Boman Irani revels in the experience of playing Armaan Ali or ‘abba' and all things Hyderabadi about him.Sangeetha Devi Dundoo

For a long time, Boman Irani cherished an unfulfilled wish of wanting to work with Shyam Benegal. It was rather unexpected when the Dada Saheb Phalke award winning director finally called him. “I felt proud to be an actor when Shyam babu told me ‘I finally have something for you'. His words empowered me,” says Boman, talking to us at Big Cinemas, ahead of the release of Well Done Abba. Boman is the abba of the film, or Armaan Ali from Hyderabad.

Talking dakhani

The unit shot in Hyderabad for 35 days and had a diction coach on the sets. The real experience of understanding and speaking dakhani was a challenge, says Boman. “We shot at a village, Chikatpalli, adjacent to Ramoji Film City. The people in the village, the unit and the drivers were speaking the lingo and that made a huge difference,” he says.

He narrates how he was taken aback when he first heard the dialogues. “Someone read out the dialogues to me on a CD and I didn't enjoy it. When someone says dialogues in a certain way you feel compelled to say it with the same inflection. I felt it would rock me off my interpretation. I wanted to tell the dialogues in my own way.”

If the Hyderabadi intonations were new for him, playing Armaan Ali too wasn't easy, he shares. “When I take up a character I want to see it dancing in front of my eyes. That happened to me only when I saw Moin chacha,” says the actor. From Moin chacha, who was his driver throughout the shooting, Boman picked up diction and body language. “When I first met chacha I thought, here is Armaan Ali. Sometimes simple wisdom works better than an intellectual approach. Moin chacha's outlook to life was simple, much like Armaan Ali. Armaan is a kind man with a lot of inner strength.”

Well Done Abba explores father-daughter relationship and comments on the political system. “Armaan Ali is a common man who takes the system head on. He is a simple man caught in a situation and in steps his daughter who is educated and well informed. The beauty of a Shyam Benegal movie is to beautifully pitch in the need for women's education.”

The film has won laurels at the London and Dubai Film Festivals and Boman recalls, “At the London Film Festival someone asked me how I felt to play a Muslim character. I said I am playing an Indian character.”

From ‘maamu' to ‘abba'

Well etched out characters like Armaan Ali, Dr. Asthana (Munnabhai MBBS), Lucky Singh (Lage Raho Munnabhai), Khurana (Khosla ka Ghosla), Vardhan (Don) and Virus (3 Idiots) don't come by very often and Boman cherishes the experiences. “For a long time people called me Maamu. Then they called me Virus and now abba. Abba makes me happy,” he smiles.

He's been at the helm of affairs in three different colleges — Munnabhai, Main Hoon Na and 3 Idiots and feels Virus was one of the dark characters he has essayed so far. “We had to work on Dr. Asthana and the way he laughed as a measure of stress relief. That laugh may not have worked too. Main Hoon Na was simple. Everyone else in the campus had issues but the Principal was the happiest person on the campus. Virus was a dark guy with lots of baggage. I didn't find him funny.”

At 52, Boman Irani is happy with his journey so far in theatre, photography and movies. He has no regrets on having had a late start in cinema. “Not a day too late, not a day too early. I've taken a bit out of each chapter and moved on to the next,” he says. Movies are his focus now and theatre and photography have taken a backseat. “To do a theatre production I'll need four to five months, which I cannot spare at the moment. I am happy playing out the chapter of cinema. When people get fed up of watching me I shall revert to theatre,” he says.