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A voice from afar

Priyanka Chopra in a still from "Dil Dhadakne Do".

Priyanka Chopra in a still from "Dil Dhadakne Do".  

Zoya Akhtar reacts to praise and criticism for ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’ and reveals why she roped in Aamir Khan as the voice of Pluto

The narrator of Dil Dhadakne Do, Pluto Mehra, wasn’t an afterthought or placed in the film for novelty. “Reema (Kagti) and I had locked in all the other characters, yet I felt something was missing. I needed someone who would observe the dysfunctional family from afar, and it couldn’t be just a director’s voice,” says Zoya Akhtar, talking to us about the film that opened across the country last weekend.

Co-writers Zoya and Reema are both pet parents and Zoya says her beagle, Zen, is a lot like Pluto. “He is effusive and chilled out. He doesn’t bark much and has this quality about him that makes you feel he understands everyone well. Reema felt it would be good to have the pet, Pluto, as the narrator since he was like Zen,” says Zoya. At no point, she says, the writers felt that the idea of having a pet as a narrator would come off as gimmicky.

With Pluto being part of the ensemble cast that included Anil Kapoor, Shefali Shah, Priyanka Chopra, Farhan Akhtar, Ranveer Singh and Anushka Sharma, the task was to get an apt voice for Pluto. Zoya and Reema turned to a long-time friend, Aamir Khan. “I’ve known Aamir since Excel Entertainment’s first film ( Dil Chahta Hai) and Reema has known him since Lagaan. We’ve always bounced our ideas off him and made him see the rough cuts of our films. He gives honest feedback and doesn’t talk about it in the open. We showed him the rough cut of Dil Dhadakne Do and he loved it. We asked him if he would be Pluto’s voice and he agreed,” says Zoya.

It was a conscious decision to get her father Javed Akhtar to write Pluto’s lines while brother Farhan did the honours for the rest of the film. “Farhan’s lingo is different; we needed a different approach for Pluto. Dad was ideal,” quips Zoya.

Beneath all the sheen of the Mehras, there are issues to be tackled, from daughters not getting their due to troubled marriages and relationships of convenience forged to save a sinking business house. The practical brother-sister bond comes as a whiff of fresh air.

If, at the surface, Zoya seems to have made a film that focuses on an affluent family, the issues are applicable to the middle class as well. To the criticism that she has dished out yet another escapist film, she asks, “Those who think I am making films only about the elite class need to answer these questions. Do you think only the elite have to cope with marital disharmony and contemplate if divorce is the way out? Do dysfunctional families exist only in this section of society? Is patriarchy an issue only in this section? Are these the only ones worried about what others think of them?”

The luxury cruise was a metaphor and offered more than the promise of travel and picture-perfect locations. “Travel is part of my life; I’ve travelled extensively both internationally and from the northeast to the southern regions of India, much more than anyone else I know, but I didn’t put the Mehras on a ship because of my love for travel,” says Zoya.

A pause later, she says, “I wanted a place where they can come together but can’t leave easily. A house in a hill or a hotel would have been stifling. We also wanted a situation that shows the family being rescued, the ship worked fine for all these reasons. The open spaces and travel played a crucial part in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. Here the conflicts are more internalised.”

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Printable version | Apr 3, 2020 8:01:04 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/why-aamir-khan-was-chosen-for-the-voice-of-pluto-in-dil-dhadakne-do/article7298285.ece

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