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Zoya Akhtar: Bollywood does objectify women, but...

As Bollywood folk get ready to pay respect to an industry that has spanned 100 years, Zoya Akhtar is one of the four filmmakers to express their reverence through short films that are part of Bombay Talkies. An excerpt: 

Zoya Akhtar

Since we are celebrating 100 years of cinema, can you tell us which is your favourite phase?
I loved the ’50s and ’70s. I am a big fan of Guru Dutt, Mrinal Sen, Bimal Roy and Ritwik Ghatak. The kind of stories they told in those days was awesome. I have all of Satyajit Ray’s films. I don’t know how I ended up seeing them. I guess it was because my mom used to watch them. She was an FTII pass out and loved world cinema. I am also a huge fan of Nasir Hussain’s films.

Have you ever been crazy about a Bollywood actor like the kid in your film?
Yes, as a kid I was totally fida over Rishi Kapoor. I still adore him. I used to play his songs a number of times and know them by heart. I loved his dance moves, jackets and his uber-cool romantic side. I used to think that he was super-duper cute.

Did your parents believe in censoring the kind of content you saw?
Of course, they did. Films that showed sex, drugs and rock and roll were taboo. The kissing or intimate scenes used to be fast-forwarded. Children are impressionable and you have to be careful. But we saw a lot of world cinema, thanks to mom. We saw a large number of films and in diverse genres.

Do you feel that Bollywood is somewhat responsible for crimes against women?
While I do agree that Bollywood objectifies women, I don’t believe that we are responsible for the crimes against women.

How does a woman’s perception of filmmaking differ from that of a man?
I really don’t understand why people think that there is a vast difference between a man and a woman director. A good director needs to be a good storyteller. And both of them need a certain understanding of the minds, emotions and sexuality of the opposite sex. There are so many male directors who shoot or represent women beautifully. And I believe that every good male director has a feminine side.

As a filmmaker, are you superstitious about anything?
Yes, I believe in the customary breaking of the coconut. I have heard stories about people taking the first clapboard to religious places and all, but for me the coconut is very important.  

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