Zoya Akhtar On Casting Newcomers In The Archies: 'There's Enthusiasm That Doesn't Come With Big Stars'

Image was shared on Instagram. (Courtesy: zoieakhtar)


 When filmmaker Zoya Akhtar and co-writer Reema Kagti set out to tell the story of The Archies, an adaptation of the famous American comics they grew up on, their goal was to capture the idealism and rebellious spirit that came to define the 1960s era.

The film follows the life of popular fictional teenagers — Archie Andrews, Jughead Jones, Betty Cooper, Veronica Lodge, and Reggie Mantle — who navigate romance and friendship in the 1960s as they come together for the future of their town, Riverdale, when developers threaten to destroy a beloved park.

The decade in which the story is set has come to be known for the anti-war protests, civil rights movement in America, the hippie culture and the music of The Beatles and Bob Dylan, among many other things.

“The ’60s were the time when there was a peace movement, a revolution that happened, and all the Bob Dylan… There was an idealism that we will make the world a better place. That was the era where they believed that they could change the world. There was a bit of rebellion, peace and love. It was also the era of rock ‘n’ roll.

“So, that whole feeling of that era is what we wanted to bring in. It is a simple young-adult feel good story,” Akhtar told PTI in an interview.

The director said it was challenging to combine the “innocence” and “simplicity” of that era with a contemporary narrative.

“We are the Archie generation and it resonates with us, and people who have read The Archies will come in because they love the comic but there are kids today who do not love the comic… We needed to have a strong story and package it in nostalgia and innocence,” she said.

Kagti, who has penned the screenplay with Akhtar and Ayesha Devitre Dhillon, said The Archies was created with the intention of making it relevant for everyone, even those who haven’t read the comics.

“There are a lot of people who don’t know who Archie is or they don’t read Archies anymore… To our generation it was a different thing. At a time when there was no mobile or TV or OTT, Archie had a different meaning,” she said.

“We are fans (so) you don’t want to mess it up and do injustice to something that you have loved and revered. We had to do the film in a way that it is relevant to everybody,” she added.

The Indian live-action musical movie marks the acting debut of superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s daughter Suhana Khan; superstar Sridevi and film producer Boney Kapoor’s daughter Khushi Kapoor, and megastar Amitabh Bachchan’s grandson Agastya Nanda. The film also features Mihir Ahuja, Vedang Raina, Dot and Yuvraj Menda in key roles.

Akhtar said she loved collaborating with all of them. “There are seven newcomers, Mihir (Ahuja) has done work before, he is the only experienced actor. But there’s wide eyedness, hunger, and as everything is new and fresh so there’s enthusiasm that doesn’t come with big stars or actors who have worked for a while or experienced actors. That’s refreshing and contagious, that enthusiasm. So, you want to do the best for them as well.” The Archies is produced by Akhtar and Kagti under their production house Tiger Baby, Graphic India and Archie Comics. It is scheduled to release on December 7 on Netflix.


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