Director Homi Adajania© GettyImages

Director Homi Adajania On The Art Of Filmmaking & More

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Ananya Shankar

HELLO! chronicles the cinematic journey of visionary filmmaker, Homi Adajania, unveiling the art and understanding the artist..

“There’s a part of me in almost all my characters or in the experiences that I create. There was a long-standing joke that Veronica, from Cocktail, was the female version of me from back in college!” says Homi Adajania, a passionate filmmaker with a penchant for a good punchline. (“Sent with two opposable thumbs” is how he signs off his emails!)

Homi’s pioneering films have made him the architect of modern narratives. From Finding Fanny and Being Cyrus to Cocktail and Angrezi Medium, his movies walk the thin line that balances artistic ingenuity and commercial success, also seamlessly blending humour with raw human emotion. A director who takes the “pain, joy and fears” of his characters home, his journey proves that art can’t be isolated from the artist — neither can the film from its creator.

Homi, The Traveller

As varied as his projects may seem, it’s the traveller in him that inspires most of them. As we speak, he reminisces about his scuba-diving excursion in the Lakshadweep islands, where he spent his days in the ocean and his nights under the stars.

“I realised at a young age that the best thing in life wasn’t about things. It was really about the experience of being alive!” he shares.

Perpetually planning his next getaway, he wishes to visit other diving destinations, go rock climbing, explore the Dev-Bhoomi belt and get some more snowboarding in, he quips, before his body falls apart!

“I wouldn’t want to revisit any place though,” he adds astutely, “because I feel memories should be cherished and not relived… Places change and so do you.”

Homi, The OTT Debutant

It was enthused by one such trip in 2016 that Homi made his venture into the OTT space with Saas, Bahu Aur Flamingo — a show every bit as eclectic and energetic as he is.

“I got the idea when I crossed paths with the Baloch gypsies. They were so far removed from my life, and yet, listening to their stories, I felt we were so alike,” he recalls. “I wanted to marry an urban world shackled by societal laws, with wild lawless badlands, a world in which people could choose to live by their own rules. I wanted to explore a system based on an altered morality and discover its implications on interpersonal relationships.”

These innovative concepts found a more liberating expression through the rise of OTT, for it doesn’t “fetter one’s creativity with the burden of a theatrical collection.” Homi believes that on these platforms, “content is king, and there’s no need for any star labels or force-fitting of songs to popularise the project. There’s no illogical censorship to weaken a scene, and no overkill of publicity,” which allows his creative vision to remain largely uncompromised.

And thanks to the global audience that OTT platforms enjoy, the perception of India has also expanded beyond the ghats of Varanasi and the slums of Dharavi. Homi received “in-depth reactions” for the show from viewers from South America to Japan — despite not officially streaming in some of these regions. The power of social media is an absolute game changer indeed.

However, for an old-school movie buff like him, the experience of a theatre remains untouched, as the smell of popcorn and the community feeling of a cinema is incomparable. After all, one can’t find random particles “dancing in the projector’s beam” at home!

Homi, The Filmmaker

It’s intuitive filmmaking that secured Homi a seat at the table. But as is the case with any business, the cinematic universe is driven by the spirit of collaboration based entirely on trust.

“I rely predominantly on my instinct when exploring my creativity. I’m not sure how this translates on screen, but it’s the only way I know,” he explains, delving into the dealings of the trade.

“At the end of the day, films are a business. So it’s about finding a balance to make the next project viable. For instance, my producer, Dinesh Vijan from Maddock Films, enhances my creativity rather than manipulating it.”

Known for his wisecracks and appetite for humour, this filmmaker consciously tries to create the best memories for all on location.

“Our sets have a wholesome energy that we all enjoy. It’s important for me to enrich lives the best way I know — with love and laughter,” says Homi, not missing a beat as he adds, “And sometimes, when things get out of hand, then forget enriching lives. I’d suggest evacuating the set before your memory becomes a nightmare!”

Homi, The Family Man

An early riser, a typical day for Homi begins at 5am. It’s his time for yoga, meditation, exercise and some reading, before “the beasts awaken,” he laughs, recalling his wife, Anaita Shroff Adajania, complaining that there are three kids in the house!

As insinuated by his wondrous tales of travel, Homi has been an avid seeker of adventure sports for years. He now waits for his sons, Zane and Zreh, to join him when they are old enough to jump into the deep end of things.

“Let’s not discuss this with the wife!” Homi remarks, jovially.

Speaking of his wife, no one in India knows style better than Anaita, one of the most sought after celebrity stylists in the country. Having dressed the who’s who of India, from Alia Bhatt to Natasha Poonawalla, her acute sense of fashion is established the world over, and her contribution to costume design in Indian cinema is known to prompt trends that leave the industry buzzing.

“I remember when we were shooting for Cocktail, I found certain outfits shortlisted for Deepika Padukone’s character too over the top. But Anaita assured me that by the time the film would release, a year later, these looks would be cutting-edge on the fashion front. And she was absolutely right!”

Do her directions have a say on Homi’s wardrobe, as well? We wonder but are quickly shot down. For it’s a victory for Anaita to get Homi to change out of a black T-shirt! The two choose to keep the personal space a world away from the professional because they fell in love not for what they did or how they looked, but for the people they are.

Signing off on this riveting conversation, Homi leaves us with more to look forward to from him. He’s currently in the midst of producing a film on Siachen — “a beautiful story of our soldiers delving into the human psyche as they negotiate brutal elements without one shot fired” — along with hammering away in the writers’ room to Season 2 of Saas, Bahu aur Flamingo.

This has been adapted for the web from a story originally published in the July 2023 issue of HELLO! India. Get our copy of the latest issue right here!