Farhan Akhtar talks about his role in Lucknow Central and playing Dawood Ibrahim in Daddy
Actor-producer-director, Farhan Akhtar, whose Lucknow Central releases today, is more settled now in the actor-producer part of his career. Acting has taken precedence over direction, says Farhan — who started as a filmmaker with the seminal Dil Chahta Hai — simply because he is tempted by the exciting roles that are coming his way. And even though he had just done the musical drama Rock On 2, Farhan couldn’t resist the “extraordinary” tale of a rock band, Lucknow Central. The film follows the story of a bunch of prison inmates who use music to plot a jailbreak.
“Initially, I wasn’t too keen to hear the script. I had just finished Rock On 2 (2016) and here was another film about music and a band. Nikkhil [Advani, producer] requested that I hear it once, and then I could reject it. I agreed to read [the script], but Nikkhil insisted that he will have the story narrated or else it would lose its flavour. And when Aseem Arora [writer] narrated the script, I was simply blown away. I was moved at the end of it all and didn’t have much of a choice but to say 'yes',” Farhan told Firstpost, as we chatted in the run-up t his film's release.
The most obvious question is the similarity in plots between Lucknow Central and Qaidi Band, which was released just three weeks ago, on 25 August. Both the films have used music bands to plot a jailbreak. Isn’t that worrying? As if expecting the query, Farhan is ready with his answer.
“It’s a script that we are all connected with, we have been able to relate with the emotional graph of the film, to the hope of the characters, the optimism that the characters have for themselves, to the quest to fulfil their small dreams. After watching the trailer and hearing the songs, there is something going on within the film that has piqued people’s curiosity. Hopefully, that will compel and encourage them to watch the film. Beyond that, I have nothing to say.”
Farhan plays the role of a prisoner languishing in Lucknow Central jail. He is portrayed as aspiring to be a Bhojpuri singer and idolises Bhojpuri cinema icon Manoj Tiwari. The film is based on the true story of Kishen Mohan Girotra, a simple man from Moradabad, who dreams of making it big as a singer. But, due to a turn of fate, he is convicted for a high-profile murder and sent to one of the most dreaded jails — Lucknow Central. Farhan said that he didn’t prepare to play the part, so that he could retain the character’s innocence. “I didn’t really have to prep because Kishen is not a criminal. You see him going to jail in the film, so you are entering that world with him. It was important to retain the innocence this character has because of his lack of knowledge about life in jail. Instead, I focused on his Moradabad life, his love for music and that confidence he has that he will someday be somebody. The rest I discovered as we went along,” said Farhan.
While Farhan was totally consumed with the promotions and release of Lucknow Central, many were left surprised when they saw him essay a character based on gangster Dawood Ibrahim in his friend Arjun Rampal’s recently released film, Daddy.“Arjun requested me to do six scenes in the film and he was adamant that I do it. My character has a very different persona than my own self, in terms of personality traits and what he does for a living. Arjun is a good friend and rarely does he ask things of me, so I couldn’t turn him down. The director [Ashim Ahluwalia] was very clear as to how he wanted my character to speak. There is a certain tempo to the speech; it is slowed down. His movements are also very slow. I just went with his brief. We did quite a few takes, because he was very specific; it had to be shot in a certain way," said Farhan.
Since Farhan is a prolific producer, one wonders what he feels about the current trend of successful small scale, content-driven films as oppose to those that have big stars in the cast, which are doing not as well. Pat comes the reply, “No, I don’t think it is one or the other.” He reasons, “Any actor starring in a film with good content should hopefully do well. People have jumped the gun in starting to write the obituaries of actors. It has been just six or seven months that we're observing a different phase. Things will balance themselves out. People from the industry will also realize that the audience wants to watch relateable stories — stories that are about us — that are about issues that they can connect with. We [the film industry] will end up writing about and focusing on those films. Then a film with superstar in it that has a relatively good story to tell will become a gigantic hit, and we will say that the phase of realistic cinema was a one-off. So, you don’t really know.”
Farhan’s last few films didn’t do well commercially, but he believes in taking it his stride and moving on. “I do get anxious to know what will happen when a film releases. It would be terrible to have absolutely no emotions. But then again, there is only so much you can do. At times, it also depends on the mood of the audience.”
Farhan’s Lucknow Central clashes with Kangana’s slice-of-life Simran, but the actor-filmmaker feels that there is nothing to stress about, as there is enough space for everybody. “Hansal is a friend and I know Kangana as well... I wish that their film does well,” says Farhan with a smiles . He has his hands full, both as an actor as well as producer. “We [Excel Entertainment] have Akshay Kumar’s Gold, and Fukrey 2 will be released by the end of this year. Zoya’s Gully Boy will start at the end of the year, too. Next year, I’m doing two films; one is with Nishikant Kamat, which Ajay Devgn is producing, and there is Sanjay Dutt and myself. Then there is one film with Mohit Suri,” said Farhan.