It’s been 5 years since Zoya Akhtar‘s ensemble drama Dil Dhadakne Do hit our screens and introduced us to the Mehras. The family drama follows the upper-class Delhi family who set off on a luxury cruise. This leads to a number of secrets and conflicts that come gushing out of the woodwork. The film satirised the rich and privileged, explored family dysfunction, the pressures of society and above all, parents who are constantly control the lives of their offspring. On the film’s 5 year anniversary, director Zoya Akhtar shared her memories of making the film.

Edited Excerpts:

On The Logistical Challenges Of Shooting On A Cruise

“The shoot was logistically tough because we had 25 key actors and the crew all on a ship. The ship would do the same circuit every week, so we would sail out of Barcelona and then we would do this 6-day circuit to Italy, France and Tunisia and then come back to Barcelona on Sunday which was our day off. We also had other passengers on the ship, because you couldn’t block the entire thing so we had to shoot around that with the staff. 

On the first day we were supposed to roll, the ship had a technical problem and got docked in Marseilles in France while 200 of us and all the equipment were ready to board in Barcelona. So for (producer) Ritesh Sidhwani, it was a nightmare and I don’t know how he did it but in 2 days he had tons of equipment and all of us moved to France. It ended up being a blessing because for the first 10 days we had the ship to ourselves but it was logistically insane.”

On Having Pluto Narrate The Film 

“The idea of Pluto’s perspective came from my dog Zen. He passed away 2 years ago. He was the most special dog. He was extremely handsome, he was like the Brando of dogs – very good looking and bigger in structure and he had the vibe of a philosopher. He would just sit and stare and watch people. When Reema (Kagti) and I were talking about the film and figuring it out, there was something we were missing. Then Reema was like, ‘what if we do it from Zen’s point of view?’. That just nailed it because suddenly you were outside and you were looking at this upper-class Punjabi Delhi family as if you were watching them on National Geographic. So it was reversed – an animal watching people and then everything just fell into place and I really loved it.”

On How They Shot Gallan Goodiyaan

“We had written Gallan Goodiyan as this big Punjabi song Carlos Catalan our cinematographer, who doesn’t watch many Hindi films said ‘you can’t do that kind of song with this big family and so many people, let’s do it like a home video in one shot instead’. I called Bosco and Caesar and I told them that there would be 25 people and they asked me for two things: the measurement of the ship where the song was supposed to happen and a brief of every character, what they’re like and how they would come across in the song. They designed the song using 25 dancers and each one had a tag with the names of the characters on them and they taped a dance floor with the same measurements as the ship. So when I saw the rehearsal, I could see the dance steps but I could also see which character is where and doing what. Carlos took out his phone and he followed it so the camera knew where it was going.

How they did it was incredible and again it comes back to the actors because you can’t do any of this without great actors. All of them went into rehearsals in Mumbai and when we went on the ship, Bosco-Caesar came in and everyone rehearsed it every evening after work. There was this steady cam operator who worked with me in ZNMD who came in from Barcelona just to do this song. We shot it 8 times over 2 days and all of this while Priyanka had a 103-degree temperature, but you can’t tell in the song.” 

On Writing The Kind Of Men She’d Like To See In The World

“I like writing male characters because we’re so used to this kind of toxic masculinity in our idea of an onscreen hero which I honestly find very boring. It’s okay to cry, and be sensitive and to not want to hit people and be laid back and not wear tight clothes. Women have been directed and written by men for so long with their gaze that I think it is really interesting to see men from a woman’s gaze as well. I just put the kind of man I find attractive out there.”

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