Man for all seasons

Man for all seasons

Man for all seasons

Rajiv Vijayakar speaks to talented actor Boman Irani on his films, the challenge of being an actor, and the value of an Oscar and its possible impact on the Indian cinematic landscape.

This actor extraordinaire can magnificently underplay or ham to the hilt when asked by his filmmakers to do so. Now, that’s range! Meeting Boman Irani is an experience of its own kind. He’s always chilled out, upfront in a characteristic Parsi manner, and does not tolerate flippant talk. We are in a five-star coffee lounge, sipping green tea.

“I am a talkative person,” he says, smiling a sincere, benevolent smile, one that adds infinite warmth to his affable personality.

His track record, for someone who started out in films only 11 years ago, is enviable — and that is an understatement. Ferrari Ki Sawaari and his next release, Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi, are just two more assets in a career inundated with triumphs.

Beginning (at 42!) in a small role in Everybody Says I’m Fine! and instantly graduating to the lead in Let’s Talk a year later, Boman acted in Hinglish Boom before testing Hindi waters with a small but stunning role in Darna Mana Hai with Saif Ali Khan, followed by his career-defining character of Dr J C Asthana in Munnabhai MBBS. Though a significant share of his best movies has been with Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Boman has also excelled in films as diverse as Main Hoon Na, Page 3, Waqt, No Entry, Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Maara, Being Cyrus, Bluffmaster!, Khosla Ka Ghosla, Dostana and Well Done Abba.

How does he look back at his innings? “Eleven years have just zoomed by and I have had no time to stand and stare. I have a clearer idea of what I am doing than I did on my first day of shooting.

Every film makes me feel like I am a new actor and I think that’s how all actors should feel. Ten years down the line, my only hope is that I don’t stagnate.”

He candidly admits that his films fall into two categories — those which he does for the sheer joy of doing films and those he does to exercise the challenge of being an actor. “Though I work hard on every role, there are only some opportunities where I get to spend time on a character. There are characters that I have built from scratch along with my director. So again, 10 years from now, I hope that I do not go backwards!” reiterates the actor.

Boman always goes with the pitch of the film, “If the need is to go over the top, I must do it. Hamming is also something that has to be learnt — it’s an art by itself!” This actor differs with many critics on the lavish praise that has been heaped upon him for Ferrari…, saying that it was easy for him to play a Parsi, what with him being from the same community. “Deboo was a frustrated man,” he points out, “remove his ‘Parsi-ness’ and he would still be the same. He was in pain, a human being frustrated with life’s buffets. My job was to get the character right, not the

Culling out characters

Boman shares his inputs on his character from the time he begins work with the director. “For a good actor, director is not a teacher, but a guide who nurtures him after deciding upon him as the final choice,” he declares with conviction.

He also mentions that there is often a lacuna between the roles an actor is praised for and the ones that an actor successfully enacts, despite the difficulty in doing so. “My role of the king in Eklavya was so challenging that meri band baj gayi thi! The character was so complex, violent and confused. But it went unnoticed. In contrast, I had the time of my life with the unit of Game, and a ball during the making of Housefull 2. One was a disaster, the other a huge hit. You learn something from each film. Out of about 60 films I have done so far, I have had only a couple of regrets,” he smiles.

Unravelling his trade secret, Boman says, “I keep asking questions about my character — including the famous W’s: why, where and when. In Being Cyrus, I wondered how a man as rude and misanthropic as my character could be in love. On the other hand, before I began to enact him out, I knew that Virus in 3 Idiots was neither a funny man nor a villain. He was a man in denial about the darkest failure of his life — of being responsible for his son’s suicide. My goal is to justify my presence in a film. The genre is unimportant.”

Boman is essaying the romantic lead in Bela Bhansali Segal’s Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi. “It’s a mature romantic comedy that is not a gag-bag but a sweet film.” Playing down Farah Khan’s raving praise that she would never have had the guts to accept the film and try acting if he wasn’t her co-star, he smiles and says, “Farah is just being sweet. She’s a natural at it. If she says that I would surprise her during a take, let me tell you that she has surprised me repeatedly. In this field, aesthetic trust and professional trust remain the most vital aspects between team members.”

We move on to his son Kayoze Irani turning actor at the right time, unlike his dad who came in late. Boman thunders, “I would say that Kayoze is making his debut, hopefully, at the right time, but still, I would say that I too came in at the correct time!” The actor explains that Hindi cinema had taken a welcome, open-minded turn when he started out, giving him the opportunities for tremendous variety, which he would have never got had he come in during the earlier decades.

“My son is a good actor, but as usual, dads are the last to know about their kids’ talents,” quips Boman. Kayoze was an assistant director in the recent Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu and Karan Johar noticed his looks and sensed his talent, casting him in a key role in Student Of The Year, which incidentally, also has Boman in the cast.

Adding to his view on cinema today, Boman states, “In 2020, I see a further evolution and a greater influence of world cinema. We should have a minimum of one Oscar to our credit by then!”

But why should we look at endorsement from a foreign setup? “You get me wrong,” he says seriously. “For me, it’s not about the Oscar per se. It’s about how such a win could open up markets for us. We need our budgets to go up so that we can make more daring cinema, which is rooted in our culture and cinematic style and takes on world markets. So it’s about the progress we can make when we have the talent to make it.

Look at how actively we are working on post-production of Hollywood films and on their animation biggies from India. But while 100 Indians work on a Madagascar 3, costing them a fraction of what they would have to spend in USA, our own filmmakers cannot afford even this with the quantum of audience our films have.”

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