'Can't keep a good thing down'
Young Zoya Akhtar has done it all for Bollywood - from writing and directing her own film Luck by Chance to casting junior and senior artistes to being assistant director. Ayesha Banerjee finds out what makes her tick...
Try a different approach
When I started working in media I wanted to write and that's what I did. I worked as a copywriter when I was in college. Then I saw Salaam Bombay and I knew I wanted to make films. I worked as an assistant director on commercials till I got a job with Mira Nair herself. My experience was great as I worked as a freelancer. I worked with various directors and saw different approaches. Each had a unique strength and different priority. I feel working with just one person limits you and you tend to imbibe their style. I then went to school in NYU and did a diploma, which was great fun.
Also casting helped me a lot as I wanted to direct and I had a scene, a camera and an actor to direct. It was a fantastic learning ground. I have to say I hate production though.
Going by gut feel
How big a deal is casting?
Casting is half the battle. If you cast right you are in a very good position to deliver something true to the story you are telling. My casting director does the homework and I go with my gut. I also believe this effort should be made not just for the leads but every speaking part in the film. All your characters create a world and if everyone sounds true you are bound to convince people.
When it came to writing for Luck by Chance, I went to Goa to write a film and I did. It took three months of working every day to come up with Luck by Chance. You can't write without discipline. You can't wait for the muse to arrive. Leo Tolstoy said he sat on his desk to write every day and if he couldn't he sat there and stared at the blank sheet of paper. The point is you have to sit there no matter what.
Work hard, get inspired
And then translating all that writing to celluloid...Is it hard, hard work? Very hard work…Very inspiring work and great, great fun. The translation does not happen with you alone. There is an entire crew working for you. As a director it is your job to give them a singular vision to work towards and your job to encourage ideas and filter the ideas so that everything thatgoes on film adds to your vision.
Love what you do...
Is it a tough ride to be a success in Bollywood? It is a struggle. If you don't toe the line it will always be a struggle. But you got to hang in there and do what you love and do it well. After a point no one can keep a good thing down.