Interview: In Conversation With Olivier Lafont About Bollywood And Books

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Olivier Lafont, remembered as the brand-loving, money minded man who was to marry Kareena Kapoor in 3 Idiots and the well meaning priest in Guzaarish, has just released his first fiction book in India, ‘Warrior’. From screenwriting to acting to now writing and publishing fiction, it’s been a long creative journey for Olivier. I had a chat with him to know more.

25050008 midHow did you get started with screenwriting?
I started writing at a very young age, soon after my family moved from France to India. I spoke only French and had to learn English at school, and that’s where my interest in language and words began. I had always loved stories before, but it’s then that I started reading in a big way, and then writing. Screenwriting was, for me, a natural development of my interests in acting and writing. For me acting and writing are two facets of the same craft, storytelling. When I write I act out the story in my mind, and when I act I write out the scene in my head. So screenwriting is a perfect blend of those two for me.

Tell us about Warrior.
‘Warrior’ is my first work published in India. The writing style for ‘Warrior’ is a classic third person omniscient with a focus on my hero Saam’s perspective. I wanted the writing to be visual and cinematic, easy and quick to read, but also to have depth and structure so that there could be multiple levels of interpretation, thematically. When I think of the book I use the term ‘modern epic’, although people might broadly think of it as fantasy or mythological fiction.

WARRIOR coverMythical, immortal warrior in modern day India… how did the idea evolve? What was the inspiration behind it?
The first incarnation of ‘Warrior’ was as a feature film screenplay that I wrote more than a dozen years ago, before I moved to Mumbai. I had just returned from university in the USA, and wanted to write a movie that would be similar to the Hollywood special effects blockbusters of the time (like ‘The Matrix’, ‘X-Men’, ‘Lord of the Rings’, the Harry Potter films), but with a story that would be totally Indian. My interests in Indian mythology and stories, and the Mahabharata in particular, influenced the creation of this story.

The story starts in Mumbai… how come? Which other cities does the reader get a glimpse of?
Since I first wrote the story as a film script I was looking to move to Mumbai, the inspiration was there. Mumbai also worked perfectly for the story structure and themes. Through the story you travel to modern cities like Bhopal and Varanasi, but also to other cities from the past, like the Vijayanagar Empire, Nalanda and Chengdu in the Ming Empire.

Olivier and WarriorWhat can the reader expect in terms of plot?
I think readers can expect a fantastic new perspective on the modern and ancient world, some intriguing and unpredictable characters taking on a titanic struggle that seems beyond them, a lot of extraordinary action featuring demigods and demons, a fragile love story between an immortal warrior and a mortal woman, and a good deal of humour, imaginative landscapes, and exciting adventure.

If you could have one superpower what would it be?
As superheroes go I always liked the dramatic purity and classic feel of Superman, so I would take that package. If it were only one superpower, however, I would take King Midas’s golden touch, that seems most practical, and can be quite aesthetic too.

If you could be one character from your novel who would you be and why?
Saam, my hero. He has the most interesting story to me, and is the most powerful demigod there is. And in the end he wins.

How has been your experience working in Bollywood?
It’s been fun working in the film industry. I’ve had the fortune of working with some of the film industry’s top directors. At the same time I think the roles I’ve done so far have stereotyped me a little as a comic actor. I’d like to do more serious, dramatic work, something with action and matter.

Tell us about your Hollywood experience.
Working on Hollywood projects has, actually, been not too dissimilar from my experience on Indian films. What was refreshing in my last Hollywood film ‘Baby Sellers’ is that I played a very real, dramatic role instead of a comic one.

Which recent film did you enjoy watching?
I recently saw ‘The Avengers: Age of Ultron’. I’ve always liked comics and the modern mythology of superheroes, it’s good fun. Seeing those stories brought to screen in 3D is really exciting, it’s got the big special effects and set pieces you expect, and it’s been treated with a human touch. In fact I originally imagined ‘Warrior’ as a film on this scale.

Your favourite writer/s?
Recently I’ve liked Mark Lawrence (‘The Broken Empire’) and George RR Martin (‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ – ‘Game of Thrones’). I grew up with authors like Lloyd Alexander (‘The Chronicles of Prydain’), Terry Brooks (The Shannara series), Robert Jordan (‘The Wheel of Time’ series), Tad Williams (‘Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn’).

Favourite actor/s?
I like Liam Neeson, Merryl Streep, Anthony Hopkins, Jessica Lange, Hugh Jackman, Gerard Depardieu, Jean-Paul Belmondo.

What inspires you about the city?
I think what’s most inspirational about this city, which is the case with all great cities, is its identity. Mumbai means a lot of things to Indian citizens and to the world: big money, big movies, multiculturalism, globalisation, modernity – but also humanity, community, independence, the potential to make your dreams come true… And I think Mumbai lives up to these expectations.

What would you like to change about Mumbai?
What I would like to see more, however, is a city that really takes care of its people, which I feel we’re still missing because Mumbai is still developing. More parks, more places for the citizens to go, more beautification, higher standards of modern urban basics – which ties back into infrastructure.

What’s next… Films? Writing?
A little of both. I’ve written a new film script, for the first time with myself as the main character. I’m actually looking for a producer to partner with on it. The film is a really fun comedy, and could be an Indian film or an international one, so the producer could also be Indian or international.

You can buy the book on Amazon here.

Post By Garima Sharma (111 Posts)

Founding Editor at MumbaiMag, graffiti and street art lover, traveller, blogger and amateur photographer, slave to Thor, my Lab.

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Garima Sharma

Garima Sharma
Founding Editor at MumbaiMag, graffiti and street art lover, traveller, blogger and amateur photographer, slave to Thor, my Lab.