He is one actor who doesn’t need any introduction at all both in India and abroad. Irrfan Khan has come a long way from playing negative roles in Bollywood movies to becoming one of the most internationally renowned award winning Indian actors today. In this exclusive chat with The Indian Express.com, Irrfan opens up about commercial Hindi cinema, Hollywood, importance of Oscars for Indian cinema and his love for ‘real’ parties.
Here are the excerpts from the interview:
Ques: Irrfan, are you happy with the kind of movies the very commercial Bollywood is churning out today?
Irrfan: The very definition of commercial Bollywood cinema is changing everyday even as we speak.We are in transition and that is a good thing. We are seeing great diversity in storytelling. So many films including those that I am not a part of are changing the definition of commercial cinema because audience needs diversity. Audience today want to watch all kinds of story telling. They want to see their own stories being told through cinema. Cinema should be able to deal with issues that are social in nature.
Ques: And is Bollywood producing such movies?
Irrfan: Yes, it is happening right now and also more in regional cinema especially Marathi cinema. Every now and then they spring a surprise in the form of a director who pops up from somewhere and creates a magnificent film. ‘Killa, Court, Fandry’ are some great examples. So, Marathi cinema and other regional cinema is changing. Few years back who would have imagined a Marathi film doing crores of business? So, it is a good transition. It is a new generation that is making films and this new generation consists of people who are exposed to a lot of quality international cinema.
Ques: You are seen as a star today. Do you like being called one?
Irrfan: If it helps me to get good work, I will like it. If it limits me, then I won’t.
Ques: Does it limit you as an actor?
Irrfan: It can’t limit me as an actor. My work doesn’t get affected by the star status. If my choices get affected, then I would be concerned. Whatever tag or term suits and helps me getting my kind of stories, I would be okay with it.
Ques: At one point you excelled playing negative roles. Would you ever like to play a villain again today?
Irrfan: Oh Yes! I would love to do that. I loved playing villain in ‘Haasil’. However, unfortunately in our cinema, a villain is brought in to created hurdles to a hero’s objective or mission. A villain’s role is never explored enough barring a few rare instances. I feel a negative role should be explored properly.
Ques: What kind of roles do you get offered these days?
Irrfan: When ‘Life of Pi’ happened, I got offered a lot of fatherly roles. After ‘Haasil’, it was negative characters that came my way. Now after ‘Piku’, I am getting a lot of romantic roles. So, I will pick and choose now.
Ques: From the above three roles, what excites you the most?
Irrfan: I would love to romance on screen. That is something I am interested in trying and I am working towards it. I also want to do a film for kids. Another genre that excites me is action like kick-boxing and stuff.
Ques: Any plans of becoming a director ever?
Irrfan: Never. It’s not my cup of tea.
Ques: As an international actor today, do you feel Oscars is important for India?
Irrfan: Yes. India needs an Oscar to change the perception that we can also make films which are universal in nature. We are not just an industry that churns out songs and dance masala films. We have the capability to make films for the global audience. For the Indian film industry to spread to an area where it will be watched not just by the Indian diaspora, we have to capture international audience. If we become limited in our storytelling, the pressure of Hollywood cinema will build up and start eating into our industry. It’s already doing that with the kind of business English films generate in India. So, you will have to upgrade yourself and make you films more universal in its appeal.There are few awards that matter a lot like Cannes, BAFTA, Golden Globe, Emmy and Oscars. They do change your profile. They do add to your career. The award that affects your choices and gives you more opportunities and credibility is definitely important.
Ques: No other Bollywood actor has been able to make it big in Hollywood like you have. Tell us, what have you done to crack the code?
Irrfan: (Smiles) I don’t know. I am not sure what I have done differently as compared to others.
Ques: Is it a trade secret that you don’t want to reveal?
Irrfan: (Smiles again) May be someday, I will tell you. But right now I don’t know. It’s a mystery. I got a lot of attention there. They (Hollywood) make so many films and I think if somebody brings a new perception about a character or story, it is engaging for them. As an actor you are creating a different interpretation for them and their audience. Most actors in Hollywood bring in their own elements to the roles they do. Most stars are actors. Their career depends on not their style but their acting. Whether it is Johnny Depp, George Clooney, Sean Penn or anyone else. It is their performances that makes them what they are. Look at Mad Max’s actor Tom Hardy. He is being lapped up by Hollywood. They are loving him.
Ques: Coming to your latest release, Jazbaa, tell us, why are you placed behind Aishwarya Rai in the poster?
Irrfan: (Laughs) Ask the director. Please talk to him.
Ques: On a serious note, don’t you think it is unfair positioning for an actor of your caliber?
Irrfan: I don’t know. I have no opinion about it. (Pauses) You must ask this question to the director and please do.
Ques: How is Irrfan Khan once the camera and lights are switched off?
Irrfan: Non-communicative. I am not good at making small talks.
Ques: Is that why we don’t see at page 3 parties?
Irrfan: (Laughs) Yes. The kind of networking that people do at parties never suits me. I love partying where people come truly to interact and have fun.