Don’t want to do a film if my heart is not 100% in it ~ Farhan Akhtar
Every time he faces the camera Farhan Akhtar makes you feel love and pain for the character. Now, he is set to catch the audience’s attention as a cop in Bejoy Nambiar’s Wazir. In a candid chat the filmmaker/actor speaks about his forthcoming film and future plans
Isn’t it true that Vidhu Vinod Chopra offered you the script of Wazir soon after you made Lakshya?
No, he never came to me with the script after Lakshya. He had said so that he wanted me to read a script but never sent it. He wanted me to read it and educate myself as a film student. It is nice that people with experience share their stuff with you because that is a way to learn.
Two years ago, when I was shooting for Dil Dhadakne Do, he called me up and reminded me about the script. He said it is finally ready, so I should read it. I found it great. Then, I met Bejoy (Nambiar, director of the film).
What was the experience acting with Amitabh Bachchan?
It was more challenging to direct him (in Lakshya) than acting with him in Wazir. As a director your responsibility is way more and you are either prepping for the next scenes or creating an atmosphere in which actors can perform without stress. Also, Lakshya was physically a hard film. So, I didn’t get to spend too much time with him. Whereas on Wazir, the larger responsibility was of Bejoy, so I got time to spend with him discussing movies and his experiences working on films that I have enjoyed watching.
Did you feel any pressure or got intimidated to share the screen with a powerful performer like Amitabh Bachchan?
In all honesty there wasn’t (any pressure). Initially, when I was told that he has agreed to do the film, there was a serious amount of excitement to work with him. Then, we spent a lot of time during rehearsals and readings at his house, which helped us break the ice from our point of view. Yet the first day, when we were all in our roles with the make-up and costumes, that’s when it struck to me that today what is going to happen is what the world will watch. It was a surreal and out-of-body experience for about 15 minutes, but then you have to bring yourself back and start working.
You can’t take the audience for a ride
This is the first time you worked with Aditi Rao Hydari, Can you share about your collaboration with her?
We didn’t really know each other except socially, the way people meet in any industry. But it was very nice to hang out with her, she is very sweet girl and has her own sense of humour. Aditi is easy to work and very pro and prepared. It feels good to work with someone like that.
As a director your story-telling is different from that of Bejoy Nambiar, what is his strength & style?
Every director’s style is different. If I gave the same scene to say Zoya (Akhtar), Rakeysh (Omprakash) Mehra and Bejoy, they would shoot in differently. The performances would be very different. That is nothing new. I think Bejoy’s strength for this film was that he is technically sound, has a great eye for creating mood and atmosphere and it has been since his first time, Shaitaan.
Is there a process you follow to prepare for a role?
There is a process, but again it is not the same on every film. Some films have larger demands than other films. It depends on the nature of the story/script. It is difficult to explain but what I can tell is that there are different starting points. At times you just want to start looking like the character so that may influence your thinking. Sometimes you focus on personal experiences that are similar to the character to start drawing from there. For Wazir, it was a combination of two things. One of the most important things; was to research the backgrounds of the police force, understand their training regimen and having interacted with them at several occasions like social, formal, etc. I have met enough people from the force because of my profession. They are polished, speak respectfully, are articulate, have a certain decorum, etc. So, observation of these things and bringing it out in the character.
Since your first film as an actor Rock On! you have played multi-layered characters. Is it because you naturally gravitate towards such roles? Will we ever see you in larger-than-life role like say ‘Don’?
That would depend on the kind of writing of the film. I am not averse to any kind of film. I want to connect with what I am are reading and am asked to play. I look at Milkha Singh’s character as an exceedingly larger-than-life character and hero in the most real sense. You can’t get more heroic than him, that’s his story and he exists. To be part of a film that is character-driven, that rests on my shoulder, it has to have the meat behind it. Somehow you can’t take the audience for a ride.
Given the complex nature of the roles you choose, does it get difficult for you to let go of the character and move on?
Some roles are easier to get out of like Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara or Rock On! (it would be incorrect to say I have moved on as we are working on the sequel though). Some roles are tough to get out of, Milkha was the toughest role to let go. Also, you have to let go of the good feelings you had while doing that role. For a year and a half I lived like an athlete. I had the regime of an athlete – eating, drinking, sleeping and being taken care of. So, when you are in that frame of mind you feel really strong, optimistic and your energy levels are high. To let go of that was tough because you can’t have that body and physique for every film.
Most of your contemporaries are doing 1-2 films a year. However, we get to see you once in two years as an actor.
It’s how the films pan out. Also, for a lot of the actors, whom you consider my contemporaries, acting is all they do. We have a production house, where I am constantly working with directors developing new films, working on casting, on music, etc. So, it keeps me busy. But, again, I don’t want to do to a film if my heart is not 100 per cent in it. It is a job at one level, but at the same time it is something you also have to be inspired by. The passion with which you do something will translate to the audience who watches it. You know when somebody’s heart is in what they are doing. Those kind of feelings are very important when I am working on something. Every film is chaotic and you don’t want to be in a place that is chaotic, but you don’t know why you are there. You want to know exactly; that you are there to serve the story, which you love.
A lot of actors have been coming out with singles. Do you have any such plans?
Yes, it is immensely possible to come out with an album because there is a lot of material that I have already worked on. And it is independent of any film, just my thoughts and poetry. I feel quite ready to share it with the world. After the shooting of Rock On! 2 I will take time off and go into a studio to produce it. It can’t be done lightly. I want to listen to it enough and be sure, and do it correctly.
It’s a bit unfortunate that the success of a film is only based on its money collections
You launched Men Against Rape and Discrimination campaign (MARD) and have been vocal about social issues. Does your personal perspective have an impact on the films or roles you do?
I think to a certain extent yes because your choices are a manifestation of how you think and who you are, especially when it comes to aesthetic or sensibility. Anything that is outside my realm of what I consider aesthetic and dignified, I will probably feel uncomfortable and not do it. It will be like an immediate allergic reaction to it.
Is any directorial project on the radar?
I don’t know yet.
Your last film Dil Dhadakne Do didn’t do well at box-office but was widely appreciated when shown on TV. Similarly a lot of films don’t make money in theatres but eventually become cult films. What do you think could be the reason for it?
It is what it is. I have always maintained that it’s a bit unfortunate that the success of a film is only based on its money collections. Of course there is a commerce, but there is also an art side to movies, which is not focused on in terms of gauging the success of a film. Many films didn’t do well at the box office but over time not only have had great impact on audience but also on subsequent filmmakers. How do you quantify that success? There could be box-office successes from the same year that you may not remember. So, how do you do it?