Not Suhana's fault she's Shah Rukh's kid: Alyy Khan opens up on 'The Archies'

Actor details experience shooting with Zoya Akhtar, star kids and talks set dynamics, nepotism

Sajeer Shaikh December 19, 2023

Alyy Khan is a man on a mission. With an expansive portfolio that excites and boggles, Khan silently strides from one project to another. With numerous Hollywood, Bollywood, and Lollywood narratives under his wing as feats, the actor marches forward with a resolution that is a testament to letting one's work speak for itself.

Now, having wrapped up The Archies and experienced its reception, the actor who essays Hiram Lodge to perfection in the film, sits down with The Express Tribune for an exclusive chat. Beginning with the process of onboarding, Khan simply says, "I guess when they were casting it, my name must have come up, and then the casting director called me, with whom I've worked before."

Working with Zoya

Khan explains how he was informed that his "old friend" Zoya Akhtar was directing. He had the casting director have Akhtar call him. "Zoya called and then I said, 'Let me have a read of the script to see how it's fleshed out, what it's about.' She very kindly sent me the script and boom! I liked it, so I jumped onto it," he reveals.

Talking about working with Akhtar, Khan remarks, "Super fab, really comfortable and most importantly, honest - where we can trust each other, and we can take criticism, because it's for the better of the project, for the work you're involved in. So if I'm doing a scene a particular way and she says no, tweak it like this, I respect that because I can see where she's coming from in the broader sense of telling the story. So, it's a great experience. She's really relaxed, open and accommodating. Just a super, super director at the top of her game. Pretty much one of the best, if not the best, around in Bollywood, for sure."

Shooting process

Recalling the process of shooting, which lasted about two to four months, Khan shares, "I did a script read-through with the cast, followed by hair and makeup, where they pretty much spend hours on you, and then costume took over, and then we did a whole photo session. So I spent a week in Bombay, came back in time for Ramazan, and after Ramazan, went and joined them directly on set. They were already in Ooty - this whole film has been shot in Ooty, which is a hill station in South India. Just the bits of it at the end were shot in Mauritius because the Southwest monsoon came early and we got rained out of Ooty eventually. We were shooting this last monsoon."

He adds, "It's brilliant to be involved with such a professional machinery, such a professional machine, so to speak. All the cogs are in place. It works in a beautifully organised system...All your days are planned out professionally...Everything works like clockwork, you are a little cog in that big wheel, you come and do your thing and you go out. And that wheel keeps turning."

The star himself is a huge Archie Comics fan, but was clear that none of the source material was on set with him. "On the set, I'm playing the script and narrative separately. I didn't bring the comic book onto the set at all. Whatever the lines were, whatever the situation was, one played it according to that, because today's generation is also completely unfamiliar with The Archies right? It also has to relate to people just like an ordinary movie, where the characters happen to be named Archie, Betty, and Veronica. You don't look at the movie bringing experiences of the comic to it. You just have to watch it as a narrative, as a film set in the mid-60s, as an Anglo-Indian film."

Star kids

The Archies officially introduced audiences to Agastya Nanda (Amitabh Bachchan's grandson), Suhana Khan (Shah Rukh Khan's daughter) and Khushi Kapoor (Sridevi's daughter). Khan weighs in on whether or not the "star kid" factor impacted dynamics on set. "Not at all, man," he notes. "You're in an ensemble cast, everyone's playing a character. you could be whoever you are but at that moment, you're the character, not that person...It was very casual. There was great camaraderie...It's all like one big family...Everyone was just normal."

The actor also shares how he could not "send enough praise their way," appreciating the young cast's "fantastic" performances. "They worked really hard, supremely trained, totally dedicated, thoroughly professional," he reveals. "It's their careers, so they took it as seriously as one possibly could and gave it their all. Full respect for that." He also highlights Mihir Ahuja's Jughead as a standout performance, saying it was "a bit more desi and had a bit more desi emotion in the film."

Praising The Archies, Khan furthers, "I think it is a very good film. I think it's extremely nuanced. It's emotional without being Hindi filmy or melodramatic...It's not your conventional Hindi film, Student of The Year, Karan Johar type. It's a very elegant film. Subtle and mature. To see Zoya Akhtar's graph over the years, the kind of stuff she's done to arrive at this, shows full confidence and control over her craft." He also lauds certain aspects of the narrative. "The Reggie-Dilton story is beautiful, subtle...Archie's dilemma, that why can't you be in love with two people at the same time? Such a beautiful thought for a young person to have. We've all had that...Look at the statement (Zoya's) making, the political statements. It's not a conventional Bollywood film."

Some, however, do not agree with Khan. The Archies has received a mixed response from audiences, with out-of-context clips of Suhana and Khushi making the rounds. "I think it's in really bad taste," states Khan. "I think it's mean, it's nasty, it's hatemongers all over the world. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, opinion is free. I think everyone was cast purely on merit, and I think everyone is fantastic in their bits. No one looks like a newbie, no one looks awkward, and everyone's delivered their part more than perfectly well, I think."

He continues, "All the hate that's coming Suhana's way - it's not her fault that she's Shah Rukh's kid. She shouldn't be embarrassed about it. But did Suhana throw a tantrum? Did she throw a strop? Did she ever make you feel like she was Shah Rukh Khan's kid? Never. She was the loveliest, the friendliest, the most hardworking...There was no attitude from everyone."

Khan also let his opinion on the nepotism debate be known. Referencing Sachin Tendulkar's son's journey of following his father's footsteps, Khan says, "In every single field, a doctor wants his son to be a doctor. And so on. So obviously, when you come from a renowned star family and you've grown up all your life, your friends and your parent's friends and their kids, are pretty much going to follow in your parent's footsteps. At the end of the day, Shah Rukh Khan has created an empire called Red Chillies Entertainment. Who's he going to leave it to, if not his kids? And why shouldn't his kids inherit it and why shouldn't his kids be interested in taking it forward?"

Questioning the debate, Khan draws from his own example. "I've been in the business, I've not come from a conventional film family, but I don't hold that as a grudge against anyone who does. Good luck to you, boss. Everyone brings their own destiny." Furthermore, a clip of Khan on Nadir Ali's podcast has also been circulating, wherein he highlights how the actors spent a year workshopping their craft. The edit is such that it ends with Khan saying that if, after a year, one cannot hone their skill, then it's a lost cause. "I think that's horrible," replies Khan. "I think it's really unfair, you know, because, again, taken out of context, you can skew anything for anyone. It makes the person stand in a really bad light."

All praises for 'The Archies'

Venturing guesses as to why mainstream audiences have struggled to find resonance with the film, Khan highlights, "Because I think it's not a Bollywood film that they were typically expecting, and it's different from Zoya's normal work." He shares his bewilderment over how a narrative with "so many affirmations and so much positivity" is being approached with "preconceived notions."

The actor further emphasised the excellence of the film, highlighting how the music is now on his Spotify list. Adding his final thoughts, he says, "The message of the film is that you're never too young to change the world...The holiday season is coming up. Everyone who hasn't seen it, especially the younger people - our generation will see it because we've all identified with the Archies and read it - but I encourage people our age to make their kids sit down and watch it, because I think it's a really feel-good watch...It's got some important messages that the generation of today needs to be exposed to."

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