Bollywood’s multi-talented Farhan Akhtar felt his hair stand up on his arms as he regaled us about the stupendous reaction that his new film ‘The Sky is Pink’ received at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival filled with discerning viewers.
“It’s probably one of the most memorable moments of my career… Just imagine, a crowd of 2000 people standing up in appreciation for 15 minutes. It felt so good,” said Akhtar in an exclusive interview with Gulf News tabloid!.
Akhtar is a consummate actor, director of blockbusters and a brassy singer too.
In his touching new Bollywood drama ‘The Sky is Pink’, directed by Shonali Bose and also starring Priyanka Chopra Jonas, the son of lyricist Javed Akhtar is in fine form.
“We wanted this film to connect to people on a humane level and I think we have succeeded,” said Akhtar.
He isn’t exaggerating. Since ‘TSIP’s’ worldwide release, the actors have been inundated with congratulatory calls and a robust box office opening for this intimate family film.
Akhtar plays Niren Chaudhary, a kind and resilient father who has to grapple with the death of his teenage daughter to a rare autoimmune disease. Chopra Jonas plays his valiant partner Aditi and the film documents the couple’s struggle to come to terms with their grim reality while keeping their spirits high. It’s a relationship drama that explores love in the times of utter despair.
Akhtar, who made his directorial debut with Bollywood’s iconic friendship film ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ and topped it up with films including the stylish crime thriller series ‘Don’ with Chopra Jonas, is a live wire on the big screen. His turn as one of the lead actors in blockbusters including ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’ and ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’ earned him the distinction of being a worthy multi-tasker. He hasn’t gone wrong with his new film either as he brings compassion and warmth to his character Niren Chaudhary... Here’s his take on...
His role in ‘The Sky Is Pink’:
“I play the character of Niren Chaudhary and I am married to Aditi [Priyanka Chopra Jonas]. We have been together for a long time because we childhood sweethearts from the age of 16. We have gone through some tough times as a couple because we lose two children to SCID [severe combined immunodeficiency]. It’s my character Niren’s inner strength that shines through. The kind of dignity, grace and sheer love that he has for his family and children stand out. He’s an ideal example of how a father and a husband should be in real life. These qualities made him incredibly attractive. When you see ‘The Sky is Pink’, you will realise that there’s a lot more to him. Aditi, in comparison, is the more fiery one. As a couple, they are like fire and ice. He tries to keep calm and is more rational, while she is a lot more emotional. That balance between the two is what makes them tick as a couple. But they were unfortunate that they had to face so much as family together.”
Dealing with death:
“The interesting part about Shonali and the Chaudharys is that they don’t address death grimly. That is what makes them so incredible. Instead of making it something dark, it’s full of light. They have approached death almost as if it is a celebration rather than a day of mourning. They made every single day that led up to their daughter’s death as the most eventful days of their lives. They lived each day to the max giving their child as much joy as they could and provided her with as much as a parent can provide. They were keen to fulfil whatever she wanted and they shifted the meaning of death. Their approach towards death, which is everyone’s eventuality, was different.”
Preparing for the big role:
“No matter how hard you try, you will never be able to know what it is to walk in their shoes. You will never fathom how you deal with a child’s loss if you are a parent, unless you go through it. What I could absolutely relate to was the love they felt for their children. I feel the same for my children. But it was difficult to relate to a hypothetical and ‘what if’ situation. I had to rely very heavily on Shonali and she had a very clear vision of how she wanted the film to be. I tried to understand and internalise the emotions as much as I could, but it wasn’t entirely possible. It’s such an unimaginable scenario for any parent. But we tried to make it as authentic as we could.”
Not manipulating viewers emotionally with unnecessary melodrama:
“It happens in certain films, but we were very cautious about that and I admire Shonali tremendously for that. There is not one single scene in the movie or an episode that hasn’t played out in the lives of the Chaudharys. It’s a tale of how a couple survives all odds. There is a statistic available that 80 per cent of couples who lose a child end up falling apart or end their marriage. It’s because it’s difficult for a couple after losing a child to somehow continue. Their grief must be so strong and it might remind them of their child and shared memories when they see each other. Their marriage naturally breaks down. The fact that Niren and Aditi survived makes you realise that they are still absolutely in love and are great companions to each other. They are still affectionate despite going through unimaginable grief in their lives. Although the film deals with the loss of one child, the couple had lost another child earlier to the same disease. It’s a story of a couple who stick together through it all. All those emotions — like survivor’s guilt, loss and pain — are there.”
Battling temptation to take over the directorial reins from Bose:
“I am very clear that whether I am working with Shonali, Zoya [Akhtar] or whoever — the vision of the film and its creative calls belongs to its director. That’s their dream and you were brought into the film to realise that dream. As a director-actor, I would never agree to do a film as an actor and then step in. You are going to support them. While collaborating is a part of the process, you there’s a certain line that can’t be crossed.”
Peddling stereotypes that a man needs to be stronger than the women during crisis:
“To a certain extent that is true because we are told to be strong and that men have to comfort and hold back their tears. But Niren and Aditi are a modern family with modern values. They both grapple with grief of all that has happened between them. We both are strong in our own ways. Aditi is such a strong woman. When she realised that her child isn’t well, she never gave up on finding out what’s out there and how to keep her daughter alive for longer. Both are exceptionally strong people in ‘The Sky is Pink’. The toughest part was to place myself in the shoes of a parent who loses a child… Yet, there’s something re-affirming about this film as there’s a lot of subtle and subliminal messaging. It isn’t spelt out, but you will feel it as an audience.”
His dynamic with Priyanka Chopra:
“We are comfortable working together. The chemistry among the characters was very important for the film. It was important that our characters Niren and Aditi look in love with each other — just like how they are in real life. And, Priyanka is extremely professional and takes her job very seriously.”
Don’t miss It!
‘The Sky is Pink’ is out now in the UAE.