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Farhan Akhtar on India Today e-Conclave Inspiration: Be kind to people

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If he applied for a job, his CV would be dizzying. Director, producer, singer, writer, sky diver, deep sea diver, Farhan Akhtar is truly limitless. So simple yet so diverse.

From his journey in the film industry to the ongoing insider vs outsider debate, Farhan spoke at India Today e-Conclave Inspiration on various topics.

Excerpts from the interview:

So this is our inspiration series and that’s why I wanted to begin with you, growing up in the film industry, the son of two screenwriters, describe your childhood, describe yourself as a teenager, your dreams.

Um, well, I mean when I was growing up there was just one screenwriter in the house, that was my father. My mom was someone who had been in the industry as a child actor, so obviously she was very familiar with everybody from that world. But I mean it really was an extremely extremely creative environment to be in. There was also a lot of mystery because we’d see people coming to meet my father or whenever there was a bit of a get together at home, there’d be all these film people over and as kids of course you find that very exciting to see them in the flesh. So from a very early age, you inherently felt like you want to be a part of this world, want to be a part of what they are discussing, what they are talking about. Neither Zoya nor me were ever treated as kids by our parents. I mean of course there were rules in terms of getting to bed at a certain time because of school the next day and stuff, but in terms of just engaging with the guests, talking to them, being there you know… like you don’t have to go and play in a separate room that kind of thing. It was a warm environment, but at the same time there was a lot of talk of film and film scripts and film music. It played a huge role in shaping this love that both Zoya and I have for movies.

You know we will recap and rewind your incredible journey in Hindi cinema. You started off as an assistant director, so you always wanted to be a director, a film maker primarily?

I was obsessed with movies from a very very young age for reasons that we just spoke about and I was a consumer of movies. I’d watch two films a day, sometimes three films a day. We were very lucky to have a VCR player at home. My mom was a very avid collector of movies, so we had all kinds of movies that we could access. I was just consuming films and watching them. I knew inside me. like in your pit of your stomach, you know what your calling is, I was very embarrassed to admit it when I was a child because there was something still at that point when we were kids, you know the world of films seemed like a big, bad world. Also, you felt kinda embarrassed because your parents were from that world, so, everyone would feel ‘yeh toh but obvious hi hai, he will also go there only.’ I would feel very embarrassed to talk about it and I’d say to everyone I want to be a pilot, I’d like to be this, I’d like to be that and just stay away from talking about my love for movies but there came to a certain point where I couldn’t really control it anymore, fight it anymore. I spoke with Uday Chopra, we still are very close friends, and at that point he was assisting Yashji in Lamhe. I asked him if there is space, can I also just come and be on set and assist. He spoke to his father, his father met me and asked me whether I’m doing this for the sake of it or what excites me about it. I told him I really like the visual aspect of filmmaking, I was an avid photographer at the time, so he said why don’t you work in the camera department and work with the cinematographer because that seems to be what you’re excited about. So. I said great, I mean of course I’ll work as an assistant with him. So my first job actually was not as an assistant director, it was as an assistant cinematographer to Manmohan Singh ji on Lamhe, and I worked there, on that pretty much half the film. When I was working on that film, I saw what the assistant directors would do and their role in shaping of the movie and making of the movie was more wholesome, not just about the visual, it was about performance, it was about the set, it was about the mood, it was about the dialogue and I felt like that really is something that seems a lot more exciting for me to be doing and that’s when I switched with my next job where I worked with Pankaj Parashar as an assistant director.

The magic of Dil Chahta Hai. How did that happen? You become a director, writer, actor and you formed Excel Entertainment.

Well I was working with a very very influential person in my life at that time. His name is Adi Pocha, so I was working with him, we were advertising, I was working as an assistant director to him and he somehow recognized in me that there is a storyteller because I was constantly making up things, entertaining people, I would write, pick scripts for various brands or for corporate films, I would write that kind of stuff for him and it was always funny and he said, ‘you know you should sit down and write a script because you seem to have this ability to tell stories, what you don’t have at the moment is the discipline of sitting down and writing.’ So he inculcated the value of this discipline of writing in me. Everyone can tell a story, I feel, but to sit down and write it takes a lot of effort, you really keep challenging yourself, your writing takes you days, you go back and then throw it away. It can be a very frustrating process. So, he got me into that habit of writing, and that’s when I started writing this kind of an idea, which became Dil Chahta Hai, eventually came. I’ve met the who’s who of that time, you know from the biggest possible names to the people who had just broken into the scene. I met everyone. It wasn’t easy at all to cast that film because it wasn’t a conventional script. Nobody really knew what this film is about when they were hearing it, there was no hook in the film, there was no major dramatic plot point, so it took a lot of convincing with many people to come on board and eventually you know when Aamir heard it a couple of times, making me go back and think. When he first heard it, he heard it actually as an English draft. He said, ‘You know why don’t you just make this in English because I don’t know if this humor, this language, the way they speak, the way they are, this element of cool will translate when you do it in Hindi.’

So that was another process of, of going back and writing it in Hindi and coming back to him. So all that took time, and once he was on board, you know then its like dominos here. You know when somebody like that, that respected of course and somebody that sought after comes on board, you know there’s like a domino effect that happens where other people start taking you seriously, you know and he played a major role as far as that aspect of making that film goes. When he came on board, I mean a lot of the other cast fell in place. The only other person who was on board from the word go was Akshaye Khanna, when I’d met him and spoken to him. But everybody else, including Saif of course came on when Aamir called him up and spoke to him, that you really really should be doing this film.

Moving on, then you do an army film Lakshya, completely different again, how did that come about? Why that film at that time?

You know, there was a bit of a parallel in what was going on, in my life for quite a while before I started working in film, there was also a parallel after I finished Dil Chahta Hai of not knowing what to do next and because when I wrote that film, when I wrote Dil Chahta Hai, I really didn’t have a plan of saying ok this is going to be my career now, this was the film that I wanted to make. The fact that it was appreciated as it was, that somehow gave me the confidence and of course other people confidence that he should maybe try and make another film. But I wasn’t prepared for it because I never thought beyond my first film at all, so I struggled for a long time figuring out what I should do next and that’s when I met with dad, he was asking me what are your thoughts and he had just been to Kargil to celebrate Operation Vijay, the first anniversary of Operation Vijay and had gone to lay down early on the Kargil memorial, on the martyr’s memorial and he met a lot of officers when he was there and they spoke to him and said you know um why don’t you make a film to inspire people to join the army, I mean of course at this moment as always the Indian army is the toast of the nation, everybody is singing praises of how we have recaptured these peaks of, how bravely our soldiers and officers have fought but the unfortunate reality is that the number of officers enrolling or wanting to be officers, the number of people enrolling, the number keeps going down year by year. So, it’s no longer a seemingly, a viable option for people as a career choice, or as something they want to do. So that stayed with my father and he came back and he spoke to me and he said to me that this has been playing on my mind and I really want to do a film which will inspire people to joining the army, so I said ok great. So we sat down and started jamming and we started off from a guy which is really what I could contribute and connect to at that point was somebody who really doesn’t know what he wants ot do and how he ends up finding himself you know through this process. So it was that, it was really his, his passion project, to make it, and then of course when once we got into it and once you know researched more and learnt more about the army, because I was clueless about how they function, about what their life is like. It was an education for me through the making of that film. and it really is by far on of the most memorable experiences, I mean, I put it above everything else I’ve done as a filmmaker, whether as a director or a producer or as an actor, I mean what that film taught me about, about the making of movies, what it taught me about how to respect what it is that you’re making, it was a tremendous tremendous experience.

You know I love everything you do, but Don I have certain complaints because I cannot see anybody else or imagine anybody else..because I saw Don when I was very young and it’s a film that your dad wrote with Salim saab and Shah Rukh Khan as Don just did not work for me. Amitabh Bachchan is Don. Why did that happen?

Well you know I mean the thing is that, I mean its very strange when you say that because if I think about, when I think of Don I also, I mean I’ve been asked this question when I was promoting the film as well. When I think of Don, I think of Mr Bachchan too, you know because for me he is Don, he is the one who kind of entertained me with that film, who inspired me to want to make that film, his character. So he’ll always be that character for me but, for a whole other generation, that we reintroduced to this film for them Shah Rukh Khan will be the Don. You know and now I mean everybody is constantly, I’m sure you’re aware of it, for the last couple of years if not more constantly asking me when the third part or the third sequel will happen but the. For me, I was I was I guess I can’t say the biggest because I think everybody thinks that they are the biggest fans of Mr. Bachchan, but for me he was the guy, you know when I was growing up, I mean his movies were the movies for me to watch. Um and somehow this admiration for him, this love for him, this respect for his work, um for me. Not just for me, this is even, I can speak for Shah Rukh here because I notice for a fact, even for him it really was in tribute to that time and tribute to that character and you know to the man that made it memorable for us. So it really wasn’t a film, it wasn’t a film made to better it because you can’t.. you know it was a film just made to pay tribute to it and kind of share the joy we had when we watched it, you know with a whole new generation of children, of young people who probably hadn’t seen it

Yeah, I’m not surprised that you picked Don because I always thought it was such an underrated movie. The impact that Don had on me was incredible, but moving on then now let’s talk about Farhan Akhtar, the actor. So you begin with Rock On, we don’t have really a rock culture in India. The independent music scene is almost dead but still you go on to make a successful film, and a fine film with Rock On.

Well I mean honestly I mean the credit really here needs to go to Abhishek um. its need to go to Pubali the writer you know of the film. They are somebody who tapped into wanting to create a story about a rock band. Way before I thought of it um I bought into it immediately, yes. I thought it was an amazing idea, I thought it should be made in the best possible way that we could possible make it. All of that is true but it really is, it’s a project that I mean its Abhishek’s film you know and it’s important to also recognize that because many times when people speak to me about Rock On, they speak to me almost like as if I made the film but I didn’t, you know I acted in it. You know I had a wonderful time working on it, I had a wonderful time creating the music, because it gave us an opportunity to create band music in a film, which is something we never had a chance to do, which is always so situational and there’s always some kind of emotion that’s carrying the narrative forward, behind it. Um these songs gave you the independence and freedom to just write songs about anything you want to. So it was a lot of fun to work and I’m very. I’m very thankful that I don’t know what possessed, what apple fell on Abhishek’s head for him to come and talk to me about it.

But did you always want to act? As Ranveer once told me that Farhan is totally a filmy keeda, was that keeda there, that you wanted to act, that you wanted to be on screen?

You know its not um… I won’t say that I was averse to it and I won’t say I was dying to do it either, you know it wasn’t like that. I was loving what I was doing, I was making films that I was enjoying. Of course every person loves film um. you start from the place of loving the actor, you know because that’s what you know about movies. When I’m a kid and I’m watching Mr. Bachchan on screen, um. if my dad wasn’t my dad, I would have no idea what writing is about, I would have no idea what Mr. Yash Chopra does, I would have had no clue that somebody else has put this costume on them, I would be like this is the guy yaar, this is who I want to be. If I like movies I want to be him you know, so that of course what everyone had, but it wasn’t to the point where I was going out of my way to look for roles or write roles for myself, not at all, I was enjoying what I was doing and when I heard this script, and when I heard what it was about and then when Abhishek and me spoke about at length and to see how he wanted to create it, how he wanted to treat it, I felt very comfortable going ahead and saying yeah let’s do it. You know and the experience I say is something that encouraged me to want to do it more, before that I wasn’t thinking about it but when I did Rock On and it gave me a certain it gives you a acting it gives you a certain feeling of liberation because you are playing someone you’re not, on some level, then you want to keep challenging yourself and seeing how far away from myself can I keep going you know, or then how true to myself can I be, how much can I expose, how naked can I make myself, um. so all these challenges pop up and your.. you have a certain creative bent of mind you enjoy these challenges and take it on.

Let me me cut to what is widely recognized as your finest performance, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, what an incredible transformation and 100% commitment to the role. I remember asking you then when Bhaag Milkha Bhaag released, to choose between Dil Chahta Hai & Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, which one would you choose and you couldn’t give me an answer then. Do you have an answer now?

Wow. You know its difficult, its like comparing apples and oranges.

I think you gave your heart and soul to both movies, as the actor Farhan Akhtar & the director

May I tell you honestly and in all humility and I’d like to believe that about every single piece of work I’ve done, I mean of course sometimes you get it right, a lot of times you don’t, but my. I would, I really would like people to know and I would like people to believe, you know that form our place the intent and the sincerity with which we make something, is really to try and make something good, that is going to be good for you to watch and sometimes we get to try it and sometimes we don’t, but our effort is always the same. Bhaag Milka Bhaag required a lot more of effort than say a Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara required um. but the fact is you still give your 100% to what it is that you are doing and its difficult for me, see you know that um. I mean I don’t know Dil Chahta Hai will always have a very special place in my heart because if it wasn’t for that I don’t’ think there’d be anything after it. You know so that was, that will always have a special place in my heart, but the experience of Bhaag Milka Bhaag is a is incomparable, it really is I mean I honestly the closest that I feel, that I’m getting to be in that kind of zone again as an actor where I’m pushed and challenged like that is now Toofan with the same director. You know with Rakesh again. So its. But its difficult to compare, its difficult to compare.

Now lets talk about the biggest challenges you faced in the film industry.

The biggest challenges? Um. you know I think the biggest challenge for any person in a industry is dealing with failure, you know is a big one, then immediately and very close on its heels is dealing with success, it’s the other one. Both are equally as challenging, um so for me when for the first time I faced, not creative failure but when I faced box office failure umit really I it was post Lakshya, because Lakshya didn’t do well at the box office. In my life I’d never worked harder on anything than I’d worked on and somehow from everything that you need and everything life teaches you or you learn from people, there’s a certain feeling that you have that you know if I work honestly and I work hard and I give everything that I’ve got, my effort will be recognized, you know and and it should succeed. Why shouldn’t it and somehow life doesn’t always pan out like that you know so it taught me about dealing with failure, that we had a business where that can happen when you least expect um and how to gather yourself and focus on yourself in the future. You know, it was that um subsequently also dealing with success, you know because you see during the tomes of whether it was Dil Chahta Hai or Rock On, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara or Bhaag Milka Bhaag, you see these incredible highs and it is so easy to lose yourself, it is so easy to forget where you came from, why you loved.. why you started loving what you love and do um.. and you have to constantly have to keep reminding yourself of that and you have to constantly make very very serious , make an effort almost you know to kind of remind yourself of that, of those things. Keep your feet on the ground and not get carried away because it is very very easy to get carried away and suddenly everyone loves you, you know. So it can be pretty heady.

Farhan a raging discussion is on, the entire nepotism outsider vs insider debate. Firstly, do you agree that the industry is not a meritocratic system.

F: Yes and no. I do feel, I mean in our industry and you know enough about it now, you know it functions purely on success and failure, that’s what it functions on you know I mean we can discuss it You know I think nepotism is you know. I think the umbrella right now has become too large as a word, it’s taken too many other issues under it which actually don’t belong under that word, um. so different things have to be discussed separately. Umis there.. is there privilege for people who are born in the film industry, absolutely. There absolutely is privilege. Would it be easier for somebody in my place or another child who has been born and knows everybody from the time that they are born, everybody knows them from the time that they are born, they socialize at times go to each other’s events, would it be easier for them to have access to someone, to pick up the phone and call someone, meet someone, pitch a script to someone, to offer their services as an actor or actress to someone, 100% no denying that. Um does that mean that that’s a bad thing, no, I mean it’s that’s the lot of the draw, you know that’s what you’ve been given, your parents have worked incredibly hard to be able to give you I guess a certain kind of a head start as every parent would like to give their kid, but at the same time uh you cannot discount the struggles of what a person who was not born with this goes through, you cannot not be empathetic towards it, you can’t not understand it or pretend it does nto exist when you talk about it. It absolutely is, it cannot be easy and i.. I absolutely appreciate that and understand that, you know it it cannot.

You know Farhan the feeling now is that outsiders are discriminated against and are somewhat isolated, so there’s this privileged club in Hindi cinema which marginalizes these outsiders or so called independent artists and there’s a lobby who works against them and this whole debate is now centered around this – that there’s this lobby with the media, with PR. Taapsee Pannu told me that, listen I didn’t get featured on two very big magazines, but a star kid who hasn’t even done a film will get featured on the cover of the same magazine. So there’s this what you call movie mafia, this word is being thrown around very lightly.

F: You know, I can only speak from my experience on this because now I’ve been working for 20 years and it is .. I have never I don’t know what this privilege club is. Um. I don’t know what this, who this circle is that exists within a circle, you know that can that has this kind of influence and this kind of control on everything that goes I’m absolutely unaware of it, um in as in any other industry, as in any other fraternity there will be certain circles of friends that will form, it is but natural for that to happen. Um for me when I think about it, the people whom I have ended up being most friendly with are the people who actually were very good to me from the first time in my career, you know, you know when I first started there are people who were kind of there for me, reached out to me and I’ll always be there for them and I’ll always try to help as many people as I can as a producer, as a director and in whichever way I can, but I don’t necessarily notice. see again when Sushant, when you’re asking me I may not have the same experience as somebody else, you know so tis not possible for me to tell you that there is no such thing. I can only speak of it in my experience. It is difficult for me to say, and everybody has had their own individual experience, but the largest thing that I see, and this is something that has been around in the industry from as far as I can remember, and when you talk to the stalwarts, and when you talk to anyone, is people flock unfortunately or fortunately, however you want to look at it, whether it’s good or bad, that can be discussed, to people who are successful. When people are successful, everyone flocks around them, and when they are not successful, it’s only they are closest friends when everyone else is gone.

Ya I get where you’re coming from and what you’re saying but also Farhan, personally for you, your experience with Gully Boy, swept the commercial awards, India’s official selection for the Oscar’s, but everyone is pointing fingers at the selection itself, you know saying again that this is lobbying, again one of the most powerful studios, Ranveer Singh, Alia Bhatt, Big Banner production, how do you take this criticism?

Um firstly I don’t know which powerful studio you’re talking about, I mean we released the film ourselves, so there’s no studio involved, beyond that if.. if anybody feels that, whether it’s Ritesh, Zoya or myself who can have this kind of influence over who is going to decide the best foreign language entry to the Oscar’s, um. I mean that is they’ve given us a lot of credit that we don’t deserve. You know, we absolutely don’t have this say, we are as hopeful as any other producer or director would be when we send our film in for it to be an option. You know so it’s completely the decision of the film federation. You know should I be happy about it, that they chose my film? 100%. Anyone would be happy if their film is chosen. You know should I feel guilty about the fact that my film was chosen? There’s no reason for me to feel guilty, so I don’t know what to make of it, people feel that it wasn’t the right choice, they’re absolutely entitled to feel that way. Did I tell anybody you must send my film and don’t send somebody else’s film, aisa maine kuch nahi kiya.

You know, you wrote a heartfelt note also for Sushant Singh Rajput. What was your reaction to what happened and even the aftermath, what’s happening, you know this suicide, this very tragic accident has as I said triggered a much larger discussion.

Um.. I mean it is one of the greatest tragedies that I can think of, at least till recant times for such a young, talented actor, I mean successful um great potential, long career ahead of him, uh. For us to lose him in this manner, so I was very very sad, I feel it’s a tremendous loss to us all as as if eternity. Um but I mean I was, I don’t know it kind of. It enrages you, you know when you see um that um someone.. his family, his closest friends, um.well not giving them the opportunity to grieve, the theories constantly being spun about, why he did it and of course maybe there will be a time for that, but is this the time, I’m not entirely sure. So let some time pass, you know um. he hasn’t said why he’s done it, he didn’t leave a note, so anything that anyone says is speculation and they’re speculating from abetment to murder to you know the craziest of things. Um.. everyone has a point of view and everyone is feeling like they are right in what they’re saying, everyone suddenly knew him so well, everyone knew what he thought, everyone knew his journey and what he suffered from, um I don’t know I just felt that what followed is unfortunately, it’s a circus and in the midst of that um.. just the time for people to sit, introspect as to why somebody like this, why would this happen, for them to introspect is going forward what is it that we can do, I mean just be kind to people, you know just be more inclusive, whatever it is that you want to take from it, like be aware if somebody’s feeling like they’re ok but maybe you felt like that they were not so reach out to them. There is no time for this, everyone’s either got a sword out or is holding a shield, you know that’s all that’s going on and I feel that it’s become very messy, very ugly and it’s just unfortunate. We should remember him for the great work he did, we should remember him for um I mean just this incredible talent that he brought, shared with all of us, um. we should mourn the fact that we have lost somebody who had a great, great career ahead of him um. and we should introspect with these as opposed to, there’s blame games and defense games, it’s terrible.

You said its literally a circus but lot of sharp reactions, Karan Johar, Salman Khan, Aditya Chopra, Yash Raj Film, brutally trolled, um even voices like Shekhar Kapur, Abhay Deol, your co-star from Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara he’s been speaking on it, is the industry really wary of outsiders

If you just look at the amount of people who are functioning in the film industry you know as directors, as producers, as actors, there is a healthy mix of everything. You know so um.. I don’t think anybody’s vary of anybody else, I…neither you nor me nor anyone who is from the industry or out is suspicious of what somebody else wants from them. Everybody wants to do good work. You know I mean there is .. that’s absolutely clear, everyone wants opportunities to be able to showcase their work, that’s what they want and um unfortunately in life it is easier for a few, it’s not as easy for others, but I somehow feel everything gets painted in broad strokes, you know when you talk about say are outsiders . All outsiders are treated badly, that’s not true, you know, all industry people are clan-ish, that’s not true. So you can’t paint broad strokes, because every single person has had a different journey, so its very difficult to fight a battle, or put a point of view across when what you’re being asked to comment on are such large generalizations. Ya so you don’t know where to start.

I want to know some of the behavioural patterns that you thought were detrimental for you personally and you worked on. How did you better yourself?

You know I think the first thing that we all have to do because also see like filmmaking is being, and especially being an actor or being an actress, your life is very very public umso I feel I very consciously I feel, I feel this about most people that there should be some kind of a private sanctuary that you really really belong to you and you know to your nearest ones and your dearest ones. Um…we are in any case you know easy fodder for gossip, we are easy fodder for media to conjure up stories about us, everybody tries to take it in their stride and not have very loud reactions to anything that is written about them, but there is you know few things about it.. You’re constantly facing, um.. there is a kind of a barrage of information that is coming at you and a lot of times about yourself, you know that you’re unaware of, you know you have to find this sanctuary somewhere that gives you peace and not look for validation constantly from the outside. I feel that the minute you feel that your work is only worth something, or that I am only worth something, if other people tell you that I’m good, or I’m wanted, or I’m successful, you know or you’re gonna be in trouble and which is why I go back to never ever forget why it is you started doing what you did. You started doing it because you sat somewhere, and watched something, or heard somebody talking about something that made you feel mad, wow, what a great place!! You know I want to be on the screen, I want to write a script.

What inspires you?

Well stories yaar mainly, people with great stories and just I mean you know, you’re constantly looking for sources of inspiration you know unfortunately this lock down is not providing any at the moment but that’s what it is, I mean you’re greatest drive of course is to entertain and engage people, or to entertain people in a meaningful way and for that of course you need to keep feeding your own soul, be it through, I mean, just from personal experiences, through books you read, through music you listen to, through travels that you have, you keep finding ways of inspiring yourself to say keep telling stories.

Do you set goals, because you’re a man of many faces, producer, director, singer, writer, certified sky diver, so did you make a list and kept ticking these off?

No, I mean at different times I’ve had different goals come up as well, I mean like apart from the thing in film, that I definitely wanted to direct, produce and then act in movies, um.. that apart I mean, I do tremendously enjoy the outdoors. Be it sky diving, be it trekking, be it deep sea diving, an when opportunities present themselves for me to kind of cut away from the urban kind of existence we tend to lead for most of our… year. Um. I tried to go off and do something else, it helps recharge my batteries, just helps… It feeds you in a different kind of way here, you know out in nature. It does.

You voice your opinion vociferously, in today’s climate how important is that, just as a message to the viewers who are watching this, how important is it to voice your opinion, like you know when you spoke against the citizen amendment act. It takes courage in today’s time, doesn’t it?

I would like to believe that it shouldn’t have to take courage you know. We have grown up in a society, we’ve grown up under the rule of law and a constitution, that empowers you, you know to be able to speak your mind without fear, um..and so that in itself are values that have been inculcated into me by my parents, by Shabana, um.. you know that it is important that we are people who are public personalities, we are people who are constantly engaging with multitudes of people across this country, you know at times asking them to come and watch our work, um. and its equally important for us to share their concerns to voice the fact, to let them know that we share in their concerns, to let them know that what affects them, also affects us. So that is important. You know and I do feel that it is also important to kind of, to pick the battles you fight, because you really really really have to feel passionately about something and not just comment for the sake of commenting, because everybody else is, you know so let me also put my two bit opinion in there, it needs to have more substance than that, I mean because things that you say you are responsible for. You know things that you put out, those are things that you are gonna have to stand by. You may be corrected later, if you were wrong and you should be humble enough to accept the fact the fact that you were, and if you were right, you should have the strength to kind of see it through. Um.. and I do feel strongly about that in certain regards, most.. and the biggest one which I have been for the longest time is gender inequality and violence against women, that is something I have been speaking about for the last close to, now 7 8 years, and that is very very close to my heart and that is something that I will continue to do. But as and when things do come up I feel people should, I mean you should not feel afraid. It is your right, umit is your right to speak up as a citizen, it is the duty of your government, of your people to protect the right that you have to be able to voice your opinion freely.

What do you think about polarization? You know there’s a lot of talk about Hindu-Muslim, I know Javed saab told me he was an atheist. What do you think about the concept of religion? Is there a fundamental problem?

You’re asking me a very like big question, you know the thing is people are entitled to their own faith, people are entitled to believe in what they believe, I don’t think anyone should be in a position where you are being forced to accept the belief system of somebody else, I think we should respect everyone for whom they are, I do believe that personally religious studies should be kept outside schools, out of schools, out of educational institutions, um I feel that learning should be scientific, learning should be.. that’s the kind of mind you should create in schools. Faith is a very very personal thing, um.. and if somebody chooses to believe in god in any form, or of any religion, that is entirely his or he choice, and nobody to begrudge them that. Um. I choose not to believe it, I choose not to have faith, that’s my belief system. Um. but the thing is that it is over time and this not a new phenomenon, over time it is something that can be very easily used, it can be very easily weaponised, you know and it is important and unfortunately the human race refuses to learn from experience, you know unless its their own, so I mean that’s something we seem to be suffering over centuries, its not a recent phenomenon. You know, so I think awareness, I mean it is your personal faith, you are free, you are entitled to pursue any faith that you want, let nobody tell you whether its good or.. or bad, or that you shouldn’t be doing it, um its entirely your call, but at the same time be aware, be respectful towards other people because somebody is different in their belief system to you doesn’t necessarily make them a bad person, we have to rise above it. You know, I mean who we are as people is more important as which religion we belong to. You know and I believe humanity has to rise above these differences. It has to rise above differences in religion, it has to rise above differences fo caste, it has to rise above differences of class, there are many things that we’re constantly challenged with, um.. and we have to rise above it otherwise what’s the point of being a part of. Of this race, I mean if every single thing that comes along can divide us so easily and can weaponise us so easily against each other, um. we’ve failed. You know so there has to be a lot more awareness about being used, about being treated as.. Being brainwashed, being treated as a soldier in somebody else’s army. Why do you want to be there?

I have to ask you about what Abhay said about Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, that basically both of you were reduced to being side heroes, Hrithik Roshan was the big hero and similarly there was a lot of talk about this. if you don’t go on Koffee with Karan, then you haven’t arrived in the industry.

Tell me something yaar, if you make a film and your film does well, is that not enough for you? Honestly I’m asking you in utter seriousness, is that not enough? Is it that important to go on a talk show? That will make you who you are? That will decide whether you are successful. If somebody who is a contemporary of yours, firstly this rivalry is something created by whom? I mean when we meet each other, we meet absolutely warmly and as friendly ly as possible, but your constantly hearing about some rat race and everybody is fighting each other to some kind of spot which does not exist. You know so I mean the fact is you have to you have to believe in yourself, you have to work sincerely, work hard, how many magazine covers you will do, whether you came on the front page of a magazine, or the front page of a newspaper, you know if that is your larger interest, um. I really feel that you are in the wrong profession. You’re not here for that. We were discussing this before, before we got cut off the last time, you know have you come here to be an actor, have you come here to be a director, have you come here to be a singer, have you come here to be a music composer, or have you come here to be a reality star? Have you come here to be a just. I don’t know a star?

I think what he’s saying is you don’t reduce us to being supporting actors, and make one person the superstar and everything is about him.

No, no, no, I’m discussing the second part of your question. You know so I feel that’s a very personal thing. If in your personality you are constantly seeking validation for things, you will.. there is no eventuality possible but disappointment. You many wonderful time for a while, but eventually you will be disappointed, because it is not possible to keep getting validation from other people. Once you get it you want more, and then you want more and then you want more. So remember why you came here, if somebody calls me on their show, you know go. If they don’t call me, what difference does it make? You know, what have I lost? Nothing! In fact I saved time to do something else. So its completely fine.

Ananya Panday said “mere papa Chunkey Panday never went on Koffee with Karan”, like she’s very disheartened. And then now people are saying Sushant Singh Rajput never got a chance to go on Koffee with Karan after Dhoni.

I can sit here and be like yaar you know even after Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and Bhaag Milka Bhaag, Karan never invited me on Koffee with Karan. I’ve never gone, what difference does it make? It makes no difference, I’m doing my work, I meet him, we’re friends, its totally fine. He wants to invite somebody on his show its his problem, its his decision, why should I feel bad you know? If he calls me I will go, if he doesn’t it doesn’t make any difference to my life. Is me going on his show or any one’s show, appearing on the cover of a magazine, will that finally decide how good my work is, will that make people be. Now toh his performance in the next film will be great because he was on the show, aisa toh kuch hone wala hai nahin, concentrate on your work yaar guys, why are you all focusing on this, these are all frills and these will come and they will go.

I think the problem is that they’re saying that they’re promoting their own clique, they’re own clan.

Arre bhaiya, yeh “they” kaun hain, yeh “they”? This they is a mystery.

These people who are being trolled, this sort of power center in the industry, that’s what everyones talking about.

Arre I’m saying whatever anyone is talking about, what is your drive? What are you doing here? Have you come here to go on this show? Have you come here to be on the cover of a magazine? If that’s what you want then it will happen once and then what will you do, your goal is finished, uske baad aap kya karoge? When it has to happen it will happen, that cannot be. That cannot decide who you are. That cannot decide whether your work is good or not. Your entire focus as a creative person, that’s what you’ve come here for, should be on, let me make sure that my work is mind-blowing, that when I do this, nobody can do it the way I do it, that should be your focus.

I agree 100% with what you said, and I think that the only problem is that they’re making a bigger brand out of these people and then they feel that we don’t get similar opportunities because they’ve been made into these big stars by coming on these shows and being on these magazines, I think it’s a never ending debate. Finally I want to ask you, uh. Which film makers attracted you? who did you look up to? Your favorite films, favorite actors, who inspired who?

Favourite actor toh we discussed. Huge, absolutely massive fan of Mr Bachchan, so because of him every director he worked with also looked good to me, it was kind of like that, so I loved Ramesh Sippy’s work, I liked Manmohan Desai’s work, Prakash Mehra’s work, all of them because they were working with him and I really enjoyed his work and used to enjoy those films. And then of course when you start watching more stuff, actually really going back in time, more than contemporary, the 80’s, they were really few and far in between in terms of really good work that was happening, you know for public consumption and you know.. you know its true, it was a strange period, the world over I mean, in many different ways we had whether it was fashion, whether it was hair, whether it was film, you know it was strange and everybody is kinda rediscovering who we and what kind of people we want ot be like and so I kinda went back in time and discovered people from before my time, so you know be it Guru Dutt,or be it Bimal Roy, Ashok Kumar’s performances, Dilip Kumar’s performances, their work, Mehboob Khan, so watching that stuff.

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