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Javed Akhtar on The Archies cast: 'These children come with a total chin up'

Set in 1964, the upcoming movie marks the acting debut of Suhana Khan, Khushi Kapoor and Agastya Nanda

PTI New Delhi Published 28.11.23, 09:27 AM
Javed Akhtar

Javed Akhtar

“The Archies” has been a talking point more for its main cast, all of them new and three the children of showbiz biggies, than perhaps anything else. And have now got a thumbs up from industry veteran Javed Akhtar who says they are very good, confident and talented.

It is difficult to believe they are facing the camera for the first time, Akhtar said about the youngsters who form the mainstay of his daughter Zoya Akhtar's Netflix musical that adapts the world of the popular American comic to a small town in India in the 1960s.


"All of them are very good. They're really talented kids and very confident. Earlier, actors would have rough edges and gradually they would get polished and they would find their genre but these children come with a total chin up," Akhtar told PTI in an interview.

The film marks the acting debut of Shah Rukh Khan and Gauri Khan’s daughter Suhana Khan (Veronica), the late Sridevi and Boney Kapoor’s daughter Khushi Kapoor (Betty), and Amitabh Bachchan’s grandson Agastya Nanda (Archie).

Newcomers Dot, Mihir Ahuja, Vedang Raina and Yuvraj Menda round out the primary cast of the film.

Akhtar, who extensively worked with Bachchan in the 70s and has also collaborated with Shah Rukh and Sridevi on various movies, has nothing but praise for the budding actors. The lyricist has penned tracks such as "Sunoh" and "Va Va Voom" for the film.

Asked about working with the third generation Bachchan and second generation Khan and Kapoor, Akhtar said all three -- Agastya, Suhana and Khushi --- have the potential to make it big.

"I predict that Agastya will be a heartthrob for teenagers and young girls, that's for sure. He is bringing a new recipe of the hero. Elements of his personality are not to be seen nowadays. He is shy, humble, cute, confident, but not aggressive. And, that's wonderful. He's a good-looking boy," the writer-lyricist said.

"Suhana is a competent actor and she is confidence personified. It is difficult to believe that it is her first film. The way she moved in front of the camera, the way she walked, the way she looked into the camera and so on. And, Khushi has inherited her mother Sridevi ji's mobility... That is very much there in her," he added.

Set in 1964, "The Archies" is a coming-of-age musical which follows the lives of Riverdale’s favourite set of teenagers - Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead, Reggie, Ethel and Dilton. Seen through the lens of the unique Anglo-Indian community, the film explores friendship, freedom, love, heartbreak and rebellion.

Akhtar, who often collaborates with daughter Zoya and son Farhan on their films as a lyricist, said penning the songs for the new film came with a set of challenges and a list of "dos and don'ts" from the director.

"I was careful that I should not use any words which will draw attention and create a question in an average listener's mind 'How could Archie, Veronica, or Betty say this word?' Because they live in a small town called Riverdale, which is somewhere beyond Mussoorie. It's an Anglo-Indian village and they speak Hindustani and Hindi. But even in dialogues, a lot of English words are scattered.

"I have to take care that the dialogues and the lyrics don't look from different planets. So, I imposed a kind of a ban on me for almost 85 per cent of my vocabulary," he said.

Akhtar credits musicians Shankar Mahadevan, Ehsaan Noorani and Loy Mendonsa for composing the vibrant, youthful soundtrack.

Praising Zoya Akhtar for her clarity, Akhtar said her instructions made his job both easy and challenging.

He said both his children are a joy to collaborate with.

He has written lyrics for almost of all of his children's feature directorials -- Farhan's "Dil Chahta Hai", "Lakshya", "Don" and Zoya's "Luck By Chance","Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara", "Dil Dhadakne Do", "Gully Boy" and now "The Archies".

"They give me a situation in detail... It's a pleasure working with them because they are sure about what they want. It makes things easy but at the same time difficult too. Because they are so clear, they don't allow you to move one way or the other," he said.

Asked whether he tries to get away with certain things in his lyrics, Akhtar said, "Oh yes, but not with very successful results." Akhtar, who along with former writing partner Salim Khan, is known as one of the most successful screenwriters in Hindi cinema, has had a multifaceted career that includes "Zanjeer", "Deewar", "Sholay", "Don", "Trishul" and "Mr India".

Salim-Javed, as they came to be known, are credited with creating the 'Angry Young Man' persona that became synonymous with the Bachchan movies of the 1970s.

Asked about the trend of '90s romantic heroes Shah Rukh and Salman Khan strapping on action boots in their recent films, Akhtar said, "There is a difference between an action hero and an angry young man. In fact, 'Deewar' has only one fight. There was no action in 'Deewar'. The angry young man is a man with angry feelings. The scenes were dramatic but there was no action per se." The new phase of action heroes is wonderful as people are enjoying it, he added.

Akhtar said he isn't someone resting on his laurels.

"You know, thinking about 'What I am, what I'm not, what is my calibre and talent' is the shortest cut to a mental asylum. This kind of self love and narcissistic quality is there to destroy your objectivity." According to the lyricist, one should try and focus on their work and "try to do it as intelligently as possible" rather than indulging in one's achievements.

Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.

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