The perfect take

Bollywood buzz

The perfect take

His lineage (father Javed Akhtar, grandfather Jan Nissar Akhtar and other illustrious ancestors on the literary side) sits easily on this young man of substance.

It’s been a little less than 15 years since he entered films, but Farhan has proved his mettle as a writer-director (Dil Chahta Hai — his path-breaking debut and the Don franchise ), Rock On!!, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and Dil Dhadakne Do (as co-writer-actor-singer) and been a successful producer in all these films and others.

What’s more, as Farhan has portrayed Milkha Singh to great applause (even from the legendary athlete himself) in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, his first outside film as an actor. For good measure, he’s a rock musician outside cinema with his own band and has moonlighted on some lyrics in Bride And Prejudice in English, if you please.

A disarming charmer

While speaking about his latest Wazir, the first significant film in the New Year, Farhan is in his Rock On 2!! get-up when we meet and we get down to essentials straightaway: there was a lot of controversy over the director of that film, so why did he not decide to direct it himself?

He replies, “Direction is a completely different job. As of now, I am not at all comfortable directing and acting together. It is something I truly enjoy, and I will get back to it because a part of me genuinely wants it. I am thinking of many potentially nice ideas, but I do not want to say anything right now, because then it becomes a part of the noise.”

This is the actor’s third outside film after Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and Shaadi Ke Side/Effects, so how was his experience working with Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Saket Chaudhary and now Bejoy Nambiar? Also, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, who has produced and co-written Wazir with Abhijat Joshi, is also a director.

“If you mean whether I get involved in their department or any other, no, I do not,” he answers. “But more than my character, I take back the experience of working with these men, all of whom have different styles, and all of whom love movies because they love movies! They are not strictly into the business of making movies, so they do not cut corners while making them.”

He goes on, “I realise how fortunate I am to be a part of such passionate people’s lives for the time it takes for their film to be made. Sometimes, under pressure or preoccupation with everything from what is the market value of your associates to fixed release dates, creativity can get compromised. But you have to make a movie because that is the art form you fell in love with in the first place. Whatever has to happen will happen, but you have to do your best for the film.”

The obvious next question then is the current fad for announcing release dates at the launch or soon afterwards. “I think one has to at least complete the shooting,” he says after some moments’ thought. “So many things can happen between a launch and completion, so I do not see any logic in hurrying up things just to get a nice release date like Eid or Diwali.”

Inspiring friendships

We try to dig out a bit more about the much-touted friendship shown between his character and that of Amitabh Bachchan’s, further highlighted by the promo song “Atrangi yaari” that they even recorded together. Since Wazir here pertains to a game of chess, is Bachchan’s wheelchair-ridden character really a friend or a hidden antagonist? Farhan grins and says, “No, no, we are very, very close friends after being strangers in the beginning. As of now, I cannot reveal more.”

Now that’s interesting!

And how was it working with Amitabh 11 years after he wrote and directed Lakshya? “In that film, my responsibilities were very different. It was my job to create the right environment and mood for more than 20 actors besides the Army personnel who were a part of it. I was a relatively new filmmaker, and also apart from discussing his part and working with him, I did not get much time with Mr Bachchan. This time, I had the opportunity to spend much more time with him, and have conversations. So it was a lot more fun. I feel fortunate that I could get up close with him as an actor as well. The quality and sophistication he has bought into his work for so long is a matter of learning for all of us.”

And what attracted him to Wazir? “I thought the script was truly outstanding and taut. It mixes two diverse genres, pace-wise — as a thriller it requires pace, but as a basically deep and emotional human drama it needs a relaxed narration so that the emotions are not superficial. The balance here is really fabulous. Secondly, my character was new for me, the redemption being amazing for the journey it has.”

Farhan has been into multiple stories on friendship between males (Dil Chahta Hai, Rock On!!, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara) even in his own films. How much of his scripts reflect incidents with his friends from real life?

“I think it is more about understanding the equations of friendships, though I have a long list of friends for over 25 years who are predominantly from outside movies,” he says. “But the best thing about writing is that I can take a fictional story and pitch it realistically enough to be completely relatable.”

And when do we see Farhan directing Salman Khan, as we keep hearing the buzz, and he has worked with Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan? “Let us see, there is a desire to work together. But so far, a couple of projects haven’t worked out. After all, both of us have to agree on a script.”

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