Irrfan Khan: In “Paan Singh Tomar,” Irrfan Khan plays a sportsman who becomes a bandit. The actor discusses his “life’s most demanding role.”
Q. Why have you described “Paan Singh Tomar” as your most demanding role?
A. When you say demanding, you feel like it’s taxing. I never meant demanding that way. There are roles, which demand too much and you want to get done with it as soon as possible. That complication is not enjoyable. But “Paan Singh Tomar” was so close to my aspirations. I’ve connected to this role so emotionally. I loved being in that emotion. I’m still loving it – when I think of his pain, angst, honesty. It is director Tigmanshu Dhulia’s inner world, which captured me in a very deep way.
Q.You said that Paan Singh reminded you of your father. How?
A.Through the shoot, I was wondering why I’m connecting to it so emotionally. When I was doing the publicity and doing interviews, I realized that he reminds me of my father: His attitude about life and the way he lived. My father also used guns, he liked them. He also had a strange not-giving-up-attitude – of taking things head on
Q.What is your acting process?
A.I believe that the method is finding your own method. You have to find a way to decipher a role. You need to find a new way with every role. When I was doing “In Treatment,” when I read the part I thought my life’s experience will fall short in playing this. So I was trying to expand my emotions. When I reached America and was preparing for the role, whatever was happening I was trying to make it more difficult. I just started playing on that. I kept myself in distress. I became a kind of a strange creature. For “7 Khoon Maaf,” I was trying to find something to push me into the world of Urdu poets. I was listening to music and a ghazal of Abida Parveen hit me like a bullet and I kept listening to it till Vishal Bhardwaj said “action.” For Paan Singh, I was looking for a model. I didn’t find it but later I realized that I was connecting to it because of my father.
Q.In a profile of you in Time magazine, Danny Boyle said: More than Shah Rukh or Aamir or Salman, it’s Irrfan who is the Great Khan – India’s finest actor, perhaps even Asia’s. How do you feel when you read compliments like that?
A.Everybody’s egotistical and everybody feels good. But I will not give too much importance to this because it will put me in some sort of delusion. In my life also, I want to keep me real. I want to keep my passion alive to tell stories. This comparison will not do good for anybody. If I feel really good about it, I’ll be in trouble!
Women in Film and Television: The first India chapter of the global organization Women in Film and Television will be launched in Mumbai next week. WIFT is a global platform with chapters in more than 40 countries — India is the 45th chapter. The founder and president of the India chapter is ad film producer Petrina D’Rozario. The board includes names like UTV chief Zarina Mehta, Ashwini Yardi, who heads Akshay Kumar’s production company Grazing Goat Pictures, director Kiran Rao, documentary filmmaker Paromita Vohra and academic Jeroo Mullah (this writer is also on the advisory board).
“It’s an eclectic board,” Ms. D’Rozario said. “Our aim is to enhance and to give opportunities to women in the industry. This will guide and help them to achieve what they want. It’s just like looking after each other. We all come together and give opportunities.” WIFT India will provide internships and mentorships to deserving candidates. Honorary members of WIFT globally include Gurinder Chadha, Dame Helen Mirren and James Bond producer Barbara Broccoli.
Aditi Rao Hydari has broken a Bollywood rule – she is among the few actresses to upgrade from supporting actor (“Delhi-6,” “Yeh Saali Zindagi,” “Rockstar”) to leading lady. She plays her first full-fledged heroine role in this week’s “London Paris New York.” Ms. Hydari discusses transitions and how to make it happen
Q.There aren’t many actresses who manage to go from playing aunt to leading lady. How did you make it happen?
A. I’ve always wanted to act and be a leading lady. I was a drama queen and a dancer. But I never used to voice it much. When Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra offered me “Delhi-6,” he had actually offered me the role of Bittoo. I was in Delhi at the time and had very little idea of how things work. Then I was given the role of the bua (aunt). I was told it’s an ensemble cast. I knew it’s an image-driven industry but here was a brilliant filmmaker who literally tried to put me into every part. I took the leap of faith. Deep in my heart, I prayed that I would be able to make this jump. I went with my heart. I didn’t really plan but I hoped really hard that someone would take the leap of faith in me. When I did the parts I did, I told myself that Natalie Portman also started with supporting roles and if it’s in my kismet, I will make the jump. I feel very blessed.
Q.Now that you have made the transition, what kind of films would you like to do?
A.My first attempt is to not be slotted. Sometimes I think that the big commercial directors and production houses – maybe they feel that I’m not selling myself enough to be a more commercial and the Hindie guys might think that I’m too commercial now. But I can do both things – I can shake my bum and do a Bollywood dance but I can also work with Sudhir Mishra. If I trust my director, I can do anything.
Q. Are you getting more lead roles? And are you willing to play the more typical heroine role where you change clothes and sing songs.
A. I am getting more heroine roles. I believe in my instincts. I wouldn’t call myself rigid but I would look at the entire project. I won’t do anything that feels fake to me. I have to be convinced, I have to be sure. So this isn’t politically correct but I would find it very hard to do a “Thank You.” But you can never say never. I have to be open and happy and 100 percent sure.