SPECIAL FEATURE – ZOYA AKHTAR


A Greek presidential guard stands as he seen through the remains of a European Union flag half-burnt by protesters in Athens, on Wednesday, May 1, 2013. About 8,000 people took part in subdued demonstrations in Athens as austerity-weary unions held a strike for May Day. The country’s main labor unions protested soaring unemployment, which is the highest in the 27-country European Union, and the austerity measures the conservative-led government is enacting in return for crucial bailout loans. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

She is the new breed of super-director of the film world followed by billions globally. She re-defines the way films are. Her movies become a CULT. What makes Zoya Akhtar the new leader of Indian Film Industry. ZOYA AKHTAR in conversation with Saimik Sen, CEO, WCRC Leaders Asia 

“Zoya” and “Direction”. Is it something you have always aimed for?

I have always liked films. But I think when I was a teenager, this is when I realized that this is what I want to do.

In your opinion which is the most significant aspect of direction?

I think having a perspective on the story is the most important thing

A demonstrator kicks a riot policeman during clashes in central Athens on Tuesday, June 29, 2010. Some 16,000 people took part in two separate demonstrations, the second of which turned violent as stone-throwing youths fought with riot police. Public services shut down across Greece Tuesday as workers walked off the job in a new nationwide general strike that disrupted public transport, left hospitals operating on emergency staff and pulled all news broadcasts off the air. (AP Photo)In an Industry whelmed with male directors, does being a women director impinges you at any point of time?

My entire experience is being a female. I don’t really think about it. No one will tell, we are nicer to you or not because you are a women. I don’t know how they are with other people. I just do my work. The crew takes you seriously if you know your job.

A student of NYU, a casting director, an assistant director and now Direction. How have all these paradigms contributed to your evolvement?

I feel different things give you different experiences. Casting gave me the experience of working with actors and it was great for me to learn how to direct actors. NYU was amazing as we learned everything, from lighting to writing to music. We learnt everything about filmmaking. So, it was a very holistic experience. Besides that, the whole experience of living in New York made me learn a lot. Also I will say that my biggest film school is watching films!

What is one thing you would wish to change about the entertainment industry?

I wish the entertainment industry was more united on a lot of levels and wish the government take us a bit more seriously. Because we are an industry and we pay a lot of tax. I wish we were taken care of, whether it comes to piracy, infrastructures, or laws for shooting, or not putting no smoking on our films. If the industry really came together, they could change it.

Be your own fortune teller! How would you be 5 years down the line

I have no idea! and that’s the fun of it.

You have given movies a stature that talks of universal applicability with drama and emotions, over and above it reflects an annotative cinema. Do you direct with this perspective?

I think the message organically comes out with the kind of story that it is. I enjoy the genre of comedy and drama. But I have to make films that mean something. Whatever that little story is, it should be about something and it should say something. So whether it is a small or a big issue, it’s important for me that my stories mean something.

Would you be willing to direct a movie raising women concerns or rather reflecting them empowered?A demonstrator kicks a riot policeman during clashes in central Athens on Tuesday, June 29, 2010. Some 16,000 people took part in two separate demonstrations, the second of which turned violent as stone-throwing youths fought with riot police. Public services shut down across Greece Tuesday as workers walked off the job in a new nationwide general strike that disrupted public transport, left hospitals operating on emergency staff and pulled all news broadcasts off the air. (AP Photo)

Dil Dhadakne Do had that and the point is that it doesn’t have to be only one woman in the movie. Also, I think through whatever movies I make the concern is there. My female characters are extremely strong for a reason. It is my wall view, it is how I feel about women and it will come into any story I tell. I am a film maker, my value system will come out in my work because I am well aware of that, but at the same time I want to make films on stories I am excited to tell and within that story you give your truths out!

Also if a story excites me I will do an entirely woman centric movie. I am not going to do it because I am a woman and I should. I will do it if something moves me to say it.

Zoya Akhtar’s directorial presence on Indian Screen talks volumes about cinematography, details and emotions.

That’s the fun of making movies!

It’s collaborative art. You have a lot of people who are amazing at what they do and they are all there to get a vision out of you and make that happen. That’s the joy of making films. It’s got art, music, sound, lighting, dramatics, and dance.

Everything! In one art form. If my films are detailed, credit goes to these people.

One thing you have to let go off as a Director.

Impatience!

Because that can make you take wrong decisions. You have got to be patient with your crew, your actors, be patient for the light waiting for the sun and everything else. You have to be patient. You just have to get it right and have to let go off that chalta hai quality.

How is it being a celebrity child? Has it been helpful or pressuring in terms to match up your family’s fame and work?

We are very different as individuals. We grew up with other kids from films, but we had a really broad based child hood. It wasn’t always about movies. We were exposed to a lot of things and we travelled a lot.

Right now, I am very happy that all my family members are doing really good work.

Also I have three writers. Every time I write a script I get a feedback from three of the best minds in the business.

PERSONAL GRID

What things fascinate you the most when you travel?

It depends on where I go. I like history, so if I go to places that are slightly old civilizations, I like to see their art and architecture, museums. I will see what kind of handicrafts they make there. And I love food! If I go to a new place I will eat everything and try everything.

What are your hobbies?

I like to read and travel. Also I like music and watching films.

Best and the worst thing about your job

The best thing about my job is telling stories. I am a story teller!
Also, I don’t feel like its work. Though it is a lot of hardwork, but it’s creating, so it’s very fulfilling.
And the worst thing about my job is that others don’t see it as a job. People don’t let you do your job. If you are shooting on the street, people will just get in there. They don’t realize that it’s a lot of work and a lot of money. People don’t treat it as a hard earned profession.

A message from you

I think India is on a very strange pace and it has become intolerant of things that are none of their business. And those things that they should care as a society, they aren’t bothered about it. I find it appalling. I think we need to focus on priorities and figure out what is important. And what we need to change.

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