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‘I am living my dream’

GAME FOR CHALLENGE: Farhan Akhtar says he approaches every character as a student of cinema

GAME FOR CHALLENGE: Farhan Akhtar says he approaches every character as a student of cinema   | Photo Credit: ARUNANGSU ROY CHOWDHURY

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As Farhan Akhtar attempts to break free from his urban image with Lucknow Central, the multi-faceted personality talks about the curiosity and concerns of the present generation and the many faces of India

Despite getting into the shoes of the mighty Milkha Singh, Farhan Akhtar, somehow, has not been able to shed his urban image. This week he is giving it one more try with Lucknow Central as he plays Kishan, a jail inmate from Moradabad who leads a music band in a contest in prison. Farhan as Kishan, really? “I hope you don’t question it after the film,” he chuckles as we settle for a conversation. “We are offered all kinds of films all the time. What we try and focus on is to put our energy in a new story that is waiting to be told. Whether it is an urban guy or a village boy, my focus is always on whether the story is worth sharing with the world. Having said that it is true that my most memorable performances have come in Rock On!! and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. As these films, plus Dil Chahta Hai, from where I started, did well, there is a certain association with that kind of cinema. People tend to forget that I played an ordinary guy in Karthik Calling Karthik as well.”

GAME FOR CHALLENGE: farhan Akhtar says he approaches every character as a student of cinema

GAME FOR CHALLENGE: farhan Akhtar says he approaches every character as a student of cinema  

Farhan denies that it requires an extra effort. “If you are excited about something, it doesn’t feel like hard work.” With Deepak Dobriyal and Rajesh Sharma playing his band mates, it must have been a challenge to match their ability in getting the nuances right. “They know acting more than me. They are doing it for so long. There is nothing to worry about, though. When you are on a film set, you are one among equals. It is very important to remember irrespective of who you are working with. Everybody brings his or her own experiences and talent. As long as you remember that you are a student of cinema, you will sail through. The day you enter the zone that main janta hoon, it is over for you.”

If Rock On!! was about western music, here the melody is completely desi. “In all honesty, we have grown up on this kind of music only. From Indian classical to western classical, I listen to all kinds of music. I feel as somebody who is in creative field one should not narrow down one’s horizon. Different films offer you different opportunities to do different things and one should grab them.”

Looking within

Recently, Farhan went to Khairabad, his ancestral place near Sitapur in Uttar Pradesh. It made news. Like his father, he was also a kind of rebel who made Dil Chahta Hai when the urban youth were yearning to be one with the world. Is it time now to find one’s roots? “I wanted to experience that space. My father was there some time back and he told me about that. Standing in the same garden where your great grandfather used to sit, gives a strange feeling. I also visited the graves of my ancestors. Very few people get that kind of opportunity. At the most you go to your grandfather’s place. Here I am talking about great great grandfather’s house.” This need to return to real and proverbial home says something about this generation. “It is not a question of whether one has to. Right now, may be culturally, there is a certain curiosity that we as people have about ourselves. We, for the longest time, wanted to present a face to the world — to prove that we are as good as they are. And having shown that in many things we are better than them, I think now there is an urge to know who we are, what are our issues, what makes us stick when we are culturally so different from each other. Let’s highlight the cultural peculiarities....”

Also, he adds, this has found reflection in films because of the influx of writers and directors coming from different parts of India. “It has changed the way stories are being written and presented.” It is like the 50s and 60s, isn’t it? “For a long time, filmmaking has been a family business. There were families that were making movies. So it was considered like main banaooga, phir mera beta banayega. The stories that we were told were what the family believed in.”

Now, he says, the film industry has opened up and as a producer he is backing young talent. “With digital technology and better logistics, as a process, it has become cheaper to make films. There is such a hunger for content now that you need people. Around five to eight years back there was a huge movement of film professionals from Delhi and surrounding areas to Mumbai and it reflected in the stories. Now there is even more democratisation.” Farhan remembers how he was exceedingly grateful when he got an opportunity to tell his story. “Similarly, when I find myself in a position to do that for other creative people, it gives me a wonderful feeling. I can never forget that sense of ‘yaar, meri film banne wali hai.’ I can see that feeling on Ranjit’s (Tiwari) face. Reema Kagti, Shujat Saudagar, Vijay Lalwani... they have all come from different places. It is so heartening to see them realise their dreams.”

Does he sometimes reflect on where his three musketeers from Dil Chahta Hai would be now? “For that, I have to write a new script,” he smiles. Perhaps they will also be searching for their roots. “I don’t know but we should not try to bottle up India in one definition. Those kind of boys are still there. It is not that that culture has gone away. People still lead that kind of life in India. The country is so diverse. I used to be asked when I would make a film about real India. And I would say, to me, the space of Dil Chahta Hai is also real India. They are already home; they never left. Why would you deny that these three boys are also part of real India. My point has always been don’t make it us versus them.”

We have been waiting for him to return to director’s seat but Farhan has no concrete plans to share now. “It has to be a good story. It could well be set in space.” Right now he is focussing his acting. “There is a certain period in life when you could do these things. I am enjoying it.” But didn’t he come to the industry to become a filmmaker? “My dream was to be part of film industry and entertaining people and I am living my dream in different ways.”

Right signal

This year some of the big films with the biggest of stars have proved to be disasters at the box office. Farhan says his observation is the films that have worked suggest that audience want stories that they can relate to. “They want to be entertained in a way which is not frivolous. I feel as an industry we should celebrate that such a signal is coming our way. If you strip off all the layers of glamour, song and dance, at the heart of it, filmmaking is about telling a story. And if audience are saying that they don’t care about your budget of location and clothes and are more interested in your story, it’s an encouraging development.”

But are filmakers presenting a true picture of times for posterity? “Well, cinema should reflect society holistically. From gender, education system to sporting heroes, we are talking about many things right now. We should be happy,” sums up Farhan.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2020 5:58:49 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/i-am-living-my-dream/article19693089.ece

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