Sunday, May 14, 2017

Zoya Akhtar, Dreams, and Khwabon Ke Parindey

At some point in Damien Chazelle's La La Land, Sebastian Wilder (Ryan Gosling) and Mia Dolan (Emma Stone) are having a conversation over dinner. Sebastian, a pianist, joined a band to have a steady source of income, though he does not like the kind of music he plays. His dream is to open a jazz club of his own. Mia asks him till when will he be on the musical tour as she thinks he is doing it only for a short term; however, Sebastian replies that he plans to be there for at least two years, perhaps, even more. Mia is taken aback by the revelation that Sebastian is giving up on his dream. She tells him, "I am pointing out that you had a dream, that you followed, that you were sticking to." Sebastian says, "It is just time to grow up. This is the dream, this is the dream. Guys like me work their whole life to be in something that is successful, that people like." Later, Mia sings about dreamers in her audition, "Here's to the ones who dream, foolish as they may seem. Here's to the hearts that ache, here's to the mess we make." The much-loved film tells the story of two dreamers. All the time while watching La La Land, I was constantly reminded of Zoya Akhtar's exceptionally brilliant Luck By Chance, which in many ways, is quite similar to La La Land
Luck By Chance is also about dreamers. In fact, the realization dawned on me that all the four films of Zoya Akhtar have a theme of dreams in them. Her oeuvre emphasizes that people should follow their dreams. Zoya's first film Luck By Chance is about Vikram Jaisingh (Farhan Akhtar) and Sona Mishra (Konkona Sen Sharma). The two of them have come to Mumbai to become actors. The film depicts their struggle, their challenges, and the role of luck and destiny in their lives. Both Vikram and Sona dream to become successful actors; they make compromises along the way, and display a benign ruthlessness in manipulating people, especially Vikram, to get their dream fulfilled. Sona has run away from her home, and Vikram does not want to join his father's business, as they want to become actors. In an early point in the film, Aamir Khan makes an appearance as himself, shooting for a film where he plays a character in a period film set in Mumbai. The character that he plays is Anand Babu and he says, "Sapne toh sabhi dekhte hai, lekin sirf wohi sapna saakar hota hai, jo laakh samjhaane par bhi insaan bhulana nahi chahta." Everyone dreams but only that dream gets fulfilled which a person does not want to forget, in spite of being told to forget it. This, essentially, becomes the motto for Vikram. When Satish Chaudhry refuses to give a role to Sona for his film, she is heartbroken, and Vikram consoles her by saying to never give up. One should keep walking on her chosen path, and eventually, the world will join her in her journey. This theme of dreams again comes up when Vikram goes for his audition at Romy Rolly Productions, and the song Sapnon Se Bhare Naina plays. The lyrics talk about a child chasing a butterfly, and all that one wants to find is to be found inside. It talks about those who dream. Sapnon se bhare naina, na neend hai na chaina. When there are dreams in your eyes, there is neither sleep nor peace. The song is picturized in a room full of men who are auditioning to become actors. There is someone in the room who does not have any money to buy even a new pair of shoes. He does not know English, and is a little embarrassed to ask for Vikram's help in filling the form. All he wants is to become an actor; his audition was perhaps among the best as well, but he most likely lost out due to his looks. These strugglers, despite knowing the harsh reality of being an outsider in an industry that does not treat them well, still dream to get something they want. During the final scenes, the film also acknowledges Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan, two outsiders, who never gave up on their dreams and made it big in the industry.
In Zoya's second film Zindagi Na Milegi Dobra, there are three friends—Arjun (Hrithik Roshan), Imran (Farhan Akhtar), and Kabir (Abhay Deol). The friends go on a road trip in Spain as they had made a pact years ago. During the trip, each of them chooses an adventure sport that they will have to do. Arjun is a workaholic investment banker. He is so busy working that he has no time for his personal life. In Spain, he meets the diving instructor Laila (Katrina Kaif) who helps him understand the way to live. Arjun thinks he will make enough money by working till he is forty years and then do things that he really likes, such as cooking. Laila, like Professor John Keating from Dead Poets Society, tells him, "Seize the day," and live each day to the fullest before making plans for the future. He falls in love with her, and here also, we see an aspect related to dreams. The song Khwabon Ke Parindey plays that describes Arjun's state of mind and talks about his dreams flying like the birds. He is feeling relaxed. He is basking in the sunshine. He is taking more space in the car by lying down. He makes hand gestures of going with the flow, which is quite a contrast with his methodical packing in the film's opening credits. 
Udein, khule aasaman mein khwabon ke parindey,
Udein, dil ke jahaan main khaabon ke parinday,
Ohho, kya pata, jaayenge kahaan,
Khule hain jo par, kahe yeh nazar,
Lagta hai ab hain jaage hum,
Fikrein jo thi, peechhe reh gayi.
At some other point in the film, Kabir asks his fiancĂ©e Natasha that why does she plan to quit her job after their wedding. It was her dream and she should continue to work on that. Natasha replies that dreams change and priorities change. This scene has stuck with me, where I have often wondered if dreams change. As Sebastian says in La La Land, perhaps, we grow up and we want different things at different points in life. In the film's end credits, Sooraj Ki Baahon Mein plays, where again this dream theme comes up. Naye naye sapne jo bunn sake, usi zindagi ko kaho zindagi. In which I can weave new dreams, I’ll only call that life, a real one. 
In Bombay Talkies, Zoya directed the segment called Sheila Ki Jawaani. The story is about a child Vicky (Naman Jain) who wants to become a dancer when he grows up. His strict father does not approve his son embracing his feminine side. His father enrolls him in a football coaching class, but Vicky struggles to get even the smallest basics of football correct. His family goes to watch Tees Maar Khan, and when the song Shiela Ki Jawaani plays on the screen, Vicky is thrilled. It was as if he finally found that he wants to be. At a later point, Vicky watches a TV show where Katrina Kaif is being interviewed. On being asked her reason for success, she says she just followed her dream. At that instant, Vicky imagines that she is a fairy, who is talking to him directly. She is his Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Katrina tells him that it is important to preserve one's dreams and for that he might even have to lie. She says to Vicky, "Kabhi kabhi apne dream ko chhupana padta hai. People always don’t understand you, so they will discourage you. Lekin tumhe to pata hai na, tumhara sapna kya hai, toh uska khayal bhi tumhe rakhna padega. You have to nurture it. You have to protect it aur vaise bhi zaroorai nahi hai ki har baat, har waqt doosron ko batayi jayi. Har baat batane ka ek sahi waqt hota hai. Jaante ho tum jo chaho kar sakte ho, jo chaho ban sakte ho. Follow your heart for there is magic in your dreams. If you believe them, they will come true. Bas yakeen karo ki aisa hoga aur tumhe koi nahi rok sakta." Here, also, there is the theme of dreams. Katrina becomes a guardian angel for Vicky. She provides the anchor to the boat of Vicky's dreams. Katrina was like Laila from Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, advising Vicky like Laila taught Arjun the meaning of life. 
Dil Dhadakne Do tells the story of the dysfunctional Mehra family. Neelam Mehra (Shefali Shah) is a homemaker married to Kamal Mehra (Anil Kapoor), a self-made businessman. They have two children—Ayesha and Kabir. Ayesha (Priyanka Chopra) runs her own company and Kabir (Ranveer Singh) works with his father in their family business. Kabir dreams of becoming a pilot; however, his family wants him to run their firm. He does not fully get business, and feels that he does not belong there. On a cruise, he meets Farah (Anushka Sharma). Farah is a dancer. Like Sona from Luck By Chance, Farah ran away from her home because her conservative family did not want her to become a dancer. But it was her dream to be one, so, she left them. Kabir is taken aback by the fearlessness of Farah to follow her dreams. He never thought of rebelling, but only after meeting Farah, he gets the courage to talk to his parents that he wants to do something in the field of flying. In addition, there is a line in the film's title song, "Hum toh yehi samjhayenge usey, sapne jo hai sajaane thode se bano diwaane." We’ll only say to him, that if you want to fulfill your dreams, be a bit crazy. 
Thus, there is a theme related to dreams in all her films. In some earlier posts, I had written on the motif of flowers in the films of Zoya Akhtar. Almost every scene in Luck By Chance had a flower, and this flower pattern was seen in Bombay Talkies and Dil Dhadakne Do, too. There is also a theme of liberation and repression in her films. Interestingly, her next directorial venture is Gully Boy, which seems to be based on the lives of street rappers from Mumbai's chawls and ghettos. Given the subject matter, it is very likely that even Gully Boy will have a theme related to dreams as well. 

Other Reading:
1. On Luck By ChanceLink and Link
2. On Dil Dhadakne DoLink
3. On Bombay TalkiesLink

Dialogue of the Day

"Agar Shah Jahan practical hota to phir Taj Mahal kaun banata."
—Kabir, Dil Dhadakne Do

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