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Zoya Akhtar: Ranveer Singh is generous, Alia Bhatt is special 

Zoya Akhtar has an impressive body of work, including feature films like Luck By Chance (2009), Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011) and Dil Dhadakne Do (2015) as well as anthologies such as Bombay Talkies (2013) and Lust Stories (2018). 

The writer-filmmaker is known for her attention to detail and presenting well-etched characters with an emotional graph. She is also the talent behind the Ranveer Singh-Alia Bhatt Valentine Day-release Gully Boy, which is currently the talk of the town. Frankly, her plumes need no further polishing. In a freewheeling chat, the pleasant yet candid award winner talks about her independent banner, teaming up with Ranveer for the second time and more.

Your banner name Tiger Baby is intriguing. Is Gully Boy your first production? 

Well, we co-produced one movie with Ritesh (Sidhwani) earlier and also did Made In Heaven with Amazon, which is dropping on March 8. Gully Boy is our third offering.

Why Tiger Baby?

My partner Reema (Kagti) and I liked the name. I love the tiger, it’s extremely Indian. It’s fierce, feminine and most of all, it’s specific to us.

Coming back to Gully Boy, the film is tracking extremely well. Does that make you nervous?

Yes and no. Of course, you are happy, because when you put out content, you want everyone to respond to it. Now we’re just hoping they come in to watch our movie and enjoy it. So obviously, there is nervousness because people are excited about the film. But, we’ve crossed the first hurdle. 

The voice of the movie is young, it’s inspirational. It seems like a Slumdog Millionaire kind of a story…

It is an underdog story. It’s also talking about a section of society that doesn’t normally get represented in the mainstream. 

It speaks of rap, an art form that came up from the street, like anywhere else in the world. These people use music as a tool, they’re all poets, they speak truth to power, so, it’s exciting. Hopefully, it will resonate with a larger section of the audience than just the youth.

Was Ranveer always your first choice?

Yes, he was my first choice, so was Alia, actually.

You’ve watched Ranveer from his Dil Dhadakne Do days. What would you say about his growth as an actor?

I knew Ranveer even before he did his first film. I always got along with him. I liked his energy and what he brings to any situation that he’s in. When I did Dil Dhadakne Do, we got along so well. I’m extremely comfortable with him. He is a real collaborator. He is a generous actor and a good co-creator of the character. He comes without any ego. At the core of his stardom, he is an actor who wants to do well. He understands the role, the script, and reads between the lines. He knows exactly where I’m coming from and brings stuff to the table. We can say yes or no to each ther’s ideas. I find that reallyexciting.

He lifts the characters up. Usually, people just see the flamboyant and slightly larger-than-life side of him, but he’s got a lot of depth and sensitivity. I like being on a film set with him.

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