You would remember him as Suhas Tandon, the money minded fiance of Kareena Kapoor in the 2009 blockbuster – 3 Idiots. But there’s more to Olivier Sanjay Lafont than just acting. From writing scripts to modelling, he’s done it in all in a career spanning more than a decade.
We have him here for a short tete-a-tete to understand what all goes behind excelling in so many forms of creative expressions.
Aseem: Actor, Writer, Screenplay Writer, Director, Producer, Model, Voice-over Artist – You seem to be doing it all. How do you manage it? Which of these creative hats do you find the most challenging?
Olivier: I’m mainly guided by my passion and interests, so my career evolves fairly organically and effortlessly. To me all these are different aspects of a single passion: storytelling. So they all actually fit together quite naturally in my life.
In the same vein, none is more challenging than the other, really. I just do what’s most interesting to me, and do the best I can at it.
Aseem: When you landed up in India from France, what was the first thing that struck you about the country? Did it feel nerve wracking?
Olivier: I was seven years old, so the first thing that leaped to my innocent attention were, alas, the negative stereotypes that were associated with India. It did feel quite difficult at first, mainly because everything just seemed so alien and I felt so helpless – I was a small French boy who didn’t speak any Hindi or English. Once I overcame the initial culture shock, however, I was able to open my perspective. Among the first things I fell in love with were the smiling faces, the monsoon, Amar Chitra Katha, the sound of peacocks and Indian birds in the morning, even the summer heat!
Aseem: You have acted in various commercials and Hindi films. Did you ever feel unwelcome due to the fact that your roots are in France?
Olivier: Not at all. In fact I’ve always found India to be such a warm and welcoming place. Some people have been curious about my roots, but it’s always come from a sweet place of curious interest.
Aseem: How has the experience been working with various stars from Aamir Khan and Kareena Kapoor in 3 Idiots to Amitabh Bachchan in Paa?
Olivier: Across the board it’s been really wonderful. They are highly impeccable professionals and genuinely warm people. Aamir Khan was so open to my interpretation of Suhas Tandon, and afterwards said such lovely things about what was frankly a smallish role in ‘3 Idiots’. Kareena Kapoor was such a kind and warm co-actress, always with a smile and nice words. And Amitabh Bachchan, what a treat it was to work with him. Such a classy gentleman, and what a legendary actor…
Aseem: So how did ‘Warrior’ happen? Take us through your journey of getting it published?
Olivier: Getting ‘Warrior’ published was fairly straightforward. I had written the novel some time back and then moved on to other work. I finally sent it in to a few of the prominent publishers, and was pleasantly surprised to receive two offers for it, of which I went with Penguin. I was clear that I wanted to get it out before the end of the year, and Penguin said it was possible, so I worked hard with that purpose in mind and here we are.
Aseem: You have written scripts for movies. What about ‘Warrior’ prompted you to write a book rather than pen it as a script for a movie?
Olivier: Actually, the first avatar of ‘Warrior’ was a feature film script I wrote more than a dozen years ago. I wanted to write a film like the huge Hollywood special effects blockbusters, but that would be a thoroughly Indian story. Then I moved to Mumbai to write my actual first film. So it was quite a while before I got the opportunity and time to write the novel version. But it would be great for ‘Warrior’ to find its way back and become a film which would be a really wonderful experience.
Aseem: You have experienced two varied cultures – the French & the Indian. How much of it has influenced your writing and persona?
Olivier: My writing has been influenced by things as varied as French literature, French bandes dessinées, Indian Amar Chitra Katha, French cinema, Indian cinema, French theatre, Indian mythology… The list goes on and on! I’d also like to include a third culture, American, since I went to the American Embassy School in Delhi and then was in the USA for my university education. So there’s American literature, comics, fiction, cinema, etc. in there as well.
As for my persona, I certainly think there’s been cultural influences, but I believe my innermost core, what you might call the spirit or the soul, is fundamentally my own individual identity.
Aseem: Having delved into various forms of creative expression from acting to storytelling, which of them is your personal favourite and why?
Olivier: I don’t have a particular favourite because they’re all quite different and give me different thrills. I love writing because it’s personal, private, deep, totally creative, and is almost a kind of communion with who I really am inside. I love acting because it’s dynamic, interpersonal, precise but open, immediate, and is a collaborative experience.
Aseem: So what is that one thing about Olivier Lafont we all don’t know?
Olivier: I have more ideas and ambitions than I can possibly work on in a single day 🙂 .
Aseem: How do you spend your free time? (That is if you do get any ;))
Olivier: I watch sports like the NBA, UEFA, and UFC.
Aseem: What next can we look forward to from you as a writer?
Olivier: For now I’m completely focused on ‘Warrior’.
Aseem: Are there any movies happening in the near future?
Olivier: I’ve just written, for the first time, a feature film script with myself as the main character. It’s a hilarious comedy, but is also topical and accessible to everyone in India. The interesting thing about it is that it could work as a totally commercial Hindi film with song and dance or as an English language international film. I’m looking to partner with a producer for it.
Aseem: Any message for budding writers as well as our readers?
Olivier: My personal writing guideline is to write what interests me, and make sure I know why I’m writing what I’m writing. That’s worked really well for me.
As for your readers, I hope that those of you who pick up ‘Warrior’ will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!
We thank you for giving us your valuable time and wish you the best in all your future endeavours!
For more details on ‘Warrior, access any of the below links:
Warrior Book Trailer Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDLMISZAzME&feature=youtu.be
Warrior Flipkart Link: http://www.flipkart.com/warrior-english/p/itme2cfq3eg5ybuf?pid=9780143423638&ref=d9f61780-7609-4ab2-9a15-078d4edb982e&srno=t_2&otracker=from-search&query=olivier+lafont+warrior
Warrior Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.in/Warrior-Olivier-Lafont/dp/0143423630/ref=sr_1_1_twi_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1417183321&sr=8-1&keywords=olivier+lafont+warrior
You can reach out to Olivier:
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Olivier-Lafont/625633327480645?ref=hl
Linking to NaBloPoMo (National Blog Post Month – December) – My post no 7 for this month.