Zoya Akhtar: I’m not bossy, I’m the boss

The Dil Dhadakne Do filmmaker spoke about being in command of her film set at a panel discussion to promote Poorna, directed by Rahul Bose.

Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Sonal Pandya

Speaking at a panel discussion on women's empowerment along with actor-director Rahul Bose, journalist Barkha Dutt, Olympic wrestler Sakshi Malik and Poorna Malavath, the youngest girl to scale Mount Everest, director Zoya Akhtar shared her journey to becoming one of the top directors in the Hindi film industry. Each female panellist shared her memories of growing up with parental figures who supported them in the pursuit of their dreams.

Zoya Akhtar talked about visiting her mother, actress-turned-writer Honey Irani, on the weekends while studying at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune and staying with her father, writer-lyricist Javed Akhtar, during the week.

Bose, who was moderating the panel, turned the focus to Zoya’s years as an assistant director on several films before becoming a director with Luck By Chance (2009).

“I chose not to work in the Hindi film industry because I didn’t particularly like the movies that were being made at the time. I had just come back from New York University. I wanted to work on films that were shot in one schedule, that were shot in sync sound, because I thought that’s where the industry would be going,” she explained about her choices of assisting Mira Nair and Kaizad Gustad.

While working on international projects, nobody knew her and everyone was treated the same. She said, “I personally find being a director much easier than being a first assistant director. The first assistant director is the bad cop so you’re constantly rabid. When we talk of sexism, you’re always judged if you are a woman and if you are in control. I’m not bossy, I’m the boss! It’s as simple as that.”

She also spoke about the double standards women have to face on a film set, saying that the women are judged to be bossy while the men are deemed to be good at their jobs. But she is not angry about it anymore, she has moved on and formed her own crew that she is now comfortable working with. “I know of male directors who hit their assistants, make them kneel down and punish them. But if a woman on set [did the same thing]… those are the kind of things you deal with.”

Barkha Dutt, who began the panel discussion with the thought that conversations about women have remained the same over decades, shared Zoya’s sentiments and later talked about how sustaining one’s career is always harder after success.

Bose’s film, Poorna, is based on her astonishing journey at age 13 to scale Mount Everest against the odds. Starring Aditi Inamdar as Poorna, the film is due to be released on 31 March.