Zoya Akhtar has an important message for women: Don’t be your own worst enemy
In the sixth edition of Levi’s #IShapeMyWorld campaign, the writer-director reminds us who’s boss
Zoya Akhtar has lived inside your brain longer than you’ve known. She’s the reason you planned that road trip to Spiti Valley, stopping 15 times along the way because everyone took turns threatening to throw up. She convinced you to stand up to your family about the relationship they didn’t approve of, and she would have celebrated when they finally consented. She’s also the reason you think you can rap, even if the shower is your only arena.
Has Akhtar invented a brain scanner that can read our thoughts, insecurities and desires, then write them into powerful films that stand as giants in our pop culture history? Not yet, maybe. But she does know her gaze is unique, and her perspective deserves to be splashed on the big screen. Levi’s thinks so too, which is why the writer-director joins the legion of incredible women — journalist Faye D’Souza, activist Iti Rawat, advocate Seema Samridhi and comedian Sumukhi Suresh — fronting the sixth edition of their #IShapeMyWorld campaign.
This self-confidence in her own vision may stem from the gender-neutral upbringing her parents believed in. “Growing up, my brother and I were treated on par. You’re as entitled as the boys are, because you’ve been given that respect.”
When Zoya Akhtar became a director, it was a lesson she had to impart to some of her colleagues. Recalling her first film, when a camera technician would defer to her brother Farhan (also the lead actor), she pulled him aside to remind him who was boss. “He said, ‘no no, please don’t get me wrong, you’re like my sister.’ And I said, ‘I’m not your sister, I’m your director.”
For the next generation of trail-blazers, Zoya Akhtar wants women to remember: “If you are your own enemy, if you’re already on the backfoot because of your gender, then you’re starting at a disadvantage. Your gaze is unique, so just be confident about it, because there’s nobody else on this planet who is you.”