Id like to see Indian films being made for world audience – Zoya Akhtar

Id like to see Indian films being made for world audience - Zoya Akhtar

"Naman was eight years old and I started to get worried about him because he readily agreed to do my short film, but I didn't want him to get teased in school. I also want proper laws being implemented for child actors", Zoya Akhtar tells me, enunciating each word clearly and separately to emphasise the point. You might think she wouldn't need to stress such an unremarkable opinion. But in the recent past after making her first short film to celebrate the 100 Years of Indian Cinema, the director is hell bent to see a bright and a responsible future for the child actors. But it's not hard to sense her frustration and passion in the same breath. Zoya and I've never met before. This was our first. She is engaging and attentive while exuding an air of cool authority and strikingly handsome is her personality. And it is her same personality that is (maybe) reflected in the impressively small body of work she's showcased on celluloid. The more I talk to her I get a feeling that Zoya's absolute conviction in her own rightness is a habit of mind she must've had since childhood. She supposes it came from her parents, her mother, and it is in her eyes that you see the vastness of the story and therein lies the responsibility to engage with the time she's lived, and living in. Her zest for movies unstoppable. This is Zoya Akhtar for Bombay Talkies.

Which film in the last hundred years of Indian cinema has left a lasting impression on you?
I like cinema in general. When you are a kid, you like everything, everything that is appropriate for children. When you get into your teens, you start to get a bit discerning and your exposure to films is a lot more. The Hindi films during my teens were very bad. It was the late eighties and early nineties, though I've grown up watching all the films of the seventies too. My mother went to film school while we were growing up. I always wanted to do something in movies. Then I saw Salaam Bombay and that film left a lasting impression on me.

What significant changes have occurred for good in cinema every decade you think?
With each generation, there has been one massive change. I don't know about individuals who've come each decade and have changed things but yes, there was Sooraj Barjatya who made loads of love stories, Farhan defined the coming-of-age or whether it's Aamir Khan who decided to do work in sync-sound, A.R Rahman's music, etc. But the big change came in when the films went to colour, multiplexes that resulted in the change of content.

Just like in your short film, the kid has a crush on Katrina; did you as a teenager have a crush on someone?
When I was a kid, I was truly, madly and deeply in love with Rishi Kapoor. It started there and ended there. By the time I got over my crush with Rishi Kapoor I just got over actors (laughs). I love actors like Naseeruddin Shah too but Rishiji was my crush. I am bigger on rockstars and musicians. My heart beats for them

Have you come across boy kids who dress up as girls and dance?
I've grown up with kids who've dressed up and danced like the yesteryear actress Helen but that was just a phase. But in the film, it's something else. The boy dresses up as Katrina and wants to dance like her. He is passionate about dancing.

But why Katrina? Why not someone else for the role?
The film is about dreams and achieving something that everyone around you will think is impossible. Today where Katrina is, it's impossible to believe. It's remarkable where Katrina is today in the Hindi Film Industry. I find her dedication and her focus remarkable too. You can do whatever you want and achieve your dreams. There are great dancers and actresses but it was this quality of Katrina that impressed me to cast her.

These child actors are fiery when they face the camera. How was the experience to work with child actors?
This isn't just Naman's story but also a story about his sister. In the promos you don't see her. Her name is Khushi and she is a kick -a** actor. She is like a little Sridevi. The two are fiery. I was very worried for Naman because he was just eight and he readily agreed to do it just because he knew I had directed ZNMD. I didn't want him to get teased in school. He was like – I don't care. But then he was right. Tomorrow he could play a Spiderman too. Both were on the ball. But honestly, there needs to be more protection to child actors in terms of the law like working hours, etc.

Do you see any future for short films in India?
Frankly speaking, we don't have a culture for short films because we really have only one big school for films in Pune. Now we have Whistling Woods too. In the West, there are a lot of film schools and in their thesis and presentations they have to work on short films. They also make shorts to use as their calling card. There is a short film culture out there. Now with the internet, you can send your film to any festival, shoot films on the phone, etc. In terms of theatrical releases shorts don't stand a chance. So four of us – Anurag, Dibakar, Karan and I joined together to make a short. It was super fun.

What is the general perception you think for Bombay Talkies?
If a Vishal Bhardwaj makes a movie or if Anurag Kashyap makes a movie or Mani Ratnam makes a movie, I go and watch those movies for those directors because I've appreciated and liked their work before. We four are joining hands to make Bombay Talkies and I'm sure we four have an audience too who'll come and like the movie we've made. By the way, Karan Johar is a star so let's keep him away from this conversation (laughs).

Id like to see Indian films being made for world audience - Zoya Akhtar

And what change would you like to see in the next hundred years in cinema?
I'm really excited that I am a part of the film industry in its hundredth year. I don't know what change I can bring but I'd like to see good distribution, I'd like to see Indian films being made to a world audience and not just to NRIs. You can keep winning the National Games but we need to bloody compete in the Olympics at some point. We are not there not because we aren't talented. We are not there because we don't know the right way to produce and market our films. We are a huge filmmaking force and there is no reason to be little frogs in the well. What's happening is we now have foreigners who make our kind of films. Danny Boyle can make a Slumdog Millionaire but why can't we? There are many Indian stories to be told. We have a growing audience every day and it's ever expanding. We need to keep that in mind too.

Reema is always involved as a co-writer in all your films. Was she a part of this short?
Reema Kagti and I write together, always. She did come handy in the short. She is a co-writer. Reema and I don't start writing from day one. We just talk and come up with ideas. This was originally a story that we had written years ago called – Zoom Zoom Darling. Now, it was the story that never got out of the laptop. It was a brother-sister story inspired by various real life stories. But when this Bombay Talkies idea came along we thought it would be a perfect fit there. Zoom Zoom Darling had Helen in mind.

Article written by staff at Bollywood Hungama. Read more

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