Donning several hats of being a director, actor, producer, screenplay writer and singer, Farhan Akhtar has been an inspiration to an entire generation through his larger-than-life yet relatable roles. He chooses scripts that move him. He tells Chahak Mittal how the story of The Sky is Pink inspired him as it presents a fresh take on life and relationships
The Sky is Pink, the title of director Shonali Bose’s forthcoming film, reminds me of my early school days when I used to paint the sky purple in my colouring books. I imagined it to be in my favourite colour as I didn’t want the sky to be conventionally and literally blue. Little did I know that this idea would match that of a filmmaker’s vision.
So when I dig deeper and ask actor Farhan Akhtar the reason, he laughs and gives me an “inside scoop” and reveals that in the film, the younger version of Ishaan — the son of Aditi Chaudhary (played by Priyanka Chopra) and Niren Chaudhary (played by Farhan) — calls his mother, who is in London, and tells her how his teacher at school was upset with him because he coloured the sky pink in his drawing. “That’s when Aditi tells him, ‘Don’t let anyone tell you what colour your sky should be. If you want it to be pink, you should paint it pink.’ And that is what the philosophy of the film and the Chaudhary family too is,” says Farhan. This certainly gave meaning to my idea, which was otherwise looked at as flawed, and answered the long-lost query — why can’t I paint my sky purple?
This is also something that Farhan personally agrees with and is evident in his words when he tells us how he finds space between his reel and real life as he is always surrounded with multiple projects. He says, “I think you always somehow find time to be able to do things, which you like to do and think are important. Currently, I have this joy of The Sky is Pink releasing and also shooting for my next project, Toofan, which is very interesting. But amid all this, I do find time to spend with my kids. I make space for things which I want to do.”
Explaining what drew him to the film, Farhan says, “Apart from being a very well-written and constructed script, the fact that it is an amazing story of people inspired from real life makes it even more special. In the film, all the scenes actually did happen. It was great to join Shonali’s film.”
The film is a love story of a real-life couple, which is told through the lens of their teenage daughter, Aisha Chaudhary, who had succumbed to pulmonary fibrosis. Despite her suffering, Aisha’s optimistic view towards life became an inspiration for many and she delivered several motivational speeches before her death at TEDx Talks.
So had Farhan heard of Aisha before the film? No. “I had not heard of Aisha or the Chaudhary family until Siddharth (Roy Kapoor, producer) told me that Shonali would like to meet me for the film. He told me about Aisha’s talks, which were available online. I watched a few of them and found them incredibly moving. I read the script and instantly agreed. I just felt that I am doing it!” says he.
The film revolves around Niren and Aditi, who, as a couple, are very open and don’t restrict their daughter for anything or cry over the fact that she is going to die soon. Instead, they enable her to keep her spirits up.
“Aditi and Niren are extremely forward-thinking people but at the same time, they also maintain their connection with their roots. They are very family-oriented. They want to stay connected with each other. This, in a way, shows how there are all kinds of India and not just one kind of it. An Indian could be as modern or contemporary or forward-thinking as much as s/he could be traditional or conservative. That’s also what makes this country so amazing,” he says.
Farhan was bowled over by the fact that the duo had such an open approach to deal with every situation and were “ready to put every possibility into consideration to keep their daughter alive and give her a healthier and longer life.”
Self-admittedly, Farhan chooses roles that are inspirational. Be it the role of an athlete, fighting from his traumatic past and emerging victorious, in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, or a vulnerable poet who expressed his pain through writing in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, or a musician passionate enough to make his dream come alive in Rock On!!, every now and then, he has tried to be versatile and, in turn, inspired many. He says, “When I hear or read something, it has to have something humane about it in order to appeal me. If I read something and it moves me, inspires me or speaks to me in a way that it makes me feel things, I want to experience being a part of it through the film. It matters the most to me.”
Well, certainly, with so many hats — that of a director, actor, producer, screenplay writer and even a singer — a film could be made with Farhan alone! He laughs and wants the question to be repeated, “Haanji?” He then says, “No. A film requires a team. I guess I am very fortunate to have been working around such people who are sensitive to the fact that I enjoy doing various things. So whenever I am focussed on one aspect, for example, music or writing or acting, I always find people who are supportive of it. They are constantly filling in spaces that are left vacant while I am doing something else. I am very thankful for this support structure, it allows me to be me,” says the actor.
It has been 18 years since Dil Chahta Hai, with which Farhan had made his debut as a director. Did he sense its cult appeal at the time? He never imagined it. “When you’re working on a project, you put in so much to it, you don’t know or think how it would turn out to be. It’s only later that you’re happy and also, surprised, that it turned out so well. I am grateful that the audience loved Dil Chahta Hai,” says he, signing off.
Thursday, 10 October 2019 | Chahak Mittal | in Vivacity