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Farhan Akhtar: "The Sky is Pink reminded me of the beauty of the simple things in life"

By Armin Sethi Sunday, Sep 15, 2019 03:11: PM

I’m here at TIFF, and I am here with Panda. Who is Panda you ask? Panda is Farhan Akhtar in The Sky Is Pink, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. Farhan Akhtar, I’m not sure I know which hat he doesn't wear. He wears all hats. Director, Producer, Singer, Writer, anything and everything. He is the lead actor in The Sky Is Pink and I sat down to chat with him when he came to Toronto for The Sky is Pink.


Farhan, I want to first of all congratulate you. It's a fantastic film. It's an emotional rollercoaster and I can tell you that the last half an hour of the film, I think I sobbed and I was trying to figure out if I should cry or if I should breathe. I was conflicted.


F: Wow, it's times like this when you actually feel good about making people cry. We make films that are entitled to do that. (laughs)




Photography by: Asis Sethi

(laughs) But Farhan, it's the kind of space where your character is going through an emotional rollercoaster but the way it's depicted on screen, it is shot in a very non-linear way. You're going back and forth, back and forth. Tell me what your mind frame is like when you're going back and forth, back and forth. There is an up when you find out she can move back to India and then all of a sudden you're dealing with a down again. How do you deal with that as an actor?


F: The only thing that you can really do is that you just keep reading the script over and over again. It keeps your focus in place for where in the timeline of events you're meant to be. And then of course to have someone like Shonali at the helm, you know, who really keeps an eye on ensuring that there is an emotional continuity to the film. And though, like you’re saying, through the ups and downs, what has led to this moment that's making you feel happy right now? What's led to this moment that is making you feel as sad as you are? So when you're working with someone like that, it helps keep these things in perspective, and that's what you do.



Farhan, my favourite scene in the film, I’ll be honest with you, is the scene where (I don't want to give too much away) you have just spoken to Ayesha about a procedure that can potentially extend her life a little bit longer. And then right after that scene, Ayesha comes outside. She is then situated with Priyanka at the table and you and Priyanka have a very unspoken conversation. It's a look and then a look. And in that moment, I know exactly what you're trying to convey. Did you get a brief about that? How did that entire moment work out for you?


F: There was a lot of conversation that happened with Priyanka, with Shonali and myself. And I think that's the important thing to try in crack in that scene. When you're married to somebody, like they have been married for 25-26 years. And when you're married to somebody, you understand silences. You understand just a look. You understand just a glance. It doesn't have to be said. And in film we rely so heavily on communication through dialogue. At times, it takes away from creating a bond between two characters where things can be conveyed through silence. And that's all it was about. She (Shonali) was like just imagine this scene where you had to say those words but you're not actually saying them. You're only saying them in your mind. And that's really what happened and then the rest that you see I mean, I would like to believe that we performed it well but the rest of it is the magic of cinema. When you put it all together, it just communicates in its own way.






As I said to you before, the film is an emotional rollercoaster. I mean for a viewer, I was very emotionally vested even though I knew what the conclusion was going to be at the end of the film which is a risk you take as a filmmaker. I was very invested in the journey of the family. What was from your perspective, one of the biggest challenges, or a scene that really made you feel the emotional turmoil of your character?


F: Well there were many such scenes. The one fact that because of knowing the story of the family and knowing the story of Ayesha is that Ayesha is no more. And there is a moment in the film where the entire family comes together and they sit with her by her bedside and they pretty much know that the time has come. And to me, that was a difficult scene. Being a parent, it's something that so defies the natural order of things that it is unimaginable. The grief of losing your child, or even the thought of losing your child. Forget it happening. Just the thought of it is frightening. But to live with that for five years, six years, knowing that at any moment something could go wrong, something could happen, it requires a serious amount of strength. And my respect for Niren, for Aditi, for Ishaan (Ayesha’s family members) is just so high because of the dignity and the grace of the way they dealt with it. But for me, that moment of sitting by the bedside when everybody knows that it's time now was a tough scene.



The art of storytelling has changed somewhat. I mean, from my perspective, movies like Dil Chahta Hai for example really set the tone for being able to watch a movie that didn't have to have a plot and a villain and all of that. You could just tell the story of a journey. When you look at this film and the perspective with which it’s been told, which is the spirit of Ayesha, what initially drew you to the film?


F: I really found myself very, very inspired by the strength of these characters. You know I think that's what it was. It's not an easy place to be in, where they were. It's not an easy thing to deal with day in and day out. To make the kind of sacrifices that they both made to ensure that their child could have a really, really good life for as long as it lasted. And I remember when I read it (the script), it immediately reminded me of this dialogue from the film called Anand in which he says “Zindagi badi honi chahiye, lambi nahin”. It reminded me of that. It isn't important if life isn't long. It should be grand. And that to me is such an important message because we’re so caught up in goals and we’re so caught up in trying to achieve certain things for ourselves, for the people around us that you lose out on the important things which are spending a few minutes here and a few minutes there with the people you love. Calling someone and telling them that you love them, you're thinking of them. I mean even if you are really thinking of them, who picks up the phone and says I’m thinking of you? It's that kind of thing. It just reminded me of the beauty of the simple things in life and that's really what I found was absolutely amazing about this film.



Photography Credit: Asis Sethi

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