Fired by intent

Published On: 2013-04-17

Author: unknown

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Lakshya: Fired by intent


Source: HT

In the course of a shot being canned in the rarefied climes of Ladakh for Farhan Akhtar's new film, Lakshya, Amitabh Bachchan took the liberty of shouting 'Cut'. Any other Bollywood director, in deference to Big B's extra-special star status, would have let that aberration pass without a murmur of protest. But Farhan Akhtar is made of sterner stuff.

The soft-spoken young director put his foot down firmly and made it absolutely clear to the veteran actor who the boss was. "I am the director," Akhtar snapped, "and only I will call 'Cut' here." The Big B obviously was stung to the quick by the reaction. But Farhan yielded no ground to the ego of the biggest star Bollywood has ever produced despite the fact that he is a self-avowed Amitabh Bachchan junkie.

Farhan Akhtar is clearly a breed apart. As a director, he is not only aware of exactly what he wants but he also seems to know how to get it. The creative credo that he established with the peppy Dil Chahta Hai now seems set to be pushed a little further with the more intense Lakshya.

Farhan is part of a new Bollywood brat pack that owes no perceptible allegiance to the Mumbai film industry's timeworn conventions and shibboleths. He respects reputations all right, but isn't in awe of them. That mindset is reflected in the kind of films he attempts and in the manner in which he makes them.

He grew up as much on Amitabh Bachchan superhits and hi-jinks Hollywood entertainers as he did on the best arthouse films from all over the world. When he got down to directing his first film, Dil Chahta Hai, he informed it with a high degree of eclecticism and an air of cool insouciance that directors far more experienced than him find hard to master.

Three years on, Akhtar is back with Lakshya, which promises to blend the contours of a war movie with the emotional depth of a rites of passage drama in a way that few Hindi films have done before.

The last time a Hindi film was shot with quite the same intensity and amid such secrecy was when star-producer Aamir Khan and Ashutosh Gowariker retreated for months on end to barren Bhuj. The film they emerged with Lagaan, gave Indian popular cinema the sort of international profile it never had before.

It was in that very year that Farhan had surfaced with his first film and the stories about the making of Lagaan would certainly have made an impression on him. Will Lakshya, too, reach the goals that Lagaan did?

The film looks well on course. Farhan's sensibility, work ethics and meticulousness held the upper hand all through the shoot of Lakshya. The presence of big stars like Bachchan, Hrithik Roshan and Preity Zinta did not deflect him from the principal purpose of delivering a well-honed product. He pushed his unit to the limits of their endurance in difficult conditions, leading by example all the way through.

Lakshya is obviously a far bigger film than Dil Chahta Hai and, therefore, Farhan now has far more at stake. DCH was applauded for its freshness; Lakshya will have to meet more exacting expectations. The military action sequences in Lakshya are believed to be the film's high points - they were created by Australian stunt coordinators shot with a complement of eleven cameras by a team of technicians from Hollywood led by the German-born, Los Angeles-based cinematographer Christopher Popp.

New Delhi-based theatre personality, M.K. Raina, who plays a key cameo in Lakshya, came back thoroughly impressed with the professionalism of the unit. "I had reservations about doing a role in such a big-budget film because my experiences with mainstream Bollywood units have usually been rather unhappy. The big stars invariably throw their weight around too much. I accepted the offer to be a part of Lakshya because Farhan wouldn't take no for an answer. Once I was on board, I realized that my misgivings were unfounded."

The Lakshya unit, says Raina, was amazingly professional. "I was required for only four days but I was treated on par with everyone else. From the moment I was picked up from my house to the last shot I featured in, everything went like clockwork," says the veteran theatre actor-director.

Raina reveals that the Lakshya unit had no spot boys. All the key unit members were armed with walkie-talkies and, as a result, there was no shouting and ranting during the shoot. All instructions were transmitted, not barked out. That is not how films are usually made in Bollywood. But, then, Farhan Akhtar isn't a usual Mumbai filmmaker.

His Lakshya would be worth keeping an eye on - not just for the next few weeks, but also, more crucially, in the long term. For Farhan Akhtar embodies the future of Mumbai cinema, a future that holds the promise of a better brand of commercial Hindi cinema - represented by films with soul, spirit and spunk, by films that go beyond mere saleability.