What Anurag does,I could never do. I know nothing of his world. Hes so prolific and has such original style. You can give him Rs 5 crore or even Rs 5 and he will make a film look good.
In perspective,what do you think youve brought to Indian cinema?
I havent done anything yet its just been two films. I think its best to do the accounts at the end of the career.
Since it is the 100 years of our cinema,name some films that have left an indelible impression on you as a filmmaker?
There are so many,but off my head I can think of Madhumati,Pyaasa,Sholay,Shakti,Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro,Mirch Masala and Shyam Benegals Kalyug.
What do you think is that one thing that needs to change in our films?
We need to stop justifying so much and need to understand that film is a visual medium so we dont need to make everything so verbose. Its high time we show and not tell. I also think we need to back off
from the excessive use of background music. Theres just too much of it in the films these days. This also stems from the insecurity that the film is not dramatic or funny enough the audience will understand if comedy is happening,you dont need to have a laughter track to underline it.
Out of all the classics,is there a film that you want to re-interpret,like Farhan (Akhtar) did with Don?
Not really. Not yet. I havent thought about it actually.
What is the toughest part about film direction?
You have to stay fit because its a very exhausting job. As it is,you are operating on adrenaline,so you need to keep your energy up. Direction also requires intensive people management. You cant be the same with everyone because in this town,everyone is a star,so youve got to be good at handling people.