From working in an ad agency as a runner to manning the family petrol pump post his father’s demise, to spending the next 10 years wandering around the world, without any real agenda — life for director-writer Homi Adajania had been like a big scoop of assorted flavors until he could finally say — “I have a career now.”
For some, it is easy to crack the code, find their passion, and translate it into a paycheck while for some it is a wandering journey until one fine day their destiny comes calling. Run past some of Homi’s interviews and you will come across one such adventurous journey.
Stories of him being mugged by Albanian refugees, getting deported from Nepal, taking a fake fair to Venice, attempting to sail a four-seater wooden sail boat from Ipswich to India, getting distracted and landing up in Crete where he could only afford free cave dwelling, sleeping on the sidewalks of Athens, spending days on a fishing boat to click pictures of migrating turtles, babysitting, washing sofas, and painting for money… The maverick Parsi director has literally lived life on the edge, enjoying all the uncertainties of life and fueling his passion for storytelling, which he later effortlessly translated on-screen.
“After college, I joined the advertising kingpin, Mahesh Mathai, as a runner. While working there I realized that I love writing, I like telling stories, and seeing the writing being transferred on celluloid fascinated me at that point. That is when I decided that I want to make a movie one day”, revealed the good-looking director, who is also a professional scuba diver.
However, like most of us, his dream was soon forgotten as the harsh realities of life hit him.
“The thought to direct a film was soon forgotten. My dad died and I had to take over the family business of running a petrol pump in the red light area,” said the critically acclaimed director. “I was just 23. So, after he died, I had to suddenly get into this red light area and found myself in the middle of hookers, mafia, cops, all a very different world and was hit with reality. My idea was to run the petrol pump for a year to set it up for my mother so that she could get her monthly income. It was horribly non-creative and dangerous. But after a year, I found it very difficult to go back and work for someone, and officially became a bum. I have always had the confidence and knew that if my back was against the wall, I could do things. For 10 years after that, I just travelled. I would do various small jigs to make money enough to just support my travel cost, for instance, take a fake fakir to Venice as a part of an international arts festival to put up as an installation. Just for being able to go to Venice and also getting some money for doing that. I loved the fact that I had no real agenda in life and was still happy. I became a freelance writer and presumptuously assumed that I would write a book. I became a scuba diver instructor in Lakshadweep. I did many other bizarre things. Until one fine day, Kersi Khambatta came to me with a story. When I read the story, I immediately knew that I wanted to make it into a film. The thought that had evolved 15 years ago struck me back.”
The passion, which was once forgotten soon took over and he worked hard to make his dream come true.
He added, “It was instinctive and I did not stop till I turned the 11 pages of story into a ninety-minute film. I met Dinesh Vijan (Dinoo), who I learnt had chucked his job as a banker to produce films. I have never thought that things can't happen and that is what has allowed me to do a lot of things in my life. I was very good at narration and narrated the script to him. Surprisingly, he also did not ask me what I had done before and hired me to direct Being Cyrus.”
It was his belief in himself and the zeal for telling stories that finally made him realize his long forgotten dream. Being Cyrus was critically acclaimed and gained him his entry ticket into Bollywood but the appreciation didn’t translate into figures. “Everyone from critics to film school pass-outs raved about Being Cyrus, but it did not make me a penny,” said Adajania.
Little dejected, he went back to his wandering. “I went back to diving at Lakshadweep as I love solitude and at peace under water till Dinoo called again.” And six years later the director surfaced again, this time with an out-and-out commercial film – Cocktail, starring Deepika Padukone and Saif Ali Khan.
And this time around, Homi wasn’t letting go of his passion so easily. He worked harder and within two years, he came out with his English comedy Finding Fanny. “For the first time in my life, I can say I have a career. And I could never claim it before,” said Homi, who is currently working on his next film starring Sushant Singh Rajput and Irrfan Khan.
Clearly, the director has made his mark in the Bollywood film industry and now wants to continue to make films with his signature style as he said, “I don’t have any formal education in filmmaking but I would like to have a signature way of making films. Ten years down the line, when people would watch my film, I want them to say this is a Homi Adajania film, it has his signature style.”
Well, the ball has started rolling for Homi and now there is no stopping him from translating his passion into a paycheck.
Image credits: vogue, tehelka.com, mid-day