Farhan Akhtar says he always knew his sister Zoya would become a great writer and director.
He had seen first-hand how committed she was to her craft and that hard work paid off, because Zoya followed up her acclaimed directorial debut Luck By Chance with super hit film Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. Farhan not only produced the multi-layered films, but also played a lead role in both of them.
He is doing the same again with Zoya’s hotly anticipated third film Dil Dhadakne Do, a multi-starrer about a family on a cruise trip who have to confront some hard truths. Farhan stars alongside an impressive ensemble cast that includes Priyanka Chopra, Anil Kapoor, Anushka Sharma and Ranveer Singh.
Eastern Eye caught up with Farhan to find out more about the hotly anticipated film, filmmaking, his future ambitions and more.
What did you like about the film as an actor when Zoya presented Dil Dhadakne Do to you?
I just wanted to be a part of this amazing script that Reema (Kagti) and she had written, and work with her again as a director, because it’s been a great experience the previous two times – I worked with her on Luck By Chance and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. Of course, the character I play in the film is really interesting and at the same time, crucial as far as Priyanka’s sub-plot is concerned. So on all fronts, I thought it would be a good film to be a part of.
Tell us a little bit about your character?
I play a character called Sunny Gill. He is a journalist for a fictitious magazine called Geographic. It is a slightly political magazine modelled on the lines of how you would maybe see a Newsweek. He is taking a break from work because there is a family celebration he needs to be part of. That is really the root of the character. But in the film, what happens is predominantly centred around the family and their relationships, apart from key moments where certain beliefs are revealed.
What was it like having Priyanka Chopra as your leading lady?
We have worked on two films already where I have directed her. Beyond that, we are very good friends and have hung out a lot. So it was easy and very comfortable. She’s very easy-going so I had a great time.
You must have had a great time singing a song together as well?
Yes, absolutely. In all honesty, when you’re working with someone who gives you a lot that you can feed off for your own performance, it’s great. As an actor, that is really all you can ask for.
Is it easier for you as an actor to work with a huge cast or does it become more challenging?
You know, when you work with good actors, regardless of it being a big cast or if it’s just you and one other person, its great. The fact is when you are working with someone who is really good at what they do, then as an actor, you are getting so much from their performance or from what they are doing. Then you can react to that. It helps and lifts your performance. So it really is nice to work with good actors, regardless of the number of them in the film.
Are you nervous because expectations are sky-high around Dil Dhadakne Do? Everyone is expecting it to be the best movie of the year?
Now that we are coming around into that last lap before the film is released, this is usually the time when nerves start kicking in. We hope that we have done everything correctly – was there something else that could have been done differently is one of the questions that keep popping up, especially when you are watching it over and over again in the edit or when the background score is being done. But overall, everyone is feeling really good about the film. We have had focus screenings and the reaction has really been very positive. We feel very grateful that people are enjoying the film as much as they are. So in terms of anticipation, of course there is, there always is before a film is released. I hope everyone enjoys it.
You went to some great locations to shoot in this film. Which was your favourite?
(Think) Well, that is tough to say. In terms of the places I have never been to, I would probably say Istanbul. All the places I hadn’t been to were unique. Everywhere else when we stopped I had seen before, so Turkey I would say was my favourite, because I hadn’t been before.
Which is your favourite moment in the movie?
(Smiles) I don’t know, I guess when it says, ‘directed by Zoya Akhtar’.
I’ve been reading that there are going to be some big-name cameo appearances in the film?
Well, I don’t think I can reveal what might be a surprise in the film.
Have you completely switched off from the directing side of things? The last time we spoke, you said you were hoping to start something this year?
No, I haven’t. Right now as an actor, I feel very fortunate that I am getting the scripts that I am and the characters I’m getting to play. I just feel that when things are inspiring me or motivating me to be part of them, I should do it. I don’t think of it as a 9-to-5 job. I don’t think that if I have something I’m not excited about, I should still go ahead and do it as an actor. Currently the work I’m being offered I am truly inspired by. So I’m focusing on that. Hopefully there are many years left that I have to offer as a creative talent in the work I do, and direction is definitely going to be part of it. It’s probably my first love.
Could you share a behind-the-scenes story that is memorable from Dil Dhadakne Do?
Every day was something new because there are so many cast members and everybody has moments with each other in the film. So the fun part was you are constantly doing scenes in a new environment with a lot of people you hadn’t had a scene with before. It always felt like something new was going on and something fresh was happening. I think that is the most memorable thing about doing a film with such an extended cast.
You must be incredibly proud of the phenomenal body of work your production house has done?
Thank you very much, Asjad. Yes, absolutely. Ritesh (Sidhwani) has a huge role to play in that – just making sure things go smoothly is very important, just making sure everybody is happy working on the film. I feel it reflects in the movie when you watch it. The energy around the film usually is good. I am very proud of the films we have made. I feel very grateful, of course, for the audiences who have been there and loved them.
What is the secret of producing a good film? You guys clearly know.
There really is no secret formula. The fact is we have an instinct and we have to go with that. In all honesty, once your instinct says yes, then you start designing. But you can’t design something when there is no instinct, it is not possible.
As a producer, do you prefer big-budget movies or the smaller-budget ones?
For me, every film poses its own challenges and offers its own set of advantages. At the same time your work, whether you are directing or acting, truly is there to serve the script. So I don’t think if it’s a big-budget film I should perform differently. That doesn’t happen. So it really doesn’t matter.
Looking ahead, what are your greatest unfulfilled ambitions? It seems like you’ve done everything?
I don’t know. Right now we are finishing Dil Dhadakne Do then we are going to start getting Wazier and Bangistan released. Then we start shooting for Rock On 2 by August/September. My hands are full with many things happening so I am just truly focused on the work that I have.
Do you have any non-cinema ambitions?
Well, music is a huge thing. That truly is a whole other release for me. I don’t know how to explain it, but there is a certain affection or gratification, if you want to call it that, for a creative side which somehow films are not able to provide for me. Independent music that I started doing outside films is something that drives me tremendously.
You are clearly good at music. Are time constraints preventing you from doing more in that field?
The work that I do on films is the reason why I have to take longer breaks in-between the music projects. Fortunately, we make musicals so it is always on some level provided for; being in the studio environment. Sitting and writing your own songs and putting it together with your band or with somebody who is going to compose it for you, that’s a whole other trip. But that needs time. It is your thoughts, ideas and it’s about you, so needs do come out at a time that is right. And in a way, when you have enough time to think about what you want to say.
Finally, why should we all go watch Dil Dhadakne Do?
(Laughs) Why shouldn’t you? I feel after a really long time, there is like a good family drama that entertains you, makes you laugh and makes you cry. I think it’s been a while since a film like this has happened. It is truly entertaining and it’s also very moving I’m sure people are going to enjoy it because it connects with everyone on a very human level.
Dil Dhadakne Do will be in cinemas on Friday, June 5.