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Irrfan: I tried to appear glamorous but it never worked for me

"The past is gone. I don't look back where I was," says Irrfan.

Written by Sunitra Pacheco | Mumbai |
June 7, 2013 5:26:47 pm

Riding high on the success of both his Hollywood as well as Bollywood projects,National Award-winning actor Irrfan Khan spoke about his journey as an artist,his childhood and the future of Indian cinema at the Indian Express Idea Exchange in Mumbai.

On his growing up years,Irrfan said both his parents came from highly reputed families. Though they were trying to make their own mark in life,they carried strong values from their back-ground with them. They looked down on entertainment and were opposed to their children watching films. “I used to go to school at 6 in the morning and return at 6 in the evening. I longed for this whole school business to end and wished i could grow up and live my own life,” he says.

On being asked if he’s reached his goal as an actor and where he sees himself at present,the unassuming actor said,he had been to Jaipur recently,and thought about the days he dreamed of becoming an actor. But generally,he doesn’t compare his his past to the present. “The past is gone. I don’t look back where I was. When I thought of becoming an actor,I thought about it in a very naive way. I felt I had two choices,either to become a sportsman or an actor.” He says in sports there is a shelf life and he lacked the family support. However,when it came to films,he felt there is no limit and it was solely upto him to make it. “I did try business as well but I didn’t want to spend my life making money. That clarity came early in life to me,” says the easy-going star.

The actor admits that till today he faces a dilemma when it comes to take on the so-called ‘star image’ and market himself or stick to doing what he’s passionate about – films. “I tried to appear glamorous but it never worked for me. I had to create my own path which takes time. Following in the footsteps of others is easy but it’s not original. But I’m happy and life has indeed thought me a lot.”

The actor says his wife is his biggest critic and they generally argue on the way home after his performances. He was always eager to hear what she had to say and she tried to avoind the topic as she felt he couln’t take her criticism. “When I did Haasil,I did not attend the screening. My wife went for it and she retured at 2 in the morning. She woke me up and she was crying and all she said was ‘Mind-blowing!'”

Talking about his brilliant performance in the biopic Paan Singh Tomar,for which Irrfan walked away with National Film Award for Best Actor in 2012,he says,”I loved each and every moment of Paan Singh Tomar,researching on Paan Singh was tough as everybody forgot about him. Nobody knew about Pan Singh. We had to physically go to his village and enquire,” he said.

Irrfan might have chosen to dedicate his life to cinema,but his passion for sports is eveident. “I want to do many more films on sports. In films,you need to have a physique and look fit and for that you have to go to the gym,and I hate going to the gym,so I’d rather play sports”,he says jokingly.

Irrfan has dabbled in television as well,however he started out his acting career on stage. On being asked if he misses theatre,he replies,”We don’t have that culture here. In America,theatre is alive! People are constantly writing plays. Whereas here,we borrow scripts from abroad or there a few people who write original scripts only for a particular kind of audience. Sometimes I do miss the stage,but not that I’d ever leave films for theatre.”

Many would be surprised,but Irrfan reveals his dream role would be to play a musician. “I want to do the role of a musician,a character that gives me a chance to understand music. This desire came to me about two years ago. In ‘Saath Khoon Maaf’,I hated my character,I didn’t want to play it. I couldn’t relate to anything,I tried to connect to his core,but in vain. It’s only when I heard the music,that I understood and got into the role.”

From playing the gentle-natured immigrant father in Mira Nair’s Namesake to the notorious outlaw in Paan Singh Tomar and the aggressive FBi official in New York,Irrfan has donned a number of avatars. Have any of his roles changed him as a man? “In every character you are what are. With some characters,you have trouble relating to,thats when you try and draw parallels. If it were not for D-Day,i would never have known about the Intelligence Service agents and the challenges they face. When they go for a mission,even if they are successful,there is no acknowledgement. So playing different chanracters and roles give you a chance to understand different fields,different aspects of humanbeings and sometimes these experiences stay with you,” says Irrfan.

On being asked the kind of homework he does to play a character,Irrfan says,”Every role requires different kind of research. There is no specific formula. Sometimes,there is no need for any research and if you do,they you spoil the performance. In times like these,you need to rely on your instincts.”

Whether he’s being paired with the likes of Konkana Sen Sharma,Tabu or Chitrangada Singh,Irrfan always seems to be the perfect man. On asked how he manages to make these unconventional matches work,he says,”I’m fascinated by love stories. I didn’t get a chance to experience much romance,so when I get a chance I take it,” he says laughingly. “The concept of love in your head stays with you and is expressed in your writing,poetry,acting and other creative forms,” he says on a more serious note.

Having worked in major Hollywood projects like Slumdog Millionaire,A Mighty Heart and Life Of Pi,Irrfan shared his thoughts on the influence of Hollywood on Indian cinema and the transformation taking place in Bollywood itself. “Hollywood wants to make films here. Slumdog Millionaire brought about this change. After Slumdog…people thought Indians would go back to playing waiters and drivers,but Life Of Pi happened. Ang Lee had a particular design. Probably,five years ago it would have been tough for me. But now I have learnt to adapt to the design and make it my own.

Our cinema is still evolving. The film industry changes every 10-15 years. The new generation comes in and there is a shift. Ten years back,things were very difficult. I used to wait for films,I wish Haasil and Maqbool had come in today’s times.However,I’m optimistic and hopeful about cinema in our country.

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