You could connect Olivier Lafont’s name to his visage as the arrogant fiancé of Kareena Kapoor in the movie ’3 Idiots’. However, Lafont’s modest success in the entertainment industry in India as well as the lightness of his character roles in several films and advertisements do no justice to his academic brilliance and international achievement both as a film maker and a writer. His novel “Warrior” was recently shortlisted for the Tibor Jones South Asia Prize, an annual literary prize to encourage unpublished and unrepresented South Asian writers.
Your worst fear!
Losing passion, losing interest.
Retract one lie you have told!
I can’t remember the last time I told a lie… Okay, I take it back! 😉
What colour describes you best?
Bright red when I’m on, stormy sky blue when I’m relaxed.
Are you superstitious?
No. I think superstition is a crutch to cope with the unknown.
If you could be any one person in history, who would you choose to be?
Albert Einstein. A man of passion, of conviction, of curiosity, and of intellect.
AD: How was the transition from France to India? Do you feel that relocating to an altogether different country made you grow as a person? What do you like the most about India?
OL: I was seven years old when my family moved from France to India. I had come from Lyon and spoke only French, so everything was different and alien, and it took me a while to adjust and settle in.
Relocating to a new country will always make you change, and grow if you have a positive outlook. For example, I learned English here, and today I’m published in the English language; I taught myself Hindi when I moved back to India from university in the USA, and I now have a career in Indian cinema and advertising. Yes, moving to India did make me grow: this is the place where I became myself, and it’s contributed significantly to the person I am today.
There’s so much I like about India… The concept of India, as this ancient proto-democracy that has become today’s actual largest democracy, as a place where materialism and spirituality fit very comfortably together, as a free country where everyone will be accepted – that’s a beautiful concept. And then there are the more practical things I like about the country: Mughlai food, the languages, the monsoon, the climate. As for what I like most, hands-down it’s my wife, who embodies the greatest ideals of India that I love.
AD: How was your experience working with some of the finest Bollywood stars of the country in 3 Idiots?
OL: It was a really fun experience. Everyone was so welcoming, and so focussed on making this film be something special. Witnessing the effortless mastery of Raju Hirani, discussing the scene with Aamir Khan, interacting with Kareena Kapoor who was so warm and friendly… As an actor you couldn’t ask for a better working environment.
AD: Brief us a little about your recent release ‘Warrior’?
OL: ‘Warrior’ is an epic adventure fantasy novel. It starts in Mumbai today as a fairly normal and mundane day, and then quickly takes a left turn into an uncanny and frightening world. My hero Saam is the son of Shiva, and is part of this hidden community of demigods that live amongst us. Although immensely powerful, these demigods look like the rest of us mortals, and could be someone you cross in a mall, someone you party with, someone you work with… ‘Warrior’ begins with the end of the world, and it falls upon Saam to stop it and save us all. How he does it, and the journey getting there, is where the fun begins.
AD: What abetted your interest in Indian mythology?
OL: My father is a historian and archaeologist with a classical background. His interest in Greek and Roman mythology inspired my own interest in mythology. When we moved to India I was introduced to this magnificent Indian mythology. ‘Warrior’ came, in part, from my early love for Indian stories and mythology.
AD: From advertising to modelling, from acting to scripting, you have done it all. Which among these do/did you enjoy the most?
OL: Acting and writing are, for me, different facets of storytelling, and both give me different thrills, so I couldn’t pick one in particular over the other. Writing is private, spiritual, and internal. Acting is public, physical, external. They satisfy different things in me.
AD: How did it feel to be shortlisted for the Tibor Jones South Asia Prize?
OL: It’s always a good feeling when your work is appreciated.
AD: Do you feel that to be a good writer one should follow a particular writing regime?
OL: Speaking for myself, my schedule changes a lot so no, I don’t follow a particular writing regime. I understand that a writing regime may work for some writers, but I don’t think you can make it a hard and fast rule for everyone. Nor is it necessarily an indication of a good writer.
AD: Do you ever plan to be a full time author?
OL: I am a full time author, as well as a full time actor! I know what you’re asking, however, and I don’t think I could really give up one for the other. It’s too much fun being an actor-writer.
AD: Who/what is your daily dose of motivation?
OL: Frankly, my wife. She has such spirit and heart, and so much talent and intelligence… There are some times when my motivation flags, when I’m tired or frustrated about something. All I have to do then is look at her, and see her do what she does, and I get motivated all over again.
AD: Any words of wisdom for budding actors and writers?
OL: For me, in my work as well as in my life I tell myself to follow my interests, and know why I’m doing what I’m doing. Clarity about myself is the most critical thing I have ever learned.