He’s just made “Being Cyrus” before this, an English thriller that starred Saif Ali Khan, won critical appreciation, and was a commercial success considering its budget and genre. Homi Adajania is your South Mumbai Parsi who has self-admittedly done a lot of unconnected and what he calls strange things in life (like being a scuba diving instructor if you please!). Having brought out the print on the day he speaks to India-West on the phone, the filmmaker is in high spirits and is on the way to “show my cast and crew the film” when we connect around early evening three days before the film’s release.
“I asked them, ‘Why me?’ But that was their plan precisely — to get me out of my comfort zone — and give an unexpected fresh take on a story and a format with songs that is called the Hindi film,” he told India-West.
“They told me, ‘Visualize the film they way you want it.’ Suddenly I thought that it would be quite cool, and Dinesh assured me that they would be around to help in the parts that I was unsure about. In fact, the script was developed by Dinesh, Imtiaz and me along with Imtiaz’s brother Sajid Ali, who wrote the dialogues.”
What is his opinion of, and exposure to, Hindi cinema? “Hindi cinema is a great art form with an identity of its own,” says Homi. “The sensibility is different from mine and I have now acquired a taste for it. Frankly, I have not watched many films — in Hindi or in any other language. Karan [Johar] and Farhan [Akhtar] are friends and I am familiar with their cinema, though. The process has been inspiring and instructive. I have not got into trying to figure out things but in creating my own take on a love story.”
Love triangles, says Homi, have always had limited scope in the way they end. “What I have done is to keep it very ‘today,’ in a modern space, and made it contemporary, real and fresh,” he says.
How did “Being Cyrus” happen? “I was writing a story for three months with the idea of coming out with a novel — by the way, it’s still unpublished! A friend narrated the story of ‘Being Cyrus’ and I told him, ‘Let’s make a film from this!’”
With no background in cinema then, what made him jump into filmmaking? “Well, cinema isn’t some rocket science,” he told India-West.
“It’s essentially about telling a story, and I am keen on telling stories. I always think that films are a collaborative effort and someone like me can make a decent film if the right technicians are there to back me. My only exposure to cinema is when after college I spent a year with ad filmmaker Mahesh Matthai to understand the language of the medium.”
Homi is happy to have repeated four artists from his first film. “Saif, Dimple Kapadia, Boman Irani and Manoj Pahwa are all talented actors who could be slotted into my characters,” he points out. “I was happy to have them back.”
And what about his take on the bane of the non-Indian sensibility filmmaker: songs? “Dinesh looked after the creation of the music,” Adajania said. “He would make Pritam do scratch tracks and bounce them off me for ideas and suggestions. Once the final tracks were recorded, he let me shoot the visuals any way I wanted. I always wanted to use songs as a narrative tool and let the audience know that I was doing exactly that. And that’s why the characters sing when they want to in parts of both ‘Daaru Desi’ and ‘Tumhi Ho Bandhu.’ Of course ‘Second Hand Jawaani’ comes as a fun ride and is completely lip-synch.”
His famous wife, designer Anahita Shroff Adajania, has been on board both of Homi’s films and the styling of “Cocktail” has drawn attention. Who was the boss, then, during the film’s making? Laughs Homi, “The deal was clear — she’s the boss at home and I am chief of the sets! But Anahita is amazing. She’s so cool and professional. A lot of thought went behind the looks of all the key characters to make them believable in their environs. Anahita did not do anything to impress the viewer but to keep in character. She even had the element of foresight: she always knew that a film takes about a year to release and she had to ensure that what everyone wore would not look dated by the time the film is released.”
So would he now want to direct more Hindi films?
“Of course! I have tasted blood!”