Zoya Akhtar needs no introduction. Besides being the daughter of the renowned Javed Akhtar and the sister of the ‘Master of all trades’ Farhan Akhtar; she is also a master class filmmaker. Testimonial to this is her debut film Luck By Chance. She surely belongs to the new breed of filmmakers, who will not compromise for anything in the world when it comes to quality. The good news is that, Zoya is back with Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, which released last week starring Hrithik Roshan, Farhan Akhtar, Abhay Deol, Katrina Kaif and Kalki. Satish Sundaresan of Bollywood Hungama caught up with the lady of the moment Zoya Akhtar for an exclusive interview. Here are the excerpts:
Zoya, to start with, how does it feel to be the ‘Lady of the moment’?
It feels good and special.
Cutting straight to the film, was it your trip to Spain inspired you to make Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara?
I had been to Spain with a couple of my girlfriends a few years ago. The moment I landed there, I immediately fell in love with Barcelona. After seeing the place, I felt that I simply had to make this film. Then, there was no looking back.
What was the reason for the film’s title?
I chose the term Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara to be the title of the film, as it also happens to be the basic philosophy of the film. Hollywood Films like Breakfast Club inspired me hugely. Through the medium of Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, I want people to come and feel the philosophy of the film at all the levels.
Wasn’t Ranbir Kapoor your original choice?
Yes. I had thought of having Ranbir in the film. But, when you see the film, you will get to know the reason why I had to let him go.
Talking about Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara‘s characters, was the sizzling chemistry between Abhay Deol and Kalki in Dev D, formed the reason for you to cast them in your film?
The answer to this question is largely yes and no. Yes, because, I had seen them both (Abhay and Kalki) in Dev D. Needless to say that, they were simply fantastic! Since I already had Farhan and Hrithik on board in the film, I needed a third guy who could not just fit in with them visually but also bring something new to the table. That’s when I thought of Abhay Deol, who also happens to be my good friend and with whom, I had already worked in Honeymoon Travels. All that he had to do was to like the role, which he did.
How was it to direct Farhan, your brother in the film? With Raksha Bandhan just around the corner, can we call it as your Rakhi gift?
Isn’t he supposed to give me a Raksha Bandhan gift! (laughs). On a serious note, Farhan to me was very easy to direct. The fact that he is also the dialogue writer of the film made it very easier for all of us. He knew what I exactly wanted from the film; he knew which direction I was heading the film to.
Farhan knew what I exactly wanted from the film; he knew which direction I was heading the film to.
The whole experience of Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara seems to be one roller coaster ride. What has been the most memorable experience so far of the film?
There were so many memorable moments in the film. But the one that takes the cake has to be the shoot of the underwater sequence, for which we had to go in the coral reef for one and a half an hour to and fro! This trip was simply magical!
Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara has been touted to be the ‘Bachelor trip of the year’. Did you or Farhan as a kid used to get indulged in such trips during school and college days?
We never got indulged in ‘Bachelor trips’. But yes, we used to get indulged in a lot of road trips!
Since most of the film has been shot in Spain, how did the locals react to see the demi Gods of Bollywood live in flesh?
Frankly speaking, the Spanish people do not even treat their own film stars as stars! So, we had no bizarre experience or problems when we were shooting this film. Even if Penelope Cruz walks on the streets, they are so chilled about it. Since 80% of the crew was Spanish, we had absolute lots of fun.
The Spanish people do not even treat their own film stars as stars
How was it to direct Farhan and Hrithik for the second time, post Luck By Chance? It must have been alike one big family!
Just two words to answer your question: Very comfortable!
There were certain sections of the gossip mills which stated that Abhay Deol was uncomfortable taking his shirt off for a particular scene. How much of that is true?
This is absolutely untrue! Abhay had no discomfort about taking his shirt off! He will take his shorts off the moment you tell him to! He is a thorough actor, who has no qualms or starry airs.
What was it about the Spanish Actress Ariadna Cabrol that made you sign her for this film? Did you watch her film ‘Eloise’, a film about teenage lesbian lovers?
I happened to meet Ariadna through a casting director. Also, I did watch her film Eloise, in which I feel she was fantastic. I really feel that she has done a wonderful job in ZNMD.
Farhan is a multi talented guy who is an actor, director, producer, writer, singer and musician! What are the hidden talents of Zoya that one can get to see in the years to come?
At the very moment, all that one will get to see is the fact that I am a great Holiday taker! They will get to know that I take the best holidays ever and that I am so very dying to go on a holiday now (laughs).
Lastly, what’s the one thing that the whole film making experience of ZNMD has taught you?
The whole film making experience of ZNMD has taught me to have an idea and follow it. Also the philosophy of the film that I had told you earlier is something that even I want to believe in. Lastly, this film has taught me to delve into that one thing that I want to do in life, find that and follow it.