'The story has to get my attention'

Having won the National Film Award for Best Actor for his exceptional portrayal in Paan Singh Tomar, Irrfan (aka Irrfan Khan) still prefers to choose substantial characters and play roles that become iconic overnight!

“For me, this film will be a sure-shot success,” he says when referring to The Lunchbox, releasing today. “I believe in the power of the story rather than anything else. The story has to get my attention. That is how I choose films which engage me and give me the perfect platform,” he says sitting upright in his chair, when recently in the City.

Soon he bends forward, to hear the next question carefully before responding. And one tries to overlook his bewitching smile, captured in the poster of The Lunchbox. “You cannot forget yourself,” he says when asked about his choice to maintain his distinct style. “You are the means and the container of the story. The story is being communicated through you and you can’t become somebody else. You can understand somebody to connect emotionally to them but you will always be who you are, even as you create different characters through you!”

He holds the same thought to defend his portrayal of Saajan Fernandez, an aged man in The Lunchbox. “Those who appear old are not so. They feel old in their mind,” says the NSD graduate who is known to mould characters to slip into their persona. “Playing a romantic character was not very challenging but if I am looking old, then that is the cameraman’s fault,” and he bursts out laughing!

“Playing an older character is challenging in style because your body is in ‘residue’ (sic) and you can’t do much with it. But it is upto you to not let your body feel limited.” Something that he manages to pull off with ease, because he takes his inspiration from an uncle he stayed with, in Mumbai. “In my initial years after I came to Bombay, I stayed with my uncle. He would change three transports to go to his office. I used to observe him facing the peak hour rush. If you notice, daily travellers bear the same expression,” he analyses but laughs at the thought of getting more calls to play older characters!

Unlike the audience, the actor doesn’t find his portrayal too vivid. “I haven’t played Saajan Fernandez that intense as a character, where it would be difficult for me to come
out of it.”  

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