At the Express Adda held in Delhi last week,actor Irrfan spoke of the challenges before the Indian film industry,his international projects and inhibitions as an actor.
In the latest edition of Express Adda,which was held in Delhi last week,actor Irrfan recapitulated his journey in Indian cinema. Presented by Yes Bank in association with IIFL and Olive Beach,the evening had Irrfan in conversation with Shekhar Gupta,Editor-in-Chief,The Express Group,and Priyanka Sinha Jha,Editor,Screen. The freewheeling discussion had the actor address a range of subjects Bollywood vs Indian cinema,the Rs 100-crore club and on experimenting with roles.
On the term Bollywood
It is not just the word Bollywood; it is about the whole abduction of culture. We are selling ourselves,and in the process,losing our value. I have a problem with that kind of mentality. Our cinema was not like that. It has a peculiar way of telling stories with song and dance and thats unique. Why cant we understand our own language of cinema? Why cant we have our own identity? Why do we have to put wood after our name? I also have a strange relationship with the Rs 100-crore club. It is good that the film business is increasing rapidly at 30 per cent annually but media gives too much importance to it. It categorises and judges a film on the basis of collection. Filmmaking is not just commerce,its about telling stories.
On bringing his characters home
Sometimes there is no choice but to bring the character home. It is so intense that you cant afford to leave him even for a day. For instance,when I was doing The Namesake,the character needed that kind of involvement that I had to live with him all the time,whether I liked it or not. I was in the US for three months. I became socially useless and could not talk to people because my character was so complicated. At other times,the character does not stay with you. It can be switched on and off. So it is the character that tells you that whether you have to live with it. Sometimes the character says it is a one-night stand,whenever you want to come and make love with me,come and make love with me and go. You are free. There were characters that I consciously kept with me. Theyre more like life partners. There were also characters I wanted to shake off as soon as the shooting finished.
It was very pleasant to work with the likes of Angelina Jolie and Natalie Portman. They are very professional and make films for the whole world,not just the US. They have captured European cinema and now,they might capture Indian cinema too. They have been making realistic films for a long time; there is a culture of realism which we have never had. If we would have understood our own language,we could have pushed it internationally unless you have your own local language,it can never become international. There was a time in Indian cinema when the directors were inspired,hopeful,had their own language and were popular. This includes Mehboob Khan,K Asif,Bimal Roy,Guru Dutt,Raj Kapoor and Raj Khosla. They were using dance and drama,still telling complex stories. Now,our films are one-dimensional. Whatever is being said on the surface,its just that. There is nothing beneath it. Commercial cinema needs to have a bigger range.
On being stereotyped
If you are getting acknowledgment for something,there is a temptation to keep it with you and you dont want to lose that because,basically,you are looking for acknowledgment. There was an interesting incident with a very popular star. He was delivering one hit after another. When somebody asked him,why dont you do some hatke (different) films,he said,Boss aisa hai,jab gaadi theek chal rahi hai na toh uska bonnet uthake nahi dekhna chahiye. I want to grow. I want people who want me to grow,but not in a way that I have to do things that I dont like.
On experimenting with roles
Every character is unique. You cannot prepare for one role like you did for the other. Sometimes when a role comes,you have no clue as to how you are going to prepare for it. There are certain aspects of characters that you immediately know. For instance,for Paan Singh Tomar,I had to learn running and understand what steeplechase is all about. When there is a physicality involved,you understand it,but connecting to the characters mental construction takes time. You have to wait. Its like falling in love,it will happen when it has to happen,you cant force it. I think at the time when I accepted The Namesake,it was very risky. It didnt turn out like that though. It eventually became my strength. I had done Maqbool,Haasil and Charas all these roles were larger than life,and suddenly I got a part where I had to be a person who is non-existent. I didnt know how to do it but when I did the film,it made me realise how to demolish my own traps. Since childhood,I have been craving to do a love story. I keep finding these spaces in Maqbool or Haasil and The Lunchbox. I wish filmmakers see the possibility that I can carry a love story,that I can entertain people. I die to play love stories.
On the changing industry
The industry is changing every week and its getting better. New directors are coming. Also,audiences wants to see something substantial. They are exposed to all kinds of cinema through the Internet and DVDs. They are demanding,they expect our stories to carry a unique way of storytelling. In Hollywood,theatres are mostly empty but here,we dont have any other means to pass time. There are so many actors who are waiting at the brink and they will explode. Its because certain interesting films got successful,the industry is getting more confident about making these films. You will see some interesting talent and cinema coming up.
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It had action and adventure. We stuck to the details and complexity of how R&AW functions and tried to make drama out of it,making it engaging in the commercial format
Paan Singh Tomar (2012)
It was the character with whom I identified the most and one that I carried with me after the film. There was something about my father in that character,something of my own aspirations,something about the way he carried himself
Shadows of Time (2004)
The director (Florian Gallenberger) was very promising and the script was excellent. Everybody had high hopes,but I dont know why the film did not work
When Vishal Bhardwaj told me he is doing an adaptation of Macbeth,I immediately asked him how would he do an adaptation of his guilt. He told me about the incident when Maqbool does not know whose child Nimmi is carrying and I was fascinated by that. For me,that was my first love story. It was very special. People still watch that film
Banegi Apni Baat (1993-97)
That was when privatisation of television channels was just happening. Television gave me a chance to get acquainted with the camera. I came here to be an actor in Indian cinema and not television. At that time,people used to talk about me as an actor but I used to wait for filmmakers to call and give me a chance in their films