Monday, July 28, 2008

The making of Rock On!! - An exclusive interview with Farhan Akhtar

Farhan Akhtar needs no generic introduction to fans of Indian cinema. So I'll keep this brief and personal.

Somewhere in the late 80s, tired of the random silliness that pervaded Bollywood, I stopped watching Indian movies altogether. Over a decade passed when a friend recommended something to me. On a whim I popped in the DVD for Farhan's Dil Chahta Hai. It instantly reignited my love for Bollywood. Years later, Farhan remade my favorite Bollywood movie. And for both these reasons he has a primo location in my Hall of Fame.

Farhan has a new release as an actor and singer - Rock On!! - due on August 29 in which he takes a serious tilt at building a formidable multi-hyphenate career.

He is also a killer Q&A subject and was nice enough to answer a few questions exclusively for Drift readers.

Aspi: Hi Farhan, great job singing on the Rock On!! soundtrack. But please start by telling us how you ended up as the actor in the film - before, after or during the scriptwriting?

Farhan: The script was brought to me by Abhishek Kapoor, the director. He wanted me to act in the film. After hearing the script, my first reaction was that I wanted to produce it. I felt the story was refreshing and the characters multi-layered, that even if I didn't end up acting in the film or singing the songs, I wanted to be associated with it.

Aspi: Tell us a little bit about how the script came together. Did you work with a specific story or turned a concept into a story?

Farhan: The story is written by Abhishek himself. The screenplay by Abhishek and Pubali Choudhary. So it came to me pretty fleshed out as a script. My feedback was purely as an actor and a creative producer. Once they were done with the screenplay, I got down to writing the dialogue for the film.

Aspi: Did you have your music system blaring when you wrote the movie? What music did you play to get the juices flowing?

Farhan: Not at all actually. I tend to listen to Western Classical when I write and that too at a pretty low volume. So although the film is about Rock, the dialogue was written accompanied by Beethoven, Rachmaninov, Mozart and Tchaikovsky!

Aspi: You seem to be having a lot of fun on Pichle Saat Dino Mein. At one point you even yelp the word "Roya" a little too happily. Did your confidence as a singer grow as you recorded each song? Or did you come rock-star-ready to the recordings?

Farhan: It did grow with each song and I cannot thank Shankar Ehsaan and Loy enough for that. They believed I could do it before I came around to believing it myself. Also, they kept reminding that me that there was no rush to try and knock off all the vocal parts...I could take my time and record them when I felt I was ready.

Aspi: With the music of Rock On!! you've shown that Hindi rock is alive and well. But you might have ironically proven that the best commercial Hindi rock can only come from Bollywood and not the indie scene. Agree and feeling guilty or disagree and feeling proud?

Farhan: I disagree. The parameters within which the two genre's operate is vastly different. I personally tend to listen to very few Hindi film albums more than once but I am not ignorant about the size of it's audience. We are attempting to bring Hindi Rock closer to mainstream audiences by making a film that has this new genre (from their perspective) at it's centre. In order to do that successfully, we have to be aware of the boundaries that we redefine without alienating the very people we would like to involve.

Aspi: Choose your favorite: Farhan the director, Farhan the writer, Farhan the actor, Farhan the singer or Farhan the producer?

Farhan: I leave that to the people who are watching my work to decide. I am equally excited, challenged and sincere about all of the above.

Aspi: Seriously, is there anything you can't do? Can you fold a fitted bed sheet? How about cooking?

Farhan: I can't scuba dive because of a bad sinus condition. I can't pat my head while rubbing my stomach. I can't say 'red lorry yellow lorry' five times really fast without messing up. I can't get over how brilliant The Beatles were. I can't do a triple axel with a twist dive into the pool. But yes, I can cook.

Aspi: Really? Tell us what you make really well.

Farhan: The words 'really well' are subjective in cooking...but the one I have got most complimented for is a recipe that involves stuffing a chicken breast with chopped mushroom and parsley and then wrapping the breast in strips of pastry and shoving it into the oven. This I serve with a sauce that is made of mustard, white wine and cream. Pretty good, huh?

Aspi: Javed Sir did a terrific job with the lyrics. Did you prep him by having him listen to your entire rock collection? Did he make a face and roll his eyes at some of those obscure rock lyrics?

Farhan: Dad is open to all kinds of music and he tried to understand what we were trying to say through our songs.

Aspi: You've worked with some of the biggest marquee names in Bollywood (Aamir Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Hrithik Roshan, Shahrukh Khan). Can you tell us something about your working equation with each one?

Farhan: Of course they each have their own individual appoach to their craft but the one thing I can tell you about working with all of them, is that they are extremely passionate about acting and their drive to get every take absolutely right is what makes them who they are. It has been a pleasure directing them.

Aspi: Farhan, you tackle a lot of men's issues in your films - am I unfairly typecasting you or is this emotional territory that you have an affinity for?

Farhan: Being a man, men's issues do tend to be more natural to talk about. It is a territory that I understand and at times have been in similar emotional situations as the characters from my to draw from the first hand experience is possible. Furthermore, you would have to agree that the women in my films are not props as they have always had substantial roles and conflicts.

All pictures of Farhan courtesy of and taken by his fida fan Sofia Akhtar at the Rock On!! music launch on July 7 at Infinity Mall, Andheri.


Anonymous said...

Drift saab,
This interview was such a pleasure to read! I loved Farhan's answers. This guy is genuinely talented and funny!

Thanks for giving me such a great start to Monday morning!

One minor shikwa...You should change the title of this write up and call it "Interview with Farhan Akhtar..." since it was not clear until halfway down that it's an interview.

Rock on!

Anonymous said...

Farhan sir, you really rocked this interview!!

Tania said...

That was a great interview.Farhan has a good sense of humor.
Dil Chahta Hai is one of my favorite movies.
As he mentions that all the actors that he has worked with are passionate about their work,I think he too is the same.Looks like you are now 1 degree away from JudgeJaved.:)

Anonymous said...

the music of rock on has been growing on me. i think the movie is going to be something different and memorable

Anonymous said...

Aspi, what a scoop for the drift!
great to hear from Farhan.

Anonymous said...

To: Fida Fan Sofia Akhtar
From: The kitchen of Drift Memsaab
Re: Farhan Akhtar's chicken recipe

Since I am more about eating than cooking, I visualized FA's "really good" recipe as a cross between Chicken cordon bleu (substitute mushrooms for ham) and Chicken divan.

Prepare the chicken, the mushrooms and sauce as below:

Then, wrap it up and cook in pastry dough as listed in this recipe below:,1939,157164-245205,00.html

There you have it. And I'm crashing the party!

p.s. Loved your informal pictures of Farhan Akhtar. Not sure if you are his relative or just a fan...If you read this blog, please clarify.

Anonymous said...

Am a fan of both the new Don and DCH.
Can't wait to Rock on!!

Anonymous said...

Aspi, Very interesting interview. So good to be "hat ke" from other types of interviews. LOL about the classical music!!

I finally listened to the Rock on music this weekend after all the hype on this blog.
SEL are great!
Farhan is surprisingly good in places.
The real hero of this film is Javed Akhtar. His lyrics kick ass! He can talk to many generations, he's very talented.

Anonymous said...

When is the movie releasing? Can't wait!

Unknown said...

Farhan, thanks for doing this. Perhaps one day you can tell us which Beatles songs are your running favorites these days.

Drift Memsaab, thanks for the recipe. Great idea for the Rock On premier pre-show party. Now we need a drink to go with it.

BB, movie comes out August 29.

Unknown said...

Mind Rush, thanks for the feedback. I changed the title - hope you like it better this way.

Anonymous said...

from now on the war cry of Drifters can go from Jai Mata di Let's Rock! to

Rock on!!

Anonymous said...

Good interview Aspi and Farhan...DCH and surprisingly (since most people seem to dislike that movie), Lakshya, remain favourite movies, so I'm interested in seeing what Farhan does with acting...


Pitu said...

Wot a scoop, Aspi G! Well done, well done! JMLR!

Anonymous said...

Oooooh, DCH has always been one of my super-favourite movies. I still crack up watching it, when it's maybe like the 115th time! And I *loved* Preity Zinta in it.

Farhan seems funny, friendly -- and totally unstarry! Can't wait for the movie to release!

And whoa Aspi, way impressed with your connections! You seem to have completely infiltrated the house of JJ and Shabana Azmi. I'm so jealous now!!!!! :)

Anonymous said...

Rock on, Aspi Bhai!

Like you DCH was a turning point for me in hindi cinema as well. Did'nt like Lakshya as much (wish it was a tad bit shorter) but could see Farhan's conviction in the movie and his desire to make movies on his own terms.

Ofcourse, Don had one of my favourite actors working in a remake of my favourite movie.

Looking forward to Rock On!

Unknown said...

svr, yaar, you make me sound so sinister :)

I have lots of questions to ask Javed Akthar. If I ever run into him, I'll fall at his feet and say: "Please please, tell me about more about how you write, how the writing world has changed, etc, etc".

Meanwhile that Farhan has wonderful, crazy fans. One of them took me to task for not asking enough "private" questions in this Q&A.

Anonymous said...

Great interview Aspi! It really deserves a Jai Mata Di Lets Rock in full gusto!

Farhan proved his mettle for me when he reworked DON. Fresh material has its delights but it seems more effortless because a precedent has not been set yet. Don was a hard assignment and he as a director and his lead actor... both rocked it!

I look forward to seeing this movie.

Your question about the paths taken by hindi movie rock and Hindi Indie Rock (say that five times fast) bears much thinking about. Miles for both to go in different directions before they sleep.

Another Kiran in NYC

Anonymous said...

Loved the 'Pichle Saat Dino' video you linked here. That song is way too cute

Anonymous said...

Incidentally, this entire Akhtar khaandaan is super talented.

Javed's brother Dr. Salman Akhtar (uncle to our Farhan) is a very celebrated professor and psychoanalyst in the US. He is erudite, articulate and leaves academicians swooning.

Anonymous said...

Farhan likes western classical and he can cook. *swoons*

Anonymous said...

Aspi, sorry, Freudian slip! :) I was just wanting to camp out in front of the Javed Akhtar residence (tents, poles, everything) and be all "We're hanging out here until you give us some Quality Time. Please, please, please."

In fact, between Aspi's connections and the Drifters' energy, doesn't this sound like a Driftworthy expedition to Mumbai? :D Any support? :D

Anonymous said...

Oh, and yeah, I'm not surprised at the wonderful crazy fans taking you to task on the insufficient private information. My first reaction on the piece, "Ooooh, he's intelligent, funny, warm, articulate, and down-to-earth -- and as a big bonus, he's cuter than 95% of the actors today! I've found my new favourite actor!" (Yet, it doesn't matter that I haven't actually seen any acting yet.)

Second reaction: kicking myself for not realizing that the maker of DCH has to be most of the above.

Unknown said...

I don't need excuse to be in Mumbai, svr. So yes.

Meanwhile I should tell you that Sofia might show up here and kick people's ass for daring to look askance at Farhan.

srini, sumi and deep, welcome!

Anonymous said...

Woo - I like everything about this interview other than the fact that he wraps his chicken up in pastry. Non!

It's an interesting point about him and the male POV. he's approached it from the other side of the usual Bollywood angle so successfully and with so much humor, that sometimes I have difficulty writing male characters who inhabit the same world as that of his characters (class, city, mental space, education, etc) and make them speak in something other than HIS voice. It's annoying as a writer, but it's really cool as a fan.

Sania said...

Aspi - congrats on the scoop! I've been a Farhan fan since the start, and I thought he and Zoya were adorable on KBC.

I'd also like to take this opportunity to identify myself as one of the original Drifters, in case there's an opportunity to have a small tea party with Farhan in a certain Chicago 'burb. ;-)

ppl said...

JMLR Aspi,

Farhan Akhtar, has just earned a movie ticket from me and I am an admitted brokeass who always watches all the movies on the internet (even the really good ones).
I have loved his past body of work, as any kid who went to high school in India when DCH released will tell you, that was our cult movie.
Enough gushing!

Aspi once again great interview, loved the fitted bedsheet question (copyright it before it gets stolen by ndtv)
JJ next? I would love to know his thought process with the lyrics for Rock On.

Anonymous said...

this man is HOT HOT HOT... wish i could marry him ;)

Anonymous said...

Wow, all that gushing. Who knew Farhan has so many fans amongst the drifters. Is he married? Just curious, not my type, too muh-bola bhai type for me.

That fitted sheet question could become your Barbara Walters "What tree are you question?". You should ask that of all celebs. I am sure we will get some interesting answers.

Unknown said...

I'm with everyone on the fitted bed sheet question - its a nice inside-Drift joke.

But for my next super celebrity interview (hint: its one of us) for next week - I didn't ask the question.

Never mind, we'll ask it in the comments.

Anonymous said...

Great interview Aspi! I've said it before and i'll say it again, you're definitely climbing up that fame ladder!! and also, taking us drifters with you for a fun ride!

Farhan does seem like a really funny down-to-earth type guy! Gotta appreciate people like that cause it's them that we can relate to in the film industry.

Sania, being a Chicagoan and all, count me in on that tea party with Mr. Akhtar!

Unknown said...

I almost forgot:

I need to thank j for pointing out that little "roya" bit he did in one of the songs which became part of a question.

And also Mind Rush for giving me the male POV question.

Anonymous said...

OK, so it's finalized.
We are inviting ourselves to the After-after party following the premiere for Rock On!! in Mumbai.

Sania is bringing the tent and Amrita the stuffed chicken.

OR, we can have same party in Chicago after watching the movie . Farhan and his dad have relatives in the 'burbs. We could invite them all or crash their party.

Unknown said...

Something tells me we should hand over the making of the after after party drinks to girlie girl. After all, she's partied with Lil Jon.

Pitu said...

Hey, count me in as well. I know it's a tea party, but I can bring the dava-daru :-D *hic*

Anonymous said...

Aww...I'm so flattered that you consider me the alcoholic of the drift! Alls i gotta say is bring your pimp cups cause i'm bringin the pimp juice (hmm...that sounds a little dirty. TOTALLY didnt mean it that way!) Any favorites that I should keep in mind?!

we'll have the best darn party the Chicago Suburbs have seen in a while!

Anonymous said...



Read the article!:

Unknown said...

gg, its a compliment because I don't trust anyone with my pimp juice that I'm not very fond of. But wait, that sounds a little dirty and I didn't mean it that way.

I like anything really, mint in it is a bonus (there is a reason I grow it by the bushel during summer)

Anon, read about Ishmeet. That article you linked is a really nice one although the title could have been a little less gimmicky at a time like this.

Anonymous said...

Yaar Anonji apne yeh kaisi depressing news dedi=[

Poor Ishmeet.May he rest in peace.Atleast it made me realise the importance of swimming!I used to continuesly whine and complain when my parents took me to swimming lessons.Gosh swimming skills can really come in handy!

Anonymous said...

And omgoshhh Farhan is a cutiieee.I'm surely checkin the movie out.

Anonymous said...

oh yeah, to us Desi's mint is a bonus in everything. I mean, mint in tea is like finding money! That's the one thing that every Indian household (at least in america) grow is fudina...if for nothing, its used for chai on a daily basis!

Unknown said...

I drink lots of tea. And I am addicted to fudina. What can I say - its my puri-achaar.

On the other hand, I've never tried pudin hara although I've heard its nasty good.

Pitu said...

I always have pudin hara on hand. Good after pigging out :-D

Anonymous said...

didnt even know what pudina hara was till now. something to think about i guess!

add me to the tea addiction list. I dont generally drink it during the week because it would require me to get up 10-15 mins earlier but on the weekends i have 2-3 cups a day! LOVE IT!

but none of that masala chai stuff...I don't want my tea to be spicy thank you!

Pitu said...

girlie girl!!!!! now we have to meet up! a chicago desi who consumes 3 cups of tea on weekends and has a raid-worthy closet! We should have mint tea, then adrak tea, eaten with cookies :-D

Unknown said...

This problem of getting pissy tea in cafeterias is easily solved. I have an entire tea pantry in my filing cabinet at work. Its got tea bags from India, creamer and sugar.

And twice a day, a huge mug of tea is brewed with care around here.

Note: Indian tea bags with creamer taste pretty decent.

Pitu said...

*utaaroes aarti of Shri Aspi G, Lord of Tea Drinkers*

Anonymous said...

I have to have tea made in the indian style with tea leaves added to boiling water. No tea bags for me. This makes travelling in the US or Europe difficult as I start missing my tea in a couple of days.

I do substitute it with champagne and wine nicely though :)

Anonymous said...

yeah i agree with j, if my tea isn't done properly with boiling water, it's just not the same. But like she said, alcohol has a great way of substituting itself for the things we miss/need in life!

Pitu...we TOTALLY should meet and drink some chai! although the only types of cookies that go with mint indian tea is Parle-G! that stuff rocks my world!

Unknown said...

Man who knew I was in the company of tea connoisseurs! I agree about the brewed tea - but when tea needs to be had and cannot be boiled, I must have it in some way. And no, Lipton is not real tea so bags from India must be had.

And I can tell you: meena will have something to say about Parle-G and chai.

gg and Pitu, I'm not trying to crash the get-together or anything, but the best mint in the midwest grows in my garden. So at least get some from me before you brew.

Pitu said...

LOL, J! I like your thinking *hic*. I should know- bevdi that I am, I survived on ouzo in Greece and wine in Italy. Hubs was like, BEHAVE YOURSELF! THE POLIZIE ARE WATCHING!! hehehe

I agree with yall on the teabag bit. Teabags make me sad :-( and Lipton is like garam pani.

I lurve Parle G, but I can't eat em, I'm vegan :_(

Pitu said...

Aspi, join gg and I! Speaking of, let's have a Chitown get-together some weekend. All are invited. I shall brew chai and Hunnybunny will provide biskoots. Wot say? Anyone interested, email me at Be nice to put a face to a name.

Anonymous said...

gg, welcome to the family!
Parle-G is a food group in our house :)

Kanan said...

Nice read. This interview reminded me of an article I read last year about how our music is changing and much more. Vibrations by ROBIN SUKHADIA, Jun 01, 2007.

Thanks for sharing this, Aspi.

Anonymous said...

Hey, you chitowners. If you do have a get together, get some pics for the blog. We want to know what we missed.

Anonymous said...

Parle-G is one of the greatest inventions EVER! They might even beat the likes of Oreo and Chips Ahoy...

Parle-G have eggs in them? Didn't know that. sorry pitu, i would think that since they're desi, i would think they're ok.

let's have this Chitown party! You make the chai, Aspi will bring the fresh mint and i'll bring the Parle-G...

dont worry J, we'll definitely be thinking of you guys...

Pitu said...

Not eggs, they have milk.

Anonymous said...

..and I'll bring myself :)

Kanan said...

GG, other than the Parle-G, those khari biscuits go really nice with desi chai. Us Gujaratis eat the farsi puri, chevda, parathas, and whatnot with the chai.

Btw, I heard that all Chi-towners do is party. Is that a myth?

Unknown said...

Kanan, in Summers we party outside. In Winters we do the Indian Party i.e. we sit around with some alcohol and talk.

Pitu I shall send you an email on weekends I can make it. Although that Beatles cover concert might not be a bad place to go to after chai.

j, where are you anyway. You sound very Chicago like to me. (Don't feel obligated to answer that question if you don't care to reveal your whereabouts).

Anonymous said...

I'm totally emailing you tonight Pitu. We should all definitely meet would be great. Kanan, i do the khari buiscuit as well...also the family favorite is mamra! that stuff kicks ass.

we like to take advantage of the good weather we get 3 months out of the year so in the summer time, we do as many things as we can outdoors. including bbqs, picnics or just laying out on the beach getting burned. winter time, like Aspi said, either it's family parties or just sitting around at friends' places and drinking and playing cards and bi*ching about how terrible the weather is.

Anonymous said...

Actually j is joules. I took up the short form copying our very own cool m.

I live in Austin. As Pitu, I am a libertarian and naturally suspicious of all politicians. So my cynicism against the annointed one :)

btw, I sent you an email. I am writing a post on Bollywood's influences in Hollywood (Satyajit Ray to Snoop-Singh is king). Would love it if you can post it on your blog and would'nt mind a bit if you dont.

Anonymous said...

so Pitu, if as vegan you avoid milk and milk products, does that mean you drink black chai or do you have other substitutes for milk (soy milk?)

Unknown said...

joules that's you? And all this time I thought joules and j were two people. Now I'm going to have to go back and collate all my notes about the both of you into one :)

Pitu said...

Hey Bhagwaan, main beach pe swim karne kya gayi so many posts I missed!

Aspi, ya waiting for email. We'll organize a Drift meetup.The Beatles thing cud also work but it will be too oud to talk and my non Drift buds are also invited so we may not be able to really chat. Plus I will be belting out the numbers phukat mein anyway :-p

Kanan, it's not a myth.

GG, looking fwd to email.

Meena, u coming too? I drink my chai with Silk soymilk (plain). But when at a friend's place, I don't make a fuss- I eat whatever cookies are offered and drink regular milk wali chai.

Joules, if Aspi doesn't want your post, send it to me :-D

Anonymous said...

Hi all,

This is Sofia, Great to see you all liking the interview and praising Farhan, I love hima lot, he is the best.

Hi Memsaab,

No till now i have not had the luck to be anyway related to Farhan except I am his greatest admirer ever. I wish i was though, he is absolutely awesome.
Nice to know you loved the pictures, what you saw is very few, i have some ninety pictures of hot and cute Farhan and Farhan exclusively. Let me know if you'd like to see it.

They are wonderful.

I will check the site from time to time, for Farhan related news and to see more response here.

I will try your recipe.

See you all,

Anonymous said...

The film will be released 29th August 2008, apart from watching a great movie, you will witness the heart throb and sex symbol ever - Thats Farhan Akhtar, and if you see how good an actor is , you will be surprised all.

Unknown said...

Sofia, welcome! I still can't decide if I should take my kids to see it so might give it a miss until I hear from someone who sees it first.

Anonymous said...

Hey Aspi, its just a rock story and love story, nothing bad about it ...Prachi happens to be Farhan's
wife in the movie.

Anonymous said...


Tanvi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tanvi said...

Interesting interview. I am a fan of both his parent's work (Javed Akhtar and Honey Irani) so it comes as no surprise that he is so super intelligent and articulate with his words and thoughts! I have liked all his movies (Directed and Produced so far) DCH, Lakshya, Don, Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd (in the same order) Looking forward to Rock On and then Kismet Talkies & Luck by Chance directed by his sister Zoya!

Unknown said...

saanjh, welcome! You're right - Farhan has an interesting resume so far. More importantly I think he has enough roots in the industry that he can build himself a ecosystem that will provide him with a steady stream of talent and opportunities to do what he's interested in.

If you can combine that kind of luck with talent and a steady stream of hits - then you can become a power player in Bollywood.

Unknown said...

Kudos! that was insightful..:)

Anonymous said...

farhan was absolutely brilliant man.. i really ended upwith a lot of queries in ma mind after watching rock on.. but this interview helped me to get almost all the answers .. m really thankful for such a great interview to be put on... great!!!!!

Anonymous said...

hey aspi!!! one more doubt man .. i really wanted to knw wat was javed ji's reaction after watchin the movie?

Anonymous said...

farhan i love uuuuuuuuuuuuu!!!!!!!! please tell us wats the nex movie cumin up!!!!! aftera long time a movie came worth watchin in a theatre!!!!!1 me n ma friends watched it thrice in movie hall... ur voice.. ur acting .. ur production .. direction.. n looks .. all were mind blowing!!!!

Unknown said...

richa, I think Javedji's reaction would be a great one to get for the movie. But unfortunately, I can't get there :(

Farhan's next movie as an actor is his sister's directorial debut: Luck by Chance.

His next movie as a director is said to be A Voice from the Sky but not too many details yet.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...
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Unknown said...

Smita, unfortunately I have neither. And even if I did, Sophia would kill me if I passed it on to the competition :)

Anonymous said...


pls remove my comments from your site...thks //..

Unknown said...

Smita, no problem. And good luck!

digital said...

Very interesting review of his movie.Something exiting is going on in Facebook- Bausch and Lomb Karthik calling Karthik contest.I very well remember how karthik wooed the girl and want myself to give a makeover like Farhan Akhtar.I am a member of this contest and uploaded my photos and every moment have my fingers crossed to be the ;model of the week '. If anyone who wants to go through the same experience like me ,this is the link to be visited -