'I found in writing a free and thrilling way to express my ideas'

I found in writing a free and thrilling way to express my ideas

Actor-author Olivier Lafont's debut novel Warrior - part fantasy part mythology - reflects his multi-cultural upbringing.

By Enid Parker

Published: Sat 15 Aug 2015, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Sun 16 Aug 2015, 4:08 AM

YOU MAY BEST remember Olivier Lafont as Kareena Kapoor's annoying fiancé Suhas Tandon from the 2009 Bollywood blockbuster 3 Idiots.
The actor doesn't seem to mind, though.
"It's amusing, and fun. 3 Idiots had such a massive impact on audiences. I still have people come up to me and ask me about my part in the film, which is always a pleasure," he said in a recent interview with City Times about his new off-screen role - novel writing.
Mumbai-based Lafont, who is of French-Indian descent, recently branched out as an author. His part fantasy-part Indian mythology debut novel Warrior is an absorbing tale of a thrill-ridden quest by demi-deity Saam, to put a stop to the 'end of days', a terrifying process unleashed by his father, the deity Shiva.
"I've always been a fan of fantasy literature, and also love world mythologies. Blending fantasy with Indian mythology was only a natural decision when I was creating the story of Warrior more than a dozen years ago," Lafont said.
While on his mission to save the world, Saam is also forced to confront his many personal demons. Lafont explained why bringing out flaws in his protagonist's character was important.
"In all heroic works, from Gilgamesh to Homer to Shakespeare, right up to today with The Avengers and Jason Bourne films, flaws underline the humanity and illuminate the heroism of your characters. For example, building a dramatic narrative for Superman is difficult because technically he has no flaws, whereas Batman has created himself from his flaws and has inherent drama. It's what most connects to the audience dramatically, and it's important in order to create the personal drama of the hero."
First envisioned as a Hollywood film, Warrior remained on the backburner for a while before Lafont finally decided to turn it into a novel.
"I had actually written the screenplay of Warrior to make an Indian story with the scale and technology of a Hollywood film. I got busy with other work, moving to Mumbai, writing other films, so the screenplay of Warrior ended up in the drawer. The story stayed with me, though, for so long that I guess it just needed to be told. And the most efficient, practical, and natural way to tell the story at that time was to write the novel."
Lafont feels mythology is a subject that can be vastly explored in writing and film. "I think it's already happening in several different media, but I'm personally most interested in seeing modern spins, not so much retellings of the old stories. In India children are getting re-introduced to mythology through animation. Adults, however, mostly only have fiction and non-fiction publishing, and I think there's a lot of potential for live action films now, and adult animated content down the line. I think the West is already primed for both live action and animated films that mix mythological themes and tropes."
Lafont, who has starred in films like Guzaarish, Ishqk in Paris and The Baby Sellers, said he had "a broad range of acting influences."
"I grew up with French, Indian, and American films and theatre. I decided to become an actor at a young age, and studied acting at Colgate University in the USA, doing a BA degree in the subject (as well as another BA in writing). As anyone who has read Warrior may gather, I like to mix my cultural influences, and it's the same for my acting. For example I approached the character of Suhas Tandon in 3 idiots using comédie de moeurs (comedy of manners), a French tradition of physical comedy."
Future acting plans include films he has written for himself. "I've moved into a creative phase where the original film scripts I'm writing are for myself as an actor. One of these films is a comedy, and works as a mainstream Indian film as well as an international film. I'm looking for a producer, and it could fit with an Indian producer or an international or NRI producer. Otherwise I'm happy to look at roles coming from Indian projects. I've done mostly comedy in Indian films and advertisements, and would really like to do something more serious, maybe something really intense and dark and dramatic."
His favourite Bollywood actor is Amitabh Bachchan. "He's such a legend. I had the pleasure of working with him, and he's really a remarkable person and a true gentleman.
And his favourite films? "Dil Chahta Hai, Company, Lagaan, and 3 Idiots."
Lafont called Warrior "the perfect combination" of all his cultures.
"My childhood was at first entirely French, and then my family moved to India, so I experienced Indian and French cultures quite distinctly. I went to the American Embassy School in Delhi, so I actually also had a third cultural influence, America. I think it was enriching to live in three completely different but extremely vibrant cultures. I think and talk in French and English since childhood, and after teaching myself Hindi I can do the same in a third language. What's most interesting for me about the cross-cultural phenomenon is that my particular background allowed me to decide with a great deal of clarity who I want to be, what my ideology is. You can see all these influences in Warrior."

"My writing predates my acting. I had always been interested in stories in different media as a child in France. When my family moved to India I didn't speak a word of English, and having to learn the language from scratch ignited my passion for words and writing. I found in writing a free and thrilling way to express my ideas. I am writing a lot now - both novels and screenplays - and am looking for a literary agent abroad.""Warrior was originally written as a film, and if it were to go in that direction I'd be pleased, of course. The film would have to be uncompromising, both in content and budget. The scale is visually epic, with deities and demi-deities, the world on the edge of destruction, a blizzard in Mumbai and visions of an alien planet. Right now I can see it only as a Hollywood film due to the above reasons, with maybe Johnny Depp playing the protagonist Saam."
"Breaking into the English writing scene in India was a fairly straightforward process. I think if you have a good story and you can write it well, then publishing it shouldn't be too difficult. And English publishing in India is expanding, not just traditional publishing but digital as well, which also opens up the world. Vikram Seth and Amitav Ghosh are among some of my favourite Indian authors."

Cover of 'Warrior'
Cover of 'Warrior'
Olivier LaFont.
Olivier LaFont.

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