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Last updateTue, 17 Mar 2015 2pm

"Fukrey is MY STORY! It's Embarrassing!" - Farhan Akhtar

Farhan Akhtar's a funny one.

The 39-year-old son of the legendary Javed Akhtar may be an accomplished and award-winning actor, director, producer, singer, songwriter and social activist but he seems to be stuck in a bit of a time-warp. 

Specifically, his own youth.

For, interspersed with such flashy fare as his 'Don' franchise and 'Game' - not to mention earthier films like 'Talaash' and 'Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd' - are regular odes to the vagaries and frivolities of youth and the constant odour of unfinished business that men, in particular, tend to feel until they are, well, 39.

Films about aimless young men coming of age has been a constant theme during Akhtar's 15-year career, from 'Dil Chahta Hai' and 'Lakshya' to 'Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara' and even the likes of 'Rock On!' and 'Luck By Chance'. 

His latest is a film with a humorously ambiguous title about four young men scheming to get into a "happening" college, searching for four different kinds of redemption.

Produced by Akthar and Ritesh Sidhwani, 'Fukrey' (pronounced FOOK-Ray, not the way you're thinking) is directed by the wonderfully-named Mrigdeep Singh Lamba and stars four relative unknowns in the lead roles backed by the likes of Richa Chadda and Pankaj Tripathi.

Akhtar says the film is a fun, 2-hour joy ride and The UKAsian's reviewer, Aditi Khanna, agreed, describing 'Fukrey' as a film that doesn't stretch the average intellect but is a heap of light-hearted fun full of clever gags.

Poonam Joshi caught up with Akhtar to find out what motivates him.

How did you come across 'Fukrey' and why are you drawn to films with this youthful theme?
We get loads of scripts like this on a daily basis (at Akhtar and Sidhwani's Excel Entertainment).  I always hear from these young writers who come to Mumbai and who have enjoyed films like Dil Chahta Hai, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and so forth.  When Mrigdeep first approached me with the script I absolutely loved it.  I guess a lot of young writers identify with these themes.  Everyone likes reminiscing about their youth and looking back and getting all nostalgic about days gone by.  There will always be an element in a film like this that each and every member of the audience will directly identify with.

What did you identify with in the story?  
The two so-called main characters of the film, the very interestingly named Honey and Choocha have this dream to be in this "happening" college in Delhi but they don't have the marks to support their ambition.  So they cook up this outlandish scheme to somehow get admission to the college.  It sounds extremely embarrassing now but it was a very similar case for me.  I didn't have great grades but I still wanted to be in a college which was this really cool place in Mumbai.  It was almost like a weight on my shoulder that I couldn't be a part of that particular school.  I must have been 16 or 17 at the time and it was such a big deal for me.  The world had come to an end because I couldn't get in!  That's something I really understood with these characters.  It seems like a really trivial problem when I look back at it now.  But it was a huge thing for a kid growing up in Mumbai.  It had nothing to do with academics or anything remotely educational.  It was purely because all my friends were going there and I desperately wanted to get in there with them. 

So we could hang out. 

At 39, have you "come of age?" Are you still waiting to realize your full potential?
I'm really happy doing the stuff that I am doing.  In terms of potential, I guess only time will tell if I have realized my full potential, once I completely burn out or run out of ideas.  I just hope that I know once my time has passed so that I can make a discreet exit!

These kinds of aspirational, buddy comedies seem to be all the rage these days.  Is that a reflection of India and Indian society?
India is an extremely young country and we probably have the highest percentage of people below the age of 25 in the world.  It is an extremely aspirational country at the moment and I suppose it resonates with the film-going public.  Having said that, I think it's important to be careful what we aspire to.  Far more important than what you aspire to is how you go about achieving your dreams.  
This is something that I've been careful about because of my background.  I always asked myself: "Do I want to take short cuts and take the easy route and risk having fingers pointed at me when I do achieve something or do I just really go through the fire and be true to myself and realize my own dreams?"  I think that's far more important. 

In an age when people are obsessed with the 100-crore movie, wasn't it a bit risky to go with four relatively unknown actors?
Because of the age of the characters it felt right to go with a young, relatively new crop of actors because it would be far more believable for audiences and easier for audiences to accept and believe what they are in the film.  The last thing you want is for a film-goer to have any preconceived notions about the actors they are about to see.  That was really the key decision for us with the film.  Having said that, they are all wonderful talents and they've done an amazing job. 

Leaving aside films, your campaign against gender discrimination, MARD (Men Against Rape and Discrimination), has got off to an amazing start.
It has been amazing and the response has been phenomenal but at this stage we are still trying to raise awareness of the project among as many people as we can.  Once 'Fukrey' and 'Bhaag Milka Bhaag' are done with, I will go back on the road, doing concerts at colleges around the country.

At the heart of the campaign is a poem, written by your father.
Yes, it's a beautiful piece.  It's a simple poem about a complex problem.  We are currently translating it into a number of languages.  Sachin Tendulkar was gracious enough to recite the Marathi version, the great actor Mahesh Babu will do a recitation in Telugu so we will keep on taking it to more and more people around India.  I think poetry is a very powerful tool.  Poetry has such a huge impact on society, specially because of India's film culture.  Every time you hear a film song you're listening to poetry.  I mean there's good poetry and there's bad poetry but that's a different argument!  Fortunately people's power of retention is very strong when it comes to poetry. 

You're taking MARD's message to College-going students.  How is that the most ideal audience?
Absolutely.  These kids from different parts of each city, and different levels of society as well.  Ultimately, we can't go every community and home in the land but these kids will, we hope, take the message to their communities and their homes.  They will be our messengers.  Not just to their homes but to their former schools and talk about the importance of this message.  Also, these are members of society who are better able to articulate that message than anyone else within their communities.

In the long run we also need people will stick with you and work with you and there's nothing better than an impassioned college student.  The change we want to see is a generational change.  It's not going to happen overnight for sure but if we can keep educating the younger lot there will be a trickle-down effect and that's the best way forward.

'Fukrey' is released June 14th

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