It’s the season of sequels, and one wonders if Zoya Akhtar has plans of continuing her joy ride with the Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (ZNMD) team. “I haven’t even thought of a Part 2 yet. I’m still on this journey and need to put some distance between the film and myself first to see if I can take it forward. I’ve been working on ZNMD for two years, from developing the script to casting, shooting and promoting it. I’d need to come up with something that would justify spending another two years on it. It may have a sequel… it may not. The weekend collections could decide that,” reasons the writer-director.
Her actor-producer brother, Farhan Akhtar, who unveiled the first trailer of his next directorial venture, Don 2, with ZNMD admits that five years ago, when he wrapped up Don—The Chase Begins, he had dismissed speculations of a sequel despite the open ending. But then, two years ago, writer Ameet Mehta and Amrish Shah, came up with an interesting idea that has now taken the story from Malaysia to Berlin in the first Indo-German co-production. “I’m hoping people react positively to Don 2 and want to see the film, maybe other Dons too. But these are just my hopes for the moment,” smiles Farhan.Prod him on a Rock On 2 with Hrithik Roshan, Abhay Deol and himself in the lead, and he retorts, "Right now I’m not even thinking of a Rock On 2. I don’t want to just take it forward as a franchise, but if Abhishek (director Abhishek Kapoor) puts his mind to it and comes up with a script that this team could fit into, why not? But for that we need a story first and since we don’t have one yet, it’s just Wrap On for ZNMD."
You’ve all been saying how wonderful this road trip has been, both on and off screen. But there must have been days when you couldn’t wait for it to end?
Zoya Akhtar: For me, even when I’m on a holiday, the only time I want it to end is when I’m dog-tired of having a good time. In this case, we were making a movie and the countdown had begun from the first day itself. Still, when it was time for a wrap, there was a feeling of sadness.
Hrithik Roshan: Yeah, I remember, on the last day of the shoot, we were all like, “S**t, we have to return but we’re going remember this journey all our lives!” I know I will because I felt so much love… Within the shots, when with the boys and from Zoya who is a loving and lovable director. (Smiles) As an actor it’s important for me to be a little pampered and nudged in the right direction. Zoya did it by pouring a lot of affection into her instructions.
Zoya: (Smiling) Hrithik had a cameo in my directorial debut, Luck By Chance. On the first day of the shoot, he strolled onto the set, every inch a superstar. I asked, “How’re you doing?” and he dragged me into a corner and said, “Listen, you have to tell me whatever… whatever… you don’t like.” That one statement immediately made me comfortable.
So what did you not like about him?
Zoya: Nothing. I love Hrithik’s work and what he does with every character he plays. Even when I don’t like a film, I come out loving him. As an actor, he has a different process to looking at the character from what you have as a writer-director. And there were times when he would surprise me with his insights and inputs. With Hrithik, I’ve never felt that he needs to grow as an actor because whether he’s playing a mentally challenged boy or a superhero, he is entirely convincing. There’s only one thing that I don’t think he realises…
Hrithik : What?
Zoya: You don’t realise just how good-looking you are. There were times when my female assistants and I would watch him step out of his car, his hair all mussed up, and just want the cameras to roll…And he would want to fuss with his hair (Chuckles). Farhan, how would you rate Zoya as a director on a scale of 1-10?
Farhan Akhtar: I’m not good at giving points, for me Zoya’s strength comes from being a strong writer. And the confidence of bringing what is on paper to the screen without letting it get corrupted on the way.
Zoya: You did that too, with your first film, Dil Chahta Hai (2001). It was the first Hindi movie script I’d worked on. At that time, the lingo and even the look he gave his actors was very new. It surprised me how he could tell someone like Aamir Khan who was a huge star that he wanted to change his hairstyle.
Farhan: (Smiles) Aamir just shrugged and said, “Whatever.”
Zoya: Farhan was only 25 at the time, a rank newcomer, yet actors like Aamir, Saif (Ali Khan), Akshaye (Khanna) and Preity (Zinta) went with him. And it was freaky to see how he had elevated my script on screen. At the end of the film, I was like, “Oh my God, you’ve made a major motion picture!” Today, some people are saying that Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara is Dil Chahta Hai reloaded. I would be offended if I didn’t like the film. But since I do, I take it as a compliment. Dil Chahta Hai is a good recall. Abhay, you are the traveller in this group. Have you ever been to Spain before?
Abhay Deol: Yeah, for a month a couple of years before Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. I stayed with a friend in Barcelona, but since she had to work, I didn’t explore much as I hate travelling alone. (Smiles) This time it was better since I had company. But when the shoot started, you didn’t know these guys, and were almost a stranger...
Hrithik : Not really, Abhay and I move in the same social circle and Sussane and he were good friends.
Abhay: And I knew Zoya… But not Farhan. Has being with this gang changed you as a person?
Abhay: (Laughing) Yeah, I’ve become lazier.
Hrithik : And he eats more chocolates now. Who’re you kidding, I’m told you got him hooked to the gym?
Hrithik : No, it was Abhay’s level of fitness that impressed Farhan and me.
Farhan: Yeah, he’s really gung-ho about yoga.
Hrithik : He introduced me to his yoga instructor who cured my knee. Farhan, buzz is that you will be hosting season two of Master Chef.
Farhan: Not true, if you’re looking for a Master Chef from one of us, it should be Hrithik.
Zoya: Yeah, the way to Hrithik’s heart is through his stomach.
Farhan: There was a lot of eating, both in the film and away from the cameras too.
Hrithik : Yeah, at the end of a hard day’s work, we’d end up at some amazing eateries in Spain. There was one particular place in Valencia that was my paradise because you just make reservations and when you enter, the food is laid out for you to sample. If there is something you don’t like, they’ll replace it. (Smiles) It was a dream come true for me because I hate the process of deciding what to eat. I just want food to arrive so I can attack it.