Kolkata: Homi Adajania first shot into the spotlight nine years ago with his deliciously dark neo-noir film Being Cyrus. In 2012 came the more glitzy Cocktail boasting big stars like Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone. On September 12, Homi returns with Finding Fanny, a quirky tale of five oddballs on an epiphanic road trip of self-discovery, starring Naseeruddin Shah, Pankaj Kapur, Dimple Kapadia, Deepika Padukone and Arjun Kapoor.

The promo of Finding Fanny is a riot. How important do you think the first trailer has become today to build interest among the audience for a film?
Well we intended to run amok with the trailer... so thanks for the compliment! I think it goes back to the ‘first impression is the last’ concept. The curiosity factor needs to be seeded somewhere and a trailer is a truer representation of the film than say, a song or a music video. Today, the reason it has so much more weightage is accessibility through social media. It becomes a window to the film and generates a democratic response from the viewer, converting him or her into a potential audience — or not — based on what impression the trailer makes.

Where did the idea to make a film on five oddball characters on a road trip together come from?
I thought about how messed up it would be if, in the twilight of your life, you discovered that you had lived every day regretting something that had never happened. In this case, it is about an old postmaster, Naseer (Naseeruddin Shah) who finds a letter that is slipped under his door at night... and realises that it is the same letter he had written 46 years ago to the love of his life asking her to marry him. To his horror, he discovers that it had never been posted!

But the journey is much more than him fulfilling his unrequited love story. It is about all the other oddballs who have their own skewed love stories to figure out and need the same journey to find themselves.

Are these characters in, any way, inspired from people you have known and met? Are some of their quirks even your own?
Naseer said: ‘My character Ferdie is a Catholic version of the old eccentric Bawa that Homi will become!’

Though, I think, I have more strains of Deepika’s character, Angie, in the film. Her dysfunction is veiled. The complexity of human behaviour intrigues me. I haven’t met a single person who can actually say they are ‘normal’ because that’s just a word to describe the average or majority of human behaviour. Look at the world... it is populated by the so-called ‘normal’ people, but doesn’t seem very balanced to me. So yes, it’s based on bits of everyone I know and a lot of myself.

What made you choose each of the five principal actors for their respective roles?
The role of the postmaster was written for Naseer. Deepika had heard the story and said that whenever I make it, she wants to be a part of it. I went to Arjun and he said ‘yes’ as soon as he heard the story... I think he was attracted to the project owing to the opportunity to do something so far removed from the regular fare. Pankaj was the last to come on board. He wasn’t even on my radar until my executive producer Poonam Shivdasani suggested his name and I am eternally grateful for having had the joy to work with such a phenomenal talent. And Dimple was pretty clear about it — the politest way I can put it is that she said I’d suffer the loss of my ‘family jewels’ if I didn’t cast her!

Is working with friends like Deepika Padukone and Dimple Kapadia an advantage because of the comfort level that you share or a disadvantage because of over-familiarity?
The friendship is used to our advantage and we are all professional enough never to blur the lines. I share an unspoken understanding with Deepika. She knows exactly what I want in a scene just by perceiving how I’ll narrate it to her. She will ask me to act out something knowing not to copy it but how to interpret it. And she works very hard... but half the battle is won because of the trust we share. That’s why she looks effortless in everything we do together.

As for Dimple, again there’s the same trust, but she needs more affirmation from me and is never satisfied with her shot. It’s different processes each actor shares with a director.

A fun, quirky film like this with an eclectic cast is bound to have thrown up some crazy moments on set. Can you recall a few for us?
That would be another article! But in spite of being such an eclectic bunch, the glue that held it all together was that we were all out to have fun. I am very particular when I meet an actor or a technician... that if they want to be on my project, we will work our butts off, but we should all have fun... else it’s not worth doing.

A criticism thrown at you in Cocktail was that you seemed a bit like a fish out of water in that song ’’ dance genre. Would you say that Finding Fanny is the kind of film that puts you back to where you belong?
Finding Fanny is my chosen cross to bear... you can applaud or hang only me for it.

Deepika’s dramatic career surge started with Cocktail. Today, when you see her go from strength to strength do you feel like the big daddy? Does she ever come to you for advice?
Naa... not really. Though Deepika will tell me of things going on in her life, in terms of various opportunities, probably knowing that it takes very little for me to start spewing my unsolicited advice! I feel protective of her when it comes to her craft and how little of it she has exploited yet. But I think she is very intelligent and knows exactly what she wants and where she can go with her talent.

You are having the premiere of Finding Fanny a good 17 days before release. How comfortable are you with putting out your film so early?
I don’t understand all these marketing ploys but it is the kind of film that needs word-of-mouth because it isn’t your typical massy song ’’ dance outing that has the fixed marketing format. I believe that for the audience who gets this kind of cinema it will work and so we need to garner a movement of cool, like-minded people to advocate watching Finding Fanny.

Will we ever see you making an over-the-top masala film like Dabangg?
Never say never, though I’m the kind of guy who’d prefer a Woody Allen or (Pedro) Almodovar film to say a Spider-Man or Fast & Furious series. Saying that, I loved the quirkiness of Dabangg. I haven’t seen the other one (Dabangg 2), but for me, Dabanggwas very entertaining. It was cult, self-deprecative and fun. I would happily make something like that.

With actors becoming directors, directors turning actors, actors turning singers, what’s stopping you from getting in front of the camera? You do have the looks for it!
I appreciate that as age is beating down on me... but I don’t think you have to have “looks” to be an actor. An actor needs to be consumed by the craft. I’m not someone who eats, sleeps, breathes films. For me, I have a very exciting life of adventure sport, travel, child-rearing, living in my head and other such endeavours that make up my life. Somewhere, the films get sandwiched in between all this.


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