Filmmaker Zoya Akhtar strongly believes in Bollywood’s star system and feels it has helped the industry build an identity in the map of world cinema. “Star system is important. If you see worldwide, India, Hollywood and China — all these film industries have a star system. Others industries that don’t have stars, are dying,” says Zoya.
Having directed filmstars Hrithik Roshan and Abhay Deol and her younger brother Farhan Akhtar, the 40-year-old says that India has survived Hollywood because “we have our language; we have our own style, so our audience would want to see a Shah Rukh Khan and not Tom Cruise. Our star system has made our industry grow.”
Ask Zoya to define a filmstar, and she says: “Stars pull people and no matter what the film is, they get an opening. But often stars want to cater to their audience by doing what has worked before. So you can’t make too many films with them. They want that safety and that is the problem,” she says. “In this case, Aamir Khan is a little different,” says Zoya, on her experience of working with Aamir in the recently-released film, Talaash.
She co-wrote the film with director Reema Kagti, experimenting for the first time with the suspense genre. “My challenges were to keep the story engaging, give depth to the characters and focus on their emotional chord. Our audience relate to emotional quotient. So, if you don’t connect them emotionally, they will not watch (a film),” she says.
Zoya, the daughter of poet-lyricist Javed Akhtar and script writer Honey Irani, has written and directed Luck By Chance (2009) and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara(2011). She says she’d like a balance of commercially viable, critically-acclaimed films. “I feel both are important. Commercial success is important. But if I make a film and it makes money, but if the audience says they didn’t like it, I will be disappointed. I want everybody to watch my films and like it,” she says.