Filmmaker Zoya Akhtar says the conversation around privilege is genuine and one that must be had, but are people looking at it with nuance? Not really, the director says as she gears up for her latest feature The Archies, which became the talking point on the internet since its first announcement for being the debut of three industry kids.
The Archies marks the acting debut of Shah Rukh Khan’s daughter Suhana, megastar Amitabh Bachchan’s grandson Agastya and actor Sridevi and film producer Boney Kapoor’s daughter Khushi. Along with them, the upcoming Netflix feature will also see the debut of Mihir Ahuja, Dot., Vedang Raina and Yuvraj Menda.
When The Archies cast was first reported, a section on the internet reignited the conversation around nepotism in the film industry. In an interview with Indianexpress.com, Zoya said while the debate is important, it is slightly misplaced.
“There is definitely a conversation of have and have nots, there is definitely a conversation of people with privilege and those without. May be the film industry has become a symbol of it to some level, but I think what people need to ask for is what they really want. Better school, better education? By denying someone a career of their choice, that’s not going to make anything better for you. So I understand that to the root of it there is something but just this conversation is not taking it anywhere. It is not changing anything,” she said.
Daughter of writer Javed Akhtar and actor writer Honey Irani, Zoya said her parents came to the industry with nothing and built their career. As their daughter, Zoya said, she inherited their skills and contacts and yet it took her close to a decade to make her first film. the filmmaker said if she wasn’t good at her job, she wouldn’t have had people put faith–and money–on her.
“When my parents came to the film industry, my father came with nothing. He made his life here from nothing. I have inherited his love for writing and films and his contacts. Now what I should I do? Not continue to do what I want or not follow what I have learnt through osmosis. I love the movies and why will I not follow that?
“You can’t rig the game. If I was making films that nobody watched, I would not have this job. It is a fair game. There is truth to the privilege conversation– but that’s a separate debate, this (blaming film industry) is not going to help that,” she added.
Filmmaker Reema Kagti, who has produced The Archies with Zoya through their production house Tiger Baby, said the “nepotism” debate in the context of The Archies has no merit. “In this context I feel it doesn’t hold at all. There are seven people in the film, but people are only talking about the three. Some people don’t even know their first names!”
Zoya said it is painful how the other young actors aren’t getting their due as of yet, but that is not done by design by them or Netflix. The director, giving an example of how nepotism needs to be looked at with more nuance, said Reema, an outsider, got to make her first film even before she did, despite being an industry kid.
“It is really sad because there are four other kids being launched and they were robbed off that moment. I feel bad for them, they were equally excited, even their parents. That’s not fair. That’s not something that we or Netflix did. You are talking to me about nepotism, I am born and bred here and it took me seven years to make my first movie. Reema (an outsider) came and made her first film before me! It is not so black and white. I wish people were more nuanced about it and see it for wat it really is,” she added.
The Indian adaptation of the beloved classic is seen through the lens of the Anglo-Indian community as the group of teenagers wrestle with love, heartache, friendship and rebellion. The Archies trailer offers a glimpse into the world of the film, set in the fictional hilly town of Riverdale, in the ’60s India.
The Archies is directed by Zoya, who has co-written it with Reema and Ayesha Devitre. The film will stream on Netflix from December 7.