This August, Farhan Akhtar completed 15 years in the film industry. And he hasn’t just made a mark as a film-maker, but also as an actor. HT Café catches up with Farhan Akhtar to talk about the baggage of keeping up with a family lineage, and rumours about his personal life. Excerpts from the interview:
In the past 15 years, you have made a name for yourself. But you are also Javed Akhtar and Honey Irani’s son, and Zoya Akhtar’s brother. Do you feel additional pressure because of that?
There is always pressure before a film releases, but that’s not due to those reasons. You have a certain responsibility towards the film, the audience and every single person who collaborated with you on the project. You want audiences to appreciate what you have done. I always hope they like the movie and recognise the effort we put in it. So, the pressure comes with the expectations of people and wanting to live up to it, and not with my family lineage or my repertoire.
You have an enviable track record as a director too. Is that the reason why you are so careful about going back to helming films?
Yes, as your choices eventually define you, especially in a creative field. Everyone knows that you have the freedom to say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. But if you say yes to something, it defines who you are. Especially when you are directing a film, you know it’s going to take about a year-and-a-half or two years of your life, so you want to be exceedingly passionate about the project.
How does it feel to inspire others with your work?
Be it the Don series, Dil Chahta Hai (DCH; 2001) or Lakshya (2004), if people refer to your work as an inspiration, or as something that motivated them, that’s amazing, because that’s what happens to us with other people’s films too. It feels nice to be part of the chain – getting inspired by someone and then creating something that inspires others. If I make the decision of directing another film, it should come with the same clarity and conviction that I had when I selected my earlier films.
Do talks about personal life bother you?
Everybody gets affected. To say that it has no effect on you is completely false. If you had a fabricated story coming out every two weeks or every month, it would affect you. You would be like, “What’s the problem with people?” or “Why can’t they let me be?” And that’s the thought that comes into anyone’s mind. You are like, “Why are you wasting your energy in getting so creative?”
You have also been linked up with many actresses, of late
If anyone wants to be so creative, please send me your script, and maybe we will produce it (laughs). Beyond that, I don’t know what to say. Whether it’s them talking about Shraddha (Kapoor; actor), about another co-actor of mine, or a sudden random story about “bechari’ Kalki (Koechlin; actor), what do you say? How many battles are you going to fight when someone has such imagination? The best part is that somebody allows them to put that stuff out. You can’t waste your energy on that.
Do you ever feel the urge to clarify things, maybe, via Twitter?
There have been a few times in the past that I have tweeted about the amazing creativity of people. But that’s really about it. Beyond that, what can you do?
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You are an actor and a director. How different are the two aspects of film-making?
No, they are not entirely different. You are eventually doing the same thing because the goal is the same. But the definition and the description of what you do is different. As an actor, you’re only interpreting things from the script and the [taking guidance from] director, so you use that channel to get the emotions out. As the director, you are the organiser who has to have all the answers. You are the person with maximum clarity. So, it’s (direction and acting) very different in terms of what is required of you. But both, of course, belong to the same world.
Whenever you get back to direction, would there be pressure to deliver?
I think nothing can be taken for granted — be it the fact that you get to work with a certain kind of talent, certain kinds of budgets, or that the audience looks forward to your work. You can’t take any of this for granted, which is why you have to be very humble in your approach to all these things. The minute you think, “Chalo, it’s now about me”, it’s the beginning of the end, because it’s not about you. It’s about a story and you have to love that story and serve it with as much love. That’s how people start loving it. If you have no attachment to the project, then what’s the point?
Your father, Javed Akhtar, says he still has many stories that are yet untold. Do you also feel the same way?
Yes, absolutely. There are so many stories that we all have that are worth sharing. Apart from what we want to share, I am sure there will be things that come our way that we will get exceedingly attached to. So, it’s an unending process, and the potential of what is possible is unending. At no point can you reach a place where you feel like, “This is it now.” Apart from the highs and lows of when your film releases, there’s a strange, addictive quality that making a film has, because of all that drama. There’s so much that goes on and we miss it when it’s over.
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Have you gotten used to the paparazzi culture, especially since you became an actor?
For me, it wasn’t really about that (being famous). There are times, of course, when you have to go out for certain things. But for me, it (fame) not the big driving thing; that now my face will be splashed across front pages, or that I will be on the cover of a magazine or people will want to know what’s going on in my personal life.