- Tell us about yourself and your work as a writer, actor and model.
I consider myself primarily a storyteller, and writing and acting as different facets of that. Whether it’s writing a film or my novels, or acting, it’s essentially about telling a particular story.
- Olivier or Sanjay? Do you consider yourself Indian or French? And does it matter in a cosmopolitan city like Mumbai?
I identify best with Olivier (Sanjay is my middle name). Although my nationality is French, I consider myself part French, part Indian, and part American. It does matter in purely practical terms, but beyond that Mumbai is a city that welcomes anyone from anywhere, so I’ve always been quite comfortably all my different cultures here. Expressing my multicultural identity and experience has always been an important part of my art, so, for example, my fantasy novel ‘Warrior’ is set predominantly in Mumbai and presents the city as a kind of global crossroads, where all parts of the wide world come together — which, in some respects, is how I see individual people, as a confluence of all their cultures.
- Which is your favorite spot in Mumbai and why?
My favorite place is actually all of Bandra (West of Linking Road). It’s the particular blend of history, modernity, neighborhood design, proximity to the sea, cosmopolitan and artistic culture…
- What’s your favorite restaurant, bar or café in Mumbai?
I consider Indigo restaurant my go-to fail-safe, I also love the Lotus Café at the Marriott, and I always go out of my way to drop in at La Patisserie at the Taj Hotel in Colaba. The classics, I guess.
- Anything French that you miss in Mumbai?
Mainly food — I’m still looking for an authentic éclair here!
- What would you do/see/eat when you have only 48 hours in Mumbai?
I would suggest starting at Colaba with breakfast at the Taj Mahal Hotel overlooking the Gateway of India, and a boat ride in the morning, maybe even Elephanta Island if you’re so inclined. Then lunch at Indigo in Colaba, followed by a leisurely tour of town to get a feel for that part of Mumbai. Dinner at Khyber in Fort, and a stroll up Marine Drive and down Colaba. The next day I would recommend a foray north to the suburbs, with some shopping in Bandra on Linking Road, and then the JW Marriott brunch and pool for the rest of the day.
- What is your tip for newcomers to the city? How to feel home in Mumbai?
Everything might seem chaotic, and scary, and random — but the trick is to immerse, to familiarize yourself with all that, and then to arrange the right combination for yourself. The amazing thing about Mumbai is that nothing is fixed in stone; everything can be changed and figured out.
- What are your tips for a foreigner who wants to learn Hindi?
The biggest advantage of Hindi is that it’s phonetic — i.e. it’s pronounced the way it’s written. So, first learn the alphabet, and then learn how to pronounce the sound of each letter. The grammar and structure will come with practise, and depends on how much you study it. For reading, start with Hindi comics; move on to newspapers, and then plays and novels. Then you can watch movies, listen to music, have conversations, it all helps.
Thank you, Olivier Lafont, for this interview! You can check out more details about his work on his website, on Facebook and even get a behind the scenes on Instagram. By the way: The instagram account is shared with his wife Gina Lafont (read her interview here).