‘I can’t help it if all my characters are grey’

Zoya Akhtar on younger brother Farhan,directing Luck By Chance,comparisons with parents and being an industry kid

Written by Harneet Singh | Published:January 18, 2009 11:55 am

Zoya Akhtar on younger brother Farhan,directing Luck By Chance,comparisons with parents and being an industry kid

How has Luck By Chance come along?
It’s been a long and tough ride. I had the script with me for seven years and I wanted to make it right after Farhan (Akhtar) made Dil Chahta Hai. But for some reason or the other,I was unable to put the project together. It was quite a struggle. I went through bouts of depression and sadness. I felt as if I was wasting my time.
In the meantime,I wrote another project titled Kismet Talkies with Hrithik Roshan and Kareena Kapoor but my heart was always set on making Luck By Chance. Now that the film is about to release,I feel happy that I never gave up on it.

Is it true that the protagonist’s role,which is being played by Farhan,was turned down by almost every actor?
Oh,yes. At least six actors turned me down. They had reservations playing a character with grey shades. In the film,Farhan’s character is a struggling actor who makes certain choices. The big stars that I approached were not comfortable with that. It’s not that the character is a murderer or a rapist,he’s just a struggler!

For Konkona Sen Sharma’s role too,you had approached Tabu,right?
Tabu was the first choice. She had said yes when I narrated the subject to her. But a couple of years later,when I got down to the film,I felt she wasn’t that keen so we went to Konkona.

How did Farhan come on board?
Actually,director Reema Kagti wanted to cast Farhan in Abhay Deol’s role in her film,Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd. That couldn’t happen because Farhan’s dates clashed with Shah Rukh Khan’s for Don. Reema insisted that I make Luck By Chance with Farhan. I was not convinced but when I saw portions of The Fakir of Venice (this film was supposed to be Farhan’s acting debut) I knew that he could pull it off. Thank god,Rock On!! worked the way it has.

Do you and Farhan fight?
Of course,we do.

On the sets?
Never. We’re better trained than to fight in public. See,I’m just a year older than him,so we’ve practically been brought up like twins. Earlier,Farhan and I would beat each other up. Then came the stage when we were like,‘get out of my room’ and now we have matured to the extent of cold silences and ‘let’s talk about it later.’ I share a good,healthy understanding with my brother.

Did he give inputs for the script or tell you about shot divisions during the shoot?
On the sets,he was just an actor. Of course,he has been with me through the entire journey of Luck By Chance. At home,we all give our scripts to each other to read. My dad,Javed Akhtar,has written the dialogues of the film. My mom,Honey Irani,has given her feedback and ditto for Farhan. But beyond that,they don’t interfere.

Between your mom and dad,who is more difficult to please?
(Ponders) Dad. It’s really difficult to impress him.

Must be daunting to live in a household full of such accomplished people?
(Shrugs) If you’re comfortable in your space and sure of yourself,it’s not so tough. You’ve got to have your own voice and perspective. My take on something is the only bit of individuality that I have,that’s my only originality. If you’re not bulls***ting the audience,you will find your own audience. I firmly believe that.

But do you think things become easy because of your last name?
If that were so,how would you explain the excruciating wait for Luck By Chance? I agree that having a well-known last name does get your foot in the door but that’s about it. In my case,it didn’t really help. A lot of my industry friends find it difficult to understand me. They think I’m too arty while the art scene thinks I am too commercial. People were not sure what I was going to make. I can’t sit and sell a character and list out its commercial values. I can’t help it if all the characters in my film are grey.

As an industry kid,have you infused any personal observations in Luck by Chance which has the film industry as its backdrop?
Lots of it. There are little details like the peeling,dirty green walls shown in the song Sapno se bhare naina,in which auditions take place. The walls look like they’ve been painted time and again. The theme of the film is that the show always goes on and that neither friends nor enemies are forever. Everybody here wants to be successful and everything bounces back. These kind of layers make Luck By Chance.

Is it true that Hrithik Roshan’s character is inspired by Salman Khan?
Not at all. They are poles apart. Hrithik’s character,Zafar Khan,is a calculative guy while Salman listens to his heart. Zafar manipulates everybody and everything while Salman has never manipulated his career decisions. God knows where this came from!

how much do you believe in luck?
Enough to not count on it all the time. I don’t have any lucky charms or superstitions. I used to have a ring that I thought was lucky for me but I lost it. But I have turned out fine,don’t you think so?

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