Director Homi Adajania on the complexity of his screen characters, his connection with Deepika Padukone and the films he hopes to direct
Being Cyrus, Cocktail and Finding Fanny are three very different movies. So who is the real Homi?
The real Homi is Finding Fanny. Even Being Cyrus was the real me, but the film is not relevant to who I am at this point of time. With Finding Fanny, I wanted to go back to a place where time stood still. The idea for the film came from a newspaper report about an Italian postman who was arrested for not delivering even a single letter. I got thinking — what if a man had proposed to a woman in a letter which she never got and he spent his whole life in misery because he felt he had been rejected? That’s how this movie took shape. Five friends embark on a 20-minute road trip in search of love and end up lost for two days.
What kind of characters inhabit your mind?
Human behaviour fascinates me. The way we trivialise the bigger picture, and not see it at all, is bewildering. One of my favourite hobbies is watching people at the airport. I observe traits in people, and then like a quack chemist, I take a bit of this and that, mix it up with some of that and this and create a character. Then, they live their own life on paper as well as on the screen. There’s something indecipherable about women, which I find very beautiful. A recent film that has stayed with me is Queen. I like that in the end, the girl didn’t become a hot chick; instead, she came into her own.
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Is Dimple Kapadia your muse?
Dimple is not my muse; I just don’t have the choice of not taking her in my films or else she will strip off my family jewels. Her feistiness is what draws me to her. In Finding Fanny, she was like, “Go ahead, make my bum bigger, go on, make it larger.” I had to tell her that even though we need her to have a large bum, we don’t want it to look disproportionate to the rest of her body.
You’re regarded as the director who made Deepika Padukone “act” in Cocktail. How did you manage that?
I don’t want to take too much credit for Deepika because it’s all her. It was Deepika’s decision to trust her director blindly; once she surrendered completely, then it was all her talent. Her character, Veronica, was the hero of Cocktail, she didn’t need a guy to survive. Once Deepika knew where we wanted to take her character, I didn’t have to direct her. I share a very economical relationship with Deepika, in terms of directing her. We are so much in sync that I don’t even need to tell her what to do, she just gets it. She knows that if something is not working for her, it won’t work for me.
Do you think we will ever portray a wild child without giving her a Christian name like Veronica?
Yeah. Why not? I never saw the clichés with Cocktail. I don’t get the criticism about why Deepika’s character started dressing up like Meera (Diana Penty) to get Gautam (Saif Ali Khan)’s approval. I know a lot of people who dress up the way their partner likes them to. As I saw it, if Gautam was into crackheads, then she would have probably done crack also. The thing with clichés is that you can never win. People have an issue that the wild girl ends up alone, but if Gautam had chosen her, then the argument would have been that because the other girl was traditional and simple, the guy didn’t choose her.
I feel that if you, and not Imitaz Ali, had written Cocktail, it would have been a love story between Meera and Veronica, our very own Vicky Cristina Barcelona.
You are correct, but then I would probably be hammered for plagiarism. When we were making the film, my producer Dinesh Vijan told me, ‘If you had written Cocktail, it would have been about drugs, sex and girl-on-girl action.’ That said, I have no regrets about directing Cocktail. If people have issues with its storyline, then so be it. It’s my cross to bear.
What’s your idea of success?
It’s to be happy. Seeking approval from outside (other people) is pointless when you don’t have your own approval.
Which is the one film that changed your life?
I knew I wanted to be a director when I saw Dil Chahta Hai. Zoya (Akhtar) was in college with me and I have known Farhan all my life. I felt if someone with my sensibility can make a film, then I too can. As a storyteller, the biggest influence was my dad (Aspi Adajania). He was a soldier and also the president of the Indian Boxing Federation and travelled all over the world for work. He came back with amazing tales but each time he would tell the same story differently. That’s when I realised that not only is he entertaining us, he’s also entertaining himself. After all, what is life? It is just the present and the memories of our experiences. It’s how you look at life. I like to look at it in an entertaining way and infuse it with colour.
What’s next after Finding Fanny?
I want to do a comedy, something on the lines of There’s Something About Mary. I’d also like to make a gut-wrenching romantic film like Blue Valentine.