"I was concerned about my chemistry with Chitrangada"
When you have to wait for over two hours for Padma Shree Irrfan Khan for an interview, you can't help but exclaim: Yeh Saali Zindagi! But the wait was well worth it as Irrfan opened up to his upcoming film, YEH SAALI ZINDAGI, Chitrangada Singh, importance of co-stars and much more, in a freewheeling chat.
It's been a long wait to have a few words with you. I was dubbing for YEH SAALI ZINDAGI so that the film can go for mixing.
YEH SAALI ZINDAGI is a very hatke title. What is the film about? According to the title, it seems as if one is complaining about life. But it's more of an amusement. It's more of a surprising and mesmerising way of looking at life. Sudhir Mishra has gone beyond what he had done in his earlier films in YEH SAALI ZINDAGI. He is an interesting filmmaker who's trying to make a film which is more audience friendly. Some people are feeling that YEH SAALI ZINDAGI is a dark film. It isn't. It's an entertaining and engaging thriller which has a Sudhir touch. When I was done seeing the film, I was feeling high, which is a kind of an achievement for any filmmaker. It's a kind of film which you take with you. It's not just a time pass film. It has many interesting characters. The plot is thriller, but you take the characters with you.
Your acting has been receiving a lot of accolades. How do you manage to keep it so subtle and effective at the same time? For me it's an effort to make things effective. Things are effective when they are done and not pretended. There is a very thin line when you are pretending and when you are actually doing it. It needs a lot of practice. But the effort is not to make it so unnoticeable that one says 'Arre yaar, yeh to acting hi nahi kar raha hai'. It should be effective and the same time hit you. Zor ka jhatka dheere se lagna chahiye. (laughs)
Do you come across situations when you exclaim 'Yeh saali zindagi'? Every time. We have a youth audience. It's not Hollywood where a 50-year-old is playing the lead character. So the effort is to look younger, which sometimes is not at all enjoyable. People look at an actor and say that he doesn't look what he's pretending to be. I hope it changes. I hope people can play their own age.
In many films you have played characters which very different from your actual age. Does that bother you? In 'Banegi Apni Baat' (TV serial), even now in 'In Treatment' (TV show), they had to age me. One of my friends met me at the Cairo film festival. She's a Turkish actor. She said, "Why you keep on doing these roles, which are older than your age?" Like in PAAN SINGH TOMAR, I start being a 20-year-old and get older through the film. Even in THE NAMESAKE I played a 20-year-old. So I sometimes think how I will be able to pull it off. But that are many departments that make that possible. It takes a bit of hard work from my end too.
Are you choosy while signing film? I am choosy because it's not my face that sells. My work is what people like and want to see again and again; so I can't repeat myself. I have to look at the stories, which are exciting, which give me scope to do what I haven't done earlier, which have entertainment, which can engage me for a long period of shooting. So it also becomes important to see with whom you are going to work. The director also matters. In today's time, even the producer has become an important entity. It depends on how he is going to bring the product in front of the audience.
Your last two films, HISSS and KNOCK OUT didn't do well. Do failures make you upset? That (success/failure) is not in your hand. Nobody can say if a film will work or not. A film is such a mysterious thing that no one can say whether it's going to work or not. You can say everything is working on paper, it cannot go wrong, but after editing the whole thing might suddenly change and the audience reacts to it in a completely different manner. So, it's a very strange chemistry between the film and the audience, And you cannot control it.
Do you consider your co-stars before signing a film? The co-star matters a lot while doing a film. It depends on the film as well. Some films require a certain kind of chemistry; some films don't require the chemistry. In some films, you don't even need to look at the co-star and he/she is not even required on the sets. But there are some dramas where the co-actor becomes very, very important. How you are interacting with your co-star becomes very important, and not how you are reacting.
So was your co-star Chitrangada important for YEH SAALI ZINDAGI? After so many years...you know...after MAQBOOL, I got a chance to play that kind of equation, where this guy loves a girl in a manner which is so unusual. So I was very excited, concerned and expectant about my chemistry with Chitrangada. I am very happy with the way it has turned out.
"People like to see my work, not face"
Any particular thing which you haven't done and want to do? There are directors with whom I want to work. I don't know what they'll bring for me. I want to work with Anurag Kashyap, Anurag Basu, Vishal Bharadwaj, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Shimit Amin, Milan Luthri and Diabakar Banerjee. I have worked with most of them earlier, but I would still love to work with them again.