Zoya also talks about her characters and how they came to be.
After the massive ovation accorded to her latest film Gully Boy, Zoya Akhtar is in a great space. But the director is conscious about the helping hands that believed in the film and its subject. She says, “I am very lucky to have producers like Ritesh Sidhwani and Farhan Akhtar. They let me make whatever I want to. I wonder what other producers in their place would have said if I had gone to say, ‘I want to make a film about a hip-hop singer from Dharavi.’”
When asked what inspired her to make a film about hip hop music, the director says that she was a fan of hip hop music herself and has listened to tracks of American hip hop musicians. “Then I discovered the throbbing desi hip-hop culture. I had to interact with the Mumbai hip-hop musicians. Gully Boy reflects their struggle. I started exploring their world, their lives, their trials and tribulations. I needed to marinate in their world,” she shares.
The director feels that the film did well because it touched upon a theme that resonates with many – the underdog in chase of his dreams. “It has reached out so far because of the class issue. A boy from the underprivileged class chasing his dream is a theme everybody identifies with. I think the line from Gully Boy - ‘Kisske liye aasan hai? (Who has it easy?)’ - is true for everyone. No one gets success easily. Everyone has their own struggle,” she opines.
Zoya also talks about her characters and how they came to be. Apparently, Alia Bhatt’s firecracker character was written by co-writer, Reema Kagti for another film, but was later adapted for Gully Boy. The director also tells us how Siddhanth Chaturvedi, who she spotted at a party, came to be cast in the film. “He was the last to be cast. We were just three weeks away from shooting and I wasn’t happy with anyone I had seen. Suddenly one evening, I spotted him at a party. He was dancing like there was no tomorrow. I introduced myself. He said he knew who I was and he was dancing to show me what he could do. I called him for an audition the next day and that was it. Siddhanth was manna from heaven. If I hadn’t found him I would have had to compromise on my casting,” Zoya reveals.
Though Gully Boy had quite a few Muslim characters, the film eschewed all stereotypes when it came to portraying the community. But the director feels that our films still have a long way to go when it comes to representation. She rues, “No community or culture is normalized in mainstream Hindi cinema. I don’t think the characters are always written well. They caricature women, men, homosexuals, disabled people… It’s across the board. It is not about a particular community or gender.”
Zoya says that in the future too, she hopes to make films that transcend the barriers of caste and creed, because for her, it’s the story that matters. “Tomorrow I may decide to make a film about a Mexican family. I wouldn’t be bothered with which strata of society they belong to. I want to able to seek the humanity of my characters. I want to transcend the barriers of class and creed. The filmmakers that I admire are those who address themselves to the human spirit. As a storyteller, I want to be able to make every kind of film,” she says.