Friday, July 19, 2013

Irrfan Khan

“I criticise myself a lot, which is why I don’t see my films”

By Ankita R Kanabar

(This interview has been published in the July 13, 2013 issue of Super Cinema)

There’s something extremely intimidating about Irrfan Khan. And no, that just doesn’t limit to the 70mm, it translates off-screen too. I meet the actor for an interview while he promotes his forthcoming film ‘D-Day’. This unconventional Hindi cinema hero, is now considered as one of the finest actors we have, through a number of diverse roles, and some quality cinema. While you may assume that he’s serious, deep and all of that, he confesses he’s a simple man, who’s shy, and who likes light moments. He might have had to wait for long to get his due as an actor, but here’s someone who’s so confident about his craft, and does things on his own terms. He surprises us with every new film and role, and hopefully, he’ll do the same with ‘D-day’. In an engrossing chat, Irrfan talks about his approach towards his work, what draws him towards a film and about himself:

You’ve been doing such wonderful films, yet you’re called more of an actor than a star. Is that a conscious effort from your end?
There has been no conscious effort or decision that I want to be called an actor or star. I just always wanted to be the person who could tell stories and engage people with stories. That’s been my concern, and that’s what I enjoy. It’s just the media’s laziness to associate tags with people. I’m free of tags. I’ve never bothered about tags, I tried demolishing all the tags that were associated with me, and I’ll keep demolishing them.

You’ve been around for quite some time, and have done such diverse roles. Do you still have to prepare before every film?
Many a times I don’t prepare at all, I just go by my instincts. I rely on the director, try to listen to him, and understand what he has in his mind. Sometimes, preparation becomes a hindrance when you’re acting. I’ve over-prepared myself, and I never enjoyed that.  Now I don’t. Preparation is not always good for you.

What was the driving factor for signing a film like ‘D-Day’?
The earnestness of Nikhil Advani and Ritesh Shah’s writing – that’s what attracted me towards the film. The way they’ve written the script, I thought this is the first time in Indian cinema that I got a glimpse of a detailed point of view of RAW agents. When you have a profession in Hindi cinema, when the story is dealing with some kind of profession, you never get the idea, you never experience the reality of those characters. They’re basically, just used to tell the story. So, in this film, the subject was very extensively dealt. This is the first time you’ll see how the intelligence department people work and what are the challenges that they face. This film will be able to tell a lot. There’s also excellent drama in the film, which for me was very interesting.

So generally also, is it the detailing that draws you towards doing a film?
Not always the detailing. Sometimes, some stories don’t require detailing. I think the element which is important for me in a script is that it should be engaging. You want to engage the audience, you want to explore yourself as an actor, you want to explore new grounds, but you don’t want to bore people, you want to entertain them. How entertaining is the role and the story, that’s very important.

Does it happen that your character remains with you even after a film is over?
It happens many a times. I cannot name one or two characters but there are many characters that stay with you, for a long time, even after the shoot is done and the film is finished. They’re always a part of you. Like in recent times, there was ‘Paan Singh Tomar’, it became a part of me. Many a times it happens, and many a times it doesn’t happen. Sometimes, you just want to forget the character, don’t want to remember it at all.

Speaking of ‘Paan Singh Tomar’...the film went through a rough patch, but then it got such a great response. How did that feel?
This is always an enjoyable situation when you go through a rough patch, and then hit the jackpot. You like success coming your way after the hurdles. But the kind of response the film got shows that definitely, the atmosphere today is much better than it was say, three years back, and it’s only getting better and better, because we now have an audience. The audience is consolidated. Earlier, the audience was scattered. Right now, the atmosphere is great. The audience is wanting to watch all kinds of cinema, and today the audience expanding the definition of commercial cinema.

You think it took a while for you to get your due as an actor?
Yes, I’ve had to wait a lot, but I would not call it a struggle. I’ve been waiting for good work, and that has started happening ever since I did ‘Warrior’ and ‘Haasil’. After that, constantly, every now and then I kept getting interesting projects. My graph as an actor, it always went up and up. So, I don’t see which point was the turning point. It’s constantly going better and better, I can’t say that this phase was best or that phase was best. I’ve been in the process of films, I’m enjoying it and I’ve seen a constant growth, so I’m just happy.

Considering the kind of roles you’ve played so far, one would perceive you to be kind of intimidating and a man with a lot of depth. Are you like that?
These kind of views, they form and change. I’m very shy, and I’m a light-hearted man. I’m not very intense, or serious person. I enjoy laughter, light moments, and that’s what I constantly look for. I just take life as it comes. I’m shy, so I don’t really jump on to any social commitments. But if it’s a kind of gathering, I do go there, but this public scene is not my thing. I’d rather sit with my friends and have a good time than go to some party where you can’t even hear each other. I like parties that are for entertainment, refreshment, and not for networking. When the parties are for networking, I don’t enjoy them.

At this point of time, what is it that matters to you – Awards, box office collection, or getting better with each film?
No actor will say that only awards matter. And most actors will say that only box office matters. For me, it’s the balance of both. Both as in, I mean critical acclaim and box office. Critical acclaim is also important for me to know that the quality of work I’m doing is good, and then it should also bring back money to the producers. There’s a difference between genuine critical acclaim, and awards. Sometimes, awards are fake, so you don’t need those awards. If an award is genuine, yes it’s important, it makes you feel good, it’s a kind of an acknowledgment. But then an award has to come to that standard. It should become a benchmark. Only then it matters.

Do you ever see your film and criticise your own self?
I criticise myself a lot, which is why I don’t see my films. I’ve seen very few films of mine, like ‘Namesake’, ‘Paan Singh Tomar’.

And how does your family react to your work?
They always give me an honest feedback, whether they like something or no. Even my kids tell me, this is working, this is not working, this engaged us, or this is good work.

Your upcoming projects include...
There’s ‘The Lunchbox’, then ‘Kissa’ and ‘Gunday’. ‘Gunday’ has me only in an extended cameo of sort though. 

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