It has been eight years since he started his acting career (with Rock On!!; 2008) and 15 years since film-maker-actor-musician Farhan Akhtar entered Bollywood by directing Dil Chahta Hai (2001). But the 42-year-old still isn’t used to the pressures of the industry.
“Before any new film, you feel a combination of many things – nervousness, excitement, anxiety and relief,” says Farhan, in a candid chat with HT Café, opening up about his music and “good friend” Shraddha Kapoor, his co-star in their upcoming film, Rock On 2!!
You’ve completed eight years as an actor. Have you found an actor’s process for yourself?
I feel fortunate that I have got people to organise my day. So, somehow we always make time to either read or hear the script. Then, you use your instinct and feelings. There’s no other way of doing it. If it doesn’t work for you, moves you or touches you, then it doesn’t matter who is associated with it or who will be in it with you. It is very instinctive.
But you’re clearly picking up different stuff and not typical, run-of-the-mill Bollywood films?
I think we can’t categorise films as ‘different’ or ‘typical’ [where people dance around trees]. However, I think such a judgement is fair because there are many films which are not ‘typical’ at all. So, it would depend on what you are playing in the film, and what it is about. I find it very difficult to get excited about working with a particular person. Although I may have loved someone’s movie, what’s important is what you are going to do together.
You wear many hats — that of a director, producer, actor, singer, writer, etc. You also perform live gigs. How do you manage?
I don’t know how I do it. But I guess time creates itself (smiles). I think the only reason I am able to do it (performing live) is because I love it. There is no other way to describe it. If you don’t enjoy anything, it will slowly weed itself away. Being able to perform live for people is a pleasure and a privilege because it’s just another connection that’s very tough to describe.
For the past few weeks, your personal life has been in the news. Are you aware?
I have a very efficient marketing and PR team that keeps forwarding me things and what’s going on.
Do you get annoyed about such stories?
No. First, you can’t let it get to you, as that’s probably the intention of such things. They want to get a reaction out of you. And that way, it will keep the thing going on for a longer period. So, the best thing is to treat it [rumours] with silence.
To be specific, rumours are floating around about you and Shraddha Kapoor (his co-star in the upcoming film, Rock On 2!!).
Of course, we are friends. The fact of the matter is that over the last year-and-a-half, a certain kind of friendship has been forged, which is normal since we have been working together. There are times when you work with people and enjoy their company. For example, I worked with Abhay Deol for the first time in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011). And since then, we have hung out, and also travelled together a lot. Now, just because he is a man, I am not having an affair with him (laughs).
Do you sense some hypocrisy?
The minute a woman is involved, one assumes it has to be more than friendship. It’s weird, because you are saying that men and women, can’t be friends after having worked together. But at the same time, it is okay for men to hang out together if they got to know one another while working on a film. It’s dubious for a guy and a girl to hang out once they work on a film and that reeks of some kind of hypocrisy.
You haven’t directed a film for five years…
I have had so many people asking me when I will direct again. I will. There will be a time when that’s really what I would want to do and it will happen.
Do you miss direction?
Honestly, I do think that it would be nice to go back and direct. But it hasn’t reached a fever pitch in my head, where I feel that if I don’t do it now, then I won’t be able to sleep properly.
You attract more attention and paparazzi as an actor than you used to as a director. Do you like it?
You have to realise that it comes with what I do [professionally]. I am not someone who goes out often. More often than not, you’ll find me at home, and that’s the life I enjoy. Becoming an actor was never about enjoying that aspect [the limelight]. It’s an inadvertent part of what we do and there is no point complaining or getting over-excited about it. At times, I feel a bit hard done by when things come out that have absolutely no basis in reality. News is forgotten quickly. It [rumours] stays alive only when we go on and on about it, so we should let these things pass. They [rumours] die their own natural deaths, because there is nothing to sustain them.
Since your next film, Rock On 2 is a sequel to a cult hit, do you feel any pressure?
Pressure is the wrong word. You are responsible for your films, but if you are making a sequel, there is the added responsibility. You have to try your best to find the right balance, because you can’t repeat the same film. You also hope that people watch the film for what it is and not compare it to the previous one. Most importantly, people should enjoy and appreciate the sequel.
Watch: Rock On 2 trailer
Creative people — Zoya Akhtar (sister; director) and Javed Akhtar (father; lyricist) — are family to you. Is it an advantage?
Absolutely! From feedback on a script, a scene or music, I can talk to experienced and talented people about anything. Luckily, they are on my speed dial. It’s an amazing advantage and a fabulous luxury and I am thankful for it. I don’t think the world’s perception of you needs to be on the basis of your family that you are born into. That anyways wasn’t out of your choice (smiles).