It’s important to acknowledge your privilege, says debutante Alaya F
The newcomer, along with director Nitin Kakkar, talks about Jawaani Jaaneman, a relationship drama co-starring Saif Ali Khan and Tabu
January’s barely over but there have already been quite a few debuts in Bollywood. Earlier this month, we had newcomers Priyaank Sharma and Riva Kishan in Sab Kushal Mangal. Now, taking the plunge with Nitin Kakkar’s Jawaani Jaaneman, is newbie Alaya F, daughter of Pooja Bedi and granddaughter of Kabir Bedi. She stars alongside Saif Ali Khan and Tabu in the film, which centres on a 40-year-old, commitment-phobic man reuniting with his estranged daughter.
“It sounds weird but I feel like I am giving birth,” Alaya says of her pre-release jitters. It’s a natural state for debutantes, but Alaya sounds more than confident. Briefly, she takes us through her growing up years. “I wanted to be a director initially,” she says. “I went to New York University to study filmmaking. As it happened, there was one acting class in my course. It was here I realised I wanted to act. I quit NYU and went to New York Film Academy. Then I came back to Mumbai and started preparing.”
Alaya trained under acting coach Ritesh Kant in Mumbai. One day, as she was leaving after class, one of her friends came in for rehearsals. She had the audition script for Jawaani Jaaneman, and Alaya agreed to read lines with her. “I kept advising her on how she should perform certain parts,” she recalls. Sometime later, Alaya’s agency turned up with a new project. It turned out to be the same script. “I promptly auditioned for it and ended up getting the part. It was amazing.”
An industry kid, Alaya has been frank about the nepotism debate. She’s fine with it being discussed with her professional identity. “It’s justified to be asked this question and I feel it should be acknowledged more. No matter how great my struggle is, there will always be someone who has struggled a billion times more because they don’t come from film families. So just acknowledging your privilege is important.”
As an actor, Alaya wants her work to speak for itself. “No one alleges nepotism about Alia Bhatt or Ranbir Kapoor anymore because they have proved themselves. I wish to do the same. Also, I am here to become an actor and not a star.”
Jawaani Jaaneman is the fourth feature film by director Nitin Kakkar, who broke out with the National Award-winning comedy Filmistaan (2014). In recent years, Nitin has directed the Pelli Choopulu remake Mitron (2018) and the romantic-drama Notebook (2019).
Speaking about Jawaani Jaaneman, Nitin says the film puts a new spin on an old theme. “In the 2000s, Saif played multiple characters with a playboy-ish vibe. This is most certainly an extension of that. However, the characterisation is fresh. It’s about what happens with those characters when they are in their 40s.”
The director credits changing times for more experiments in Bollywood films. “India is going through a wonderful phase where the youth is interpreting relationships differently. The institution of marriage is more or less dated. Divorces are no more a taboo. There’s less homophobia. This, in turn, has made our stories more mature. All that’s left is for the older generations is to accept it.”
The hit songs Ole Ole and Gallan Kardi (originally Dil Luteya) have been retooled for Jawaani Jaaneman. The soundtrack is a collaborative effort by Gourov-Roshin, Tanishk Bagchi and Prem-Hardeep. While acknowledging the overabundance of remixed songs, Nitin feels there’s always room for creativity.
“The industry goes through phases of remixes and reinventions. It’s what people are consuming at the moment,” he says. “Speaking for myself, I try to find relevance in my work. You shouldn’t use a song irrelevantly, without narrative context. It shouldn’t be used as a gimmick.”
After Jawaani Jaaneman, Nitin will be working on a black-and-white drama set during the Partition. “There’s also a sports film I am penning,” he says. “I’m sure these two will be my upcoming projects.”