19 Sep 2019,16:40 IST
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Interview Template 2
Irrfan Khan- Angelina is a tremendous woman
Irrfan Khanís talent was spotted when he was only a college-goerÖ when Mira Nair offered him a role in Salaam Bombay. Unfortunately, his part was edited out of the final print. But there was no looking back for Irrfan. He worked his way up in Bollywood with films like Maqbool and Haasil. And now, his acting career has come full circle as he does another film with Mira Nair Ė The Namesake.

You started you career with Mira Nair's Salaam Bombay, 20 years ago. How does it feel playing the lead role in a Mira Nair film all over again?
When I was about to shoot for Salaam Bombay they decided that the framing was not right. I was supposed to play the role with little kids. Because of my height as compared to the kids, the framing was looking odd. So they cut the role off in the last moment. I was really hurt when they cut my role from Salaam Bombay. I cried a lot because we did the workshop for two months with the street kids, and I just came out of school. She picked me up from the school performance and just after that I got this role. So for me it was great! But when the role was cut it was a huge disappointment for me. But when she offered me the role for The Namesake, she said I owed you a role. After so many years Mira told me that I owe you a role and this is it. So I am offering you Ashoke.

How did your casting in the film happen? Did Mira Nair remember you from your Salaam Bombay days?
No I think she must be aware of my work. She must be watching it because she is a very well aware woman and she sees whatever is happening. So I think she must have been updated with my work.

Wasn't Abhishek Bachchan supposed to play the role earlier?
Not this role. He was supposed to do another personís role. Mira didnít think of anybody else for my role.

So you were the first choice?

The Namesake is based on Jhumpa Lahiri's award winning novel. Have you read the novel?
Iíve read the novel. Incidentally, that was the time when I was reading the novel and I was offered this role at the same time. Then I was curious to know how she has adapted the book because itís a very tough thing to adapt a book. Especially this oneÖ The Namesake.

So how easy was it for you to get into the character?
It was not an easy thing in the sense... I havenít done such a role before.

You were reading that novel and you knew about the roleÖ
Yes, but even in the novel the character is not well defined. You cannot really know him as he doesnít have much space even in the novel. He is very volatile kind of person, he doesnít express too much.

Give us a gist of your character Ashoke Ganguli in the film?
Ashoke Ganguli... For me it was a tough thing to get hold of him, in the sense what kind of rhythm he has, what goes in his mind etc. And sometimes the novel writers explain you the character, they tell you whatís going on in somebodyís head. But in this case it wasnít there because Ashoke Ganguli is a very silent and calm person. So to play that silence was challenging for me. I was playing all kind of roles where presence is very important. I did Charas, and then I did Maqbool after that. So for me to become very silent and calm and not noticeable kind of person was a bit challenging. But finally it came out well.

Tell us little bit about The Namesake as you have the insight about itÖ
It starts with Ashokeís journey from India to New York. He comes back, he gets married then two people getting married without knowing each other, how they discover themselves. He heals himself by raising his family. He had a trauma, he had an accident and he carried the trauma for a long time. How he deals with it and then they have children, the children are born in New York so they have a different kind of approach to life. They have different values and to deal with those values and to come to terms with their childrenĖ because there is always a communication gap between parents and children, that is what the film is about. And then how the son falls in love, he finds his partner and then what happens to him and how he discovers his own roots living abroad. Itís about an Indian guy who is born in America so what are his roots. And you have to find your own roots, you have to understand that. There is a line in the end when he tells his mother that you are going and everybody has gone now. It is devastating. But itís the first time Iím feeling free! And he takes the journey that his father took. So itís about finding your own self getting in touch with your own self.

The film is shot in New York and as you said you actually had some problems in speaking English and Bengali accent. Was it difficult?
I never thought that this man will be speaking in a Bengali accent. So Mira told me, no I need Bengali accent. So to require and accent which is not your own it can look very false. It can look very put-on kind of a thing, and I was very-very worried about it. I was petrified, I thought that the accent I put on will look like a caricature of Bengali people. Then I worked hard and by Godís grace it turned out to be okay. The Bengali people are okay with it. They say ďArenít you Bengali? We thought you are BengaliĒ. I said Okay bach gaye!

And how was it being paired opposite Tabu?
Excellent, we have great chemistry and we know each other. We have a certain comfort zone because of knowing each other and I really respect her as an actress. She hasnít got an opportunity I guess. She has not been given comedy roles and I think she has a great sense of humour, nobody knows that as there is a comic person. She is excellent.

Since the film has already released overseas, how was the response of the audience over there?
The mail, which I got in the morning says itís an excellent film. Paris, New York, LA, it is fantastic.

With films like The Namesake and A Mighty Heart are you making a conscious decision of working in international films?
No. Iím lucky enough that Iím getting these offers. I will never ever say no to films which are done for an international audience, which are made for larger audience and which are done from a different angle Ė which I wonít be able to do here. International audience, has different sensibilities and they want to reach to you. It is more universal. So you are lucky if you get those kinds of films whether itís a Hindi film or itís an English film. Films like Lagaan have international appeal or films like Rang De Basanti. So you would always want to do films, which have larger appeal with a limited kind of reach.

You are doing national as well as international films. How do you feel?
I feel ecstatic, I feel good, and I feel happy about it.

You have done Hollywood films. So what do you think, how does the West perceive us?
With respect to quality, our films we still have to make a mark. But India is getting noticed and itís high time that we make some original films and create our own identity. China was in fashion in the West earlier but they had their film industry which had its original films. So they could enter there into Hollywood. In American now they go to theater to see Chinese films, the Chinese actors, they are acceptable. So itís a high time that we make films which are original and which leave an impact and I think we have that much of talent here. We just need to make stories which are innovative and which are original.

How was it working with Angelina Jolie in A Mighty Heart?
She is a tremendous woman. She has a history and the kind of work she has been doing is great. But I think the press has not been in Angelinaís world, they have never been in cordial terms. So she doesnít have very good relationship with press. But she is a very strong and intelligent woman and she is tremendous actor, a very good actor and as a person she is very strong.

You were one of the few people who got to interact with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie during their trip to India. Was the experience flattering?
When you are working, you donít think about those things because you just want to take them as a character. I myself am an actor so I can not think of such things. When you are doing this kind of film where a lot of research is involved, where you know you are always on your toes then you donít think who is Angelina Jolie, then you just work there. Then you leave the rest for the world to do guessing.

So tell us a bit about this filmÖ A Mighty Heart.
This is a story about Daniel Pearl. We have completed the shooting of this film and now it is in post production. Iím waiting to know how it shapes up because it is a difficult film. It has a lot of information, lots of characters, hundreds of characters. If you see his film, you will understand what Iím talking about. I am playing an ETS Officer who actually without any support from anywhere cracks that case. So that was his struggle, that was his real big case he worked on. I donít want to reveal his name because he is a real person who is dealing with so many pressures right now in Pakistan.

In Anurag Basuís 'Metro' again, you have an interesting character who meets his life partner through a marriage portal. Tell us something about that?
In Metro when Anurag offered me the role I had my fears. I thought may be this character doesnít have the meat, may be they might edit it. I wasnít feeling safe but once I went on the sets, and the kind of chemistry me and Anurag had, I had fun and really just left myself and I quiet enjoyed that film, because the character is odd. He is a person who will come across as an odd man if you meet him for the first time. But then you slowly know whatís there inside him. You discover him slowly. He is so blunt that it might offend you but then when you think about what he said then you might have a different view about him .So itís a very interesting man.

How was it working with Konkona Sen Sharma?
Oh, I love her. She is fantastic; I think I havenít seen an actress like her. She is so easy. She has some relationship with the camera, I donít know what. There is some magic in her and it just comes out when you look at her through camera. When you see her on the screen there is something else. She is so interesting as a character and an actor.

Even your son makes his debut in a cameo role in the film. Did he enjoy working?
No he didnít. He wanted to ride a motorcycle and I donít have motorcycle. So this was just for a shot and he did it just because he loves motorbikes. There was this kid who was supposed to ride with me, he was supposed to be my kid, but on the sets he started crying. So I immediately called up home and I said there is a shot. So I asked Anurag should I call my kid. He said ďokay, call himĒ. So he came and he was fascinated. He said donít shoot because he knew that if we start shooting then he has to come back. He wonít have a longer ride. So he hated the shoot but he wanted to ride. So he had a great time.

Do you want him to be an actor?
I donít think so. Unless and until it comes as your need it can become a horrible thing to achieve. Unless you cannot live without being an actor it is not a thing to attempt. It can be a painful experience.

What about your forthcoming films?
MetroÖ then there is film called Tumse. It stars Deepal Shaw, Ranvir Shorey and Lucky Ali. Itís a film about relationships but itís the way the story is told that is unique. The structure is quiet unique you havenít seen that kind of a structure. Then there is A Mighty Heart and a Hollywood film called The Darjeeling Limited. Then Dubai Return might come soon. Iím honestly hoping that it comes out.

How was it working with director Wes Anderson in The Darjeeling Limited?
Wes Anderson. He has completed the film and I loved working with him and I still have to see how it shapes up. I love his films.

Your character in the filmÖ
I am playing a father of a kid who changes a life of these people who come here for this unique experience, some spiritual experience they want again how debate this person and how he changes there prescription about India and about there own journey.

And what about your character in Dubai Return?
Itís the person who is not in sync with himself, or with time. He is a person who takes himself too seriously and nobody takes him seriously. So thatís his tragedy and he thinks he has something in him but he doesnít have anything. He is too naÔve.