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A cherished aim...

It may be directed by the apple of his eye, but Javed Akhtar's Lakshya is greater than the sum of its parts, finds RANA SIDDIQUI.


TAKING A break helps. So it did Javed Akhtar. A 15-year of hiatus from scriptwriting saw the poet concentrating more on lyrics and removing dust from his stock of books.

"I had started feeling that I was growing too mechanical. As if I was doing it only because of money. I had actually stopped enjoying scriptwriting. Moreover, ideas too stopped exciting me, so I decided to take a break," reasons the poet.

But 1999 was the year that stirred the writer in him once again. "I went to Kargil, where I spent time with the regiment, talked to them and recorded their quotes. I also read a lot of books on the Kargil War, watched television coverage. It was during those days that I got to know it is mostly underprivileged, undernourished, unemployed and uneducated youth who apply for Defence Services. I was told by an Army employee that 50,000 such youths apply against an advertisement requiring 1000 people. The revelation created a blast in my mind. I was inquisitive to know why youths from upper middle class families do not take it as a career option."

For long, he says, he tried to avoid this question, but the year 2004 proved to be decisive.

He sought shelter in isolated venues: Khandala's remote greens, Pune's Blue Diamond Hotel and his own close room. It was on the same chair and table in Mumbai where he always used to write his scripts, that he wrote the screenplay and developed the plot of Lakshya. Initially, he shared the "two-page story idea" with his son Farhan Akhtar, asking him if he could make a film of it.

"Farhan immediately lapped up the proposal, and I started working on it," says the poet who also consulted an Army officer Shankar Prasad on sensitive and intricate issues while developing the plot.

It is not because Farhan is his son that he asked him to make the film, he emphasises, but because Farhan himself was going through confusion about the choice of career; also because his first film, Dil Chahta Hai, changed the very definition of a film based on the mindset of youth.

"I didn't want this film to be a typecast patriotic film but that the issue be handled in an emotional way without being sentimental, because my story is more about an aimless, educated, rich young boy who realises his folly and finally creates his niche in the Army," says Javed.

"If I had decided to make this film, I wouldn't have made it so beautifully. Believe me, Farhan has left no stone unturned in creating the real ambiance, especially while shooting in Laddakh - and as it is, Laddakh has so many stones!"

He is neither too critical about his son nor overwhelmingly happy. "I did not go on the sets even for a single day, as my job was finished at the table. But when I saw the film, I realised that we elders often misunderstand the young generation and expect too much. We don't ask ourselves, were we as good at their age as we expect them to be? If we accept that they have talents, and if they accept that we are not always wrong, mutual cooperation is a possibility. I used to be always worried about Farhan, thinking what will he do in life. Similarly, my parents used to worry about me when I was of Farhan's age."

And now Akhtar senior feels that his son has come of age. "Farhan does not make films that are successful at any cost. They earn strong reactions but the best part is, he does not turn them too crude. Perhaps this is because of the values he inherited. I feel after one right gear at the impressionable age of 19-21, his second gear has again taken the right direction. This is what satisfies me."

What makes Lakshya important to him is that it does not use jingoism in the name of glorifying history. "You can't change history, but you can definitely treat it in a realistic way," he philosophises.

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