Zoya Akhtar: ‘Zindagi…’ is not ‘Dil Chahta Hai 2’

The Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara director says her brother Farhan is very talented, but her film is not an extension of his debut flick

Zoya Akhtar is petite, but that doesn’t stop her from rushing into the room like a whirlwind and answering questions without a pause. (Or leaving enough buttons on her shirt open for us to get more than a glimpse of her ‘inner beauty’. But then it was a hot day, after all…) We are guessing that it is this attitude that has her confidently say that being a woman director in Bollywood is not a tough job. And it was that energy that took her through shooting at almost 100 locations through the Spanish countryside with hardly any breaks for her upcoming film Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (ZNMD). “I was really having fun, though since I was directing, I did not have as much free time as the others. But I love to go on road trips. I have always wanted to do a film on road trips. I wanted to do something visually completely different from Luck By Chance. When Reema (Kagti, co-writer) and I started writing, we had planned to set it in Mexico, because I am dying to go to Mexico. But certain elements that happened only in Spain entered the script. So we shifted to Spain.”

And directing her brother again was not much of a hassle. Even though Farhan is an accomplished director in his own right, with Dil Chahta Hai, Don and Don 2 and Lakshya to his credit. “Every actor gives you inputs and that is what you want. They will come back to you with hundreds of ideas; my job is to choose the idea. As for creative differences, yes, sometimes he would say, ‘This idea doesn’t work,’ or I would say, ‘I don’t like your idea’. But that was no big deal. There was no family drama.” In fact, Farhan has been an integral part of the scripting process too, Zoya revealed, “I have gone on lots of roadtrips with him. And Reema is a very good friend of his. So when we started writing, we used him as a reference to develop one of the characters and it became him. He is a very talented guy, but does not take it for granted and actually works at it.” But though she loves and praises him, she insists, “Zindagi… is not an extension of Dil Chahta Hai. If it had been, it would have been called DCH 2 or something. It’s a different film.”

Very different indeed, even from her previous film, Luck By Chance. So does she feel that the industry views her in a new light now, after LBC? She did go through a lot of casting issues for that one. “I don’t know what their view was before,” she says candidly, “whether it was their view of me or of the script I wanted to make. This script got made very fast. And that script didn’t, yes. People in the industry who watched LBC liked it. And that helps you get your next film cast. If actors like your work, they want to work with you. But I don’t know really.”

There is finally a pause in her constant stream of words. Ask her whether she really was going to cast Imran Khan and Ranbir Kapoor originally, she says, “No, but I did think of them. But as the characters developed, we needed someone with…(pause)…more weight. Hrithik (Roshan) plays an investment banker from London. We needed someone (ahem, longer pause) slightly older.” We wonder what Hrithik has to say to that!