Zoya Akhtar has a lot to celebrate for this birthday. Her film Gully Boy was not only a superhit it has gone as India’s official entry to the Oscars. Yaay to that! And let’s raise a toast to one of India’s first female filmmaker who doesn’t make films on feminist themes with female protagonists in the lead. Zoya surprised us with her very first film Luck By Chance in 2009 which was set in the heart of the Hindi film industry and featured her brother Farhan as a struggler groping his way through the decadence of an industry that worships only success.
At that time Zoya had told me she didn’t want to be predictable as a filmmaker. And she wasn’t! Zindagi Na Milegi Dobaraa in 2011 was as different from Luck By Chance as Zoya from Farah Khan. The film, regarded as a cult product, spurred a movement across the country to take self-searching holidays just like Hrithik Roshan, Farhan Akhtar and Abhay Deol in the film.
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Dil Dhadakne Do in 2017 was to many, Zoya’s weakest film. The send-up on the Indian elite often looked more like a homage to the rich and the bored than a satire. To those who were disappointed by Zoya’s third film, Gully Boy this year came as a blessed relief. Says Zoya, “I really want to make my films on any and every kind of theme that fascinates me. 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.”
Commenting on his achiever daughter writer thinker activist Javed Akhtar said, “In Zoya I see a lot of myself. I think she has a logical mind. She thinks out of the box and doesn’t get easily swayed by others’ opinions. She comes to her own conclusions in life and sticks by them” However Javed Saab feels Zoya is far more honest than he. “I must confess I am not as transparent and straightforward as she is.”
What would he like to give his daughter Zoya? I’d like to give anything he desires, and every happiness in the world. Both my children, Farhan and Zoya make me extremely happy and proud. Zoya doesn’t have one dishonest bone in her entire body. She just doesn’t lie. That’s an amazing trait. Right from her childhood, Zoya called a spade a spade. There is a very strong sense of objectivity to her. She doesn’t give in to arguments just to maintain peace. She will make a point about what is right, and that’s it. She won’t make an issue of it. With Farhan I speak man-to-man . Obviously I can’t do the same with Zoya. Zoya takes her own decisions. She takes my opinion seriously. I am proud to say there is no sign of my work in Zoya’s work.”