Just a minute with Farhan Akhtar

Actor, writer and producer talks about his new film 'Karthik'

MUMBAI -- If your debut Bollywood film is considered an iconic work, chances are you will stick to directing for the rest of your life. Perhaps, try your hand at production or writing. But Farhan Akhtar didn't stop at just that.

In the last decade, the 36-year-old has tried his hand in every facet of the movie business -- acting, singing, writing, producing and even hosting a TV show.

His third film as actor releases this month and work on a sequel to 'Don' begins later this year. Akhtar talks about what keeps him going and his role in "Karthik Calling Karthik."

Q: Are you playing a double role in your latest film 'Karthik Calling Karthik' or not? The promos look confusing.

A: "How can you ask me the mystery of the film? I can't reveal the end. It's like one of those ads in the papers which say, 'don't reveal the end, please.' It's like that. I am contractually obligated, to myself, not to do that.

"That's part of the mystery of the film, as to who the other Karthik is. I have been resisting answering this question for the last two weeks."

Q: You've had three films come out, one after the other as an actor. Is it fair to say acting is taking over from the other roles you have assumed?

A: "No, I don't think it's fair to say that at all. 'Don' (the sequel) was meant to happen last year but Shah Rukh (Khan) injured his shoulder so we couldn't do it. I had a year to myself to do what I wanted to, which is how this script came along.

"But I am looking forward to it now, in fact I have already started work on it and we start the film October, and I am really looking forward to it. It's been a while."

Q: You were directing and writing before you got into acting. At what point did you start to take acting seriously?

A: "I took it seriously when I started doing it. You can't take on something and then not do it seriously. Too many people's careers and livelihood depends on it. What's interesting is that with every film I am feeling a little more confident to push myself, in terms of playing a character, which is further away from who I truly am. It's an evolutionary process."

Q: Did acting ever figure in your scheme of things when you started out?

A: "It is difficult to answer this question with a simple yes or a no. My first attraction towards films was the attraction towards acting which also stemmed from not knowing what else there was. After that, as you grow up and learn what else goes into making a movie, I felt my strengths, my ability to do something about it lay more in writing and direction than it lay in acting, which is why I pursued that a lot more aggressively than I did acting.

"Also, over the years, sensibilities have changed. More directors are veering towards performances being more real and natural rather histrionics. There were times when everything had to be pitched up and you had jump out and shake the audience with every emotion. Now it isn't like that which makes me comfortable in terms of the acting I would like to do and gives me the strength and the belief to do this."

Q: So has that belief that you were better at writing and directing changed?

A: "No, I still feel the same. So whether it is writing dialogues for people or working on my own script or even collaborating with someone else on a film, I am giving them whatever input I can. To me, that's as important as acting in the film. That's a constant and that won't ever go away."

Q: What is different about being an actor now than it was say five or 10 years ago?

A: "What is being demanded from actors is different. It's a question of the kind of performance that directors are demanding from actors. That has changed. There was a time when every single emotion, whether it be the performance, the way the scene was shot, the background music, everything was heightened. Like shock would be a big, wide-eyed expression, with a camera cut up really close. That has changed.

"Directors have moved towards creating a more lifelike situation and now when some one onscreen breaks some bad news you don't cut to everyone's reaction in the room. For me, that’s what works.

"From 'Dil Chahta Hai' to 'Lakshya,' that's the kind of performance that I demanded from my actors. Even if I was directing Hrithik in 'Lakshya,' I couldn't get him to scream and shout at the enemy, even though he was playing an army man. People don't do that in real life."

Q: Your last film "Luck By Chance" was perhaps the best reviewed film of last year but the boxoffice figures didn't match up. Does that tell you something about our audiences?

A: "Honestly, I don't know what I can learn about audiences from it. To me, it is easy to say, 'oh the audience wasn't ready for it' or 'it was ahead of its time'. It is very easy to have romantic notions but I don't have these issues. I try to contemplate why this film didn't work.

"What went wrong with the film was the way we marketed that film, the way we promoted it. There wasn't a single clear message as to what it is that a person going in to watch this film should expect. If you know that I am going to watch a good versus evil film, like 'Ghajini' for example, you know that the good guy will beat up the bad guy in the end. So I know what I am going in for.

"Somewhere we didn't manage to nail the intrigue factor of the film. If the message was that this was a film that talks about success, perhaps it would have worked. To me that's a lesson in how to do things differently the next time around. Because there was nothing wrong with the film."

Q: You are going back to direction after more than four years. Do you think you will have to feel your way around?

A: "Fortunately, I haven't taken a hiatus from movies. I was always on set, so I haven't gotten rusty. The one good thing is that I am feeling hungry to go out and do it. I cannot wait to go out there and direct my film. So far everything is on track, touch wood. I am sure as the day nears there will be a lot more nerves."

Q: Do you ever think of directing yourself?

A: "Not right now, no. The demands of both jobs are very different. As an actor when I am performing I don't want to be thinking about the camera problems or how long we have to wait. It would be distracting for me to do both, but you never know, there will hopefully be a lot more films in the future."