A way with words

A way with words

He came to India from France as a young boy. Of French-Indian origin, Olivier Sanjay Lafont had the best of both worlds. While he nurtured a passion for writing, the love for mythology was inherited. For a story-teller like him, India was the perfect fertile ground. The actor, model, screenplay writer, and now, author, Olivier’s passage to India is no less of a page-turner.

While the romance with India began when he moved to Mumbai, it also opened a window to a creatively rich world. A trained actor with a BA in acting from Colgate University USA, Olivier’s connect with Indian cinema was growing by the day. He was also writing feature-film screenplays. The first film he wrote opened at the ‘Toronto Film Festival’.

Closer home, the game changer was Suhas Tandon, Kareena Kapoor’s fiance in ‘3 Idiots’, who kept the audience in splits. Then came ‘Guzaarish’, in which he played a priest.
The spotlight is on him yet again. ‘Warrior’, his latest book, is an adventure story and was shortlisted for the ‘Tibor Jones South Asia Prize’. Set in modern India, it is complete with mythological elements 

“As far as I can remember, I had a passion for stories and was drawn towards them. At a very young age, I was strongly influenced  by my father who was a French historian and archeologist (Dr Jean-Marie Lafont ). He was passionate about Greek and Roman mythology.

When I came to India, I was introduced to a different mythology,” he recalls. His tryst with mythology in India was interestingly through Amar Chitra Katha.
“Warrior’ was written as a screenplay years ago. Much later, I wanted to write a novel,” he says. The work went back to the drawer a couple of times before it went for publishing recently.

Working in a Bollywood film could have been a different ballgame for him. But Olivier recalls, “I was very comfortable working in ‘3 Idiots’, in terms of the language and the content. Growing up in a French household, I didn’t know Hindi. When I returned from States after my studies, I had taught myself to read and write Hindi.”  

“Stylistically too, ‘3 Idiots’ was very interesting. I really used French comedy to enact Suhas Tandon as I was always inspired by the 18th century ‘Comedy of Manners’. I was also inspired by Moliere,” he says.

The actor has also worked in Hollywood films and endorsed top brands in commercials. But he doesn’t think there is too much on his plate.

“I don’t do anything nine to five. It organically shifts around in a natural way,” he informs about balancing his interests.   

“I am very open to roles. I am open to a serious amount of dramatic and action-oriented roles as I’ve been a natural athlete,” he says. But how would he best describe himself? “Practically speaking, I am an actor-writer. But I really consider myself an artiste and a storyteller,” he avers.

As a writer, who dabbles in both screenwriting and fiction, he spells out the difference between the two. “To me, the difference is just structural though both are story-telling. You can get into the minds of the characters and speak. But in screenwriting, there is the production considerations.”

At the moment, he is focussing on ‘Warrier’. “I had written a couple of works earlier and now, I have send them to publishers.” The French connection is just getting stronger!

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