Farhan Akhtar, who dons various hats — of a producer, director, actor, singer and more — says he manages to make time for all of them, as well as for social awareness campaigns. He talks to us about how he juggles various careers, why he hasn’t given up on direction, and more.
You were a director first, and then became an actor. But that perception has changed, since you now act more than you direct.
Of course, to a certain degree, there has been a change. As an actor, you’re a lot more visible, and that always makes a difference. I remember when Rock On!! (2008; Farhan’s acting debut) released, we did a couple of interviews, and I was asked, ‘Yeh aapki first film hain, to isse pehle aapne kya kiya tha?’ (This is your first film; what were you doing prior to this?). I replied that I had made Dil Chahta Hai (2001), and he said, ‘Oh, that’s you!’ So, visibility has its share of benefits, but there’s also a certain joy in anonymity, especially when you’re a writer.
But don’t you miss direction?
I do, but it’s not something I’ve given up. I have many years ahead of me that I shall use to tell stories as a director.
You dabble in so many careers. How do you manage to make time for everything?
You have to associate, work and partner with people you trust. When you know that they have a common interest, and the same vision, aesthetic sense and sensibility, then more often than not, you end up in an area where you are comfortable leaving people to do what they’re supposed to be doing. That’s one aspect of it. In terms of the actual hours you have to put into something, it just comes back to the fact that it’s amazing how flexible time is. When you really want to do something, you’ll always find the time.
You are associated with Ford India’s ‘What Drives You’ campaign. Tell us what drives you at work?
I enjoy engaging with people on a creative level. If I can entertain them — and by that I don’t mean making them laugh — in a way that they feel the experience they’ve had while watching a film etc. is worthwhile, that’s a big payoff for me. As long as I can achieve that, it feels great.
Awareness about gender equality is something you’ve been propagating for a while. Do you notice some change?
The strongest effect of the worldwide discussion on gender equality is that now, people are aware that there is a problem. I think that’s one of the biggest things we have achieved so far. For the longest time, things were swept under the carpet and you didn’t find people coming out to speak openly about what’s happening inside their homes. That has changed drastically. Whenever I meet students in colleges, they talk about what they are doing within their communities and colleges to find a solution. That’s very good because these students will be adults tomorrow. They will be opinion makers and leaders in their fields. So it’s heartening to see that, and it encourages me to do more.