Irrfan: I have compromised many times in Bollywood
Irrfan Khan is riding high after the success of Paan Singh Tomar, which got critical as well as commercial success. In spite of doing fewer films over the years, Khan is happy that he has been lucky enough to do films from different genres.
In a brief conversation with Sonil Dedhia, the actor speaks about the movie, his work in Hollywood and explains why he has compromised by taking up some films.
How has your family reacted to your performance in Paan Singh Tomar?
My kids (Babil and Ayan) found the film very inspiring; they really loved it. My mother and brothers also appreciated my work.
The story of Paan Singh Tomar has touched everyone. More than praising me, people around me have blessed me with their wishes.
In an earlier interview, you said that you are planning to show the film to your Hollywood friends. Have they seen it?
Yes, some of my friends in Hollywood have seen the film. They have immensely loved the film. Some of my acquaintances have written about the film on their blogs.
Image: Irrfan Khan in Paan Singh Tomar
'If one action film becomes a hit, everyone starts making action films'
Paan Singh Tomar wasn't aggressively promoted but it still managed to gain critical and commercial success. Do you think it will change the way filmmakers promote their films?
The problem with our country is that people try and follow a particular formula or a trend. The same holds true for our films.
If one action film becomes a hit, everyone starts making action films. Today, filmmakers have found a formula to market their films.
Paan Singh Tomar has indicated that there is scope to look out for new avenues in marketing. It is not necessary to shout out and market your film.
Do you think the audience today is ready to experiment with the kind of films they would like to watch?
People want to see good and original cinema and the success of our film shows that our audience is hungry for original scripts.
I am not comparing any cinema but today, we have reached a stage where the audience should be able to choose the films they would like to see.
The kind of films that have released in the last couple of months is an indication that audiences are ready to watch different kinds of films.
Image: Irrfan Khan
'People in the west don't see Bollywood films'
Your next film is The Amazing Spiderman. You haven't been vocal about it.
I haven't seen the film so it is difficult for me to talk about it.
The experience is different when you are doing a film and when you are watching it. I can only talk about it when I see it.
Is there a different kind of satisfaction that you get after doing a Hollywood film?
Yes, it's a different kind of satisfaction because the films are targeted at a different kind of audience.
Hollywood films try to strike a universal language. In recent years, we have seen so many Hollywood films releasing in India. People in the west don't see Bollywood films. Why? The reason is because they have stuck to a language that is universal.
We need to find a language and a sensibility in our stories which can speak for itself all over the world. This will happen when you make films about your own culture and people.
What is it that you learned from Hollywood?
Hollywood is very professional. They plan a lot during the pre-production stage. Everybody is responsible for his or her department and they value time. Everything is structured and organised.
Image: Irrfan Khan with his son
Photographs: Pradeep Bandekar
'Hollywood films haven't affected my market in India'
Do you re-visit your films before you start working on a new project, especially Hollywood films?
No, I don't look back at my own films or the characters that I have already done.
On the other hand, I would agree that some of the characters that I have played have inspired me and have taught me certain characteristics.
They resound in me personally and I draw a little reference from them when I am doing Hollywood films. I also try and draw things from my personal life.
Has your career changed in India after your Hollywood experience?
No, it hasn't changed. The only thing that has changed is the perception about me as an actor. Hollywood films haven't affected my market in India.
Image: A scene from Yeh Saali Zindaagi
'I don't regret the films I have done'
You are known for films that are far removed from the commercial space. Have you ever done a film you didn't believe in?
Yes, I have compromised a lot of times. There have been times when I felt I didn't want to do a particular story but I had to do it because I needed to survive. I couldn't relate to the story, but I had no choice.
I didn't enjoy those experiences, but I had to stay in the eyes of the filmmakers and make my presence felt.
The struggle is to do the kind of films I like to do, and that is what challenges me every day. I may be a slow fighter but I am still fighting to do what I like and work with directors who I want to work with.
Do you regret doing those films?
No, I don't. As I said, it's part of your work. You have to save yourself for better opportunities, you have to experiment and you learn from every experiment.
That's how you take it, because once you start regretting, there's no end to it. I hope I never get to a stage where I start to regret -- life is too short.
Would you consider writing or directing a film?
No, I am not good at writing. I am handicapped as far as writing is concerned (Laughs). Talking about direction, that too doesn't come easy to me. I am so engrossed with my performances that it hardly leaves any room to venture anywhere else.
Image: Irrfan Khan in Slumdog Millionaire
'It has been one of my dreams to do a role on Dhyan Chand'
Will your wife Sutapa get back to writing?
She is writing. She was one of the writers of Sujoy Ghosh's Kahaani.
Would you like to work with her?
I don't know. If she writes something that is interesting, and if I am able to connect to it, then why not?
Is there any particular character you wish to portray on screen?
It has been one of my dreams to do a role on Dhyan Chand. I think I have grown too old to play this role but if I get a chance to do, I will definitely play the role of Dhyan Chand in a film.
Dhyan Chand's story is amazing and he had made the country very proud. He made a very big name for hockey and I pity the condition of hockey in our country today. I think we should definitely make a film on Dhyan Chand.
Image: Irrfan Khan and Sutapa Sikdar
Photographs: Pradeep Bandekar