Irrfan Khan says he chooses roles based on the emotional connection
If fan-shot video footage from the opening night at the London Indian Film Festival 2013 (LIFF) is anything to go by, Irrfan Khan had the Bollywood-loving London crowd charmed by the end of his Q&A session with documentary maker Asif Kapadia. Irrfan not only answered questions, but took requests, including a bizarre one to hug someone’s wife.
The day before, Irrfan says he’d not really prepared anything for his discussion with Kapadia. The two discussed everything from the actor’s ability to cast himself into a Hollywood, Bollywood or even Indian indie film. “I connect emotionally with many scripts,” says Irrfan over the phone from London. “I definitely have an interest and I try to explore the possibility of how the film is going to shape up and who’s directing it. First it has to connect to me emotionally.”
Incidentally, the last time he was in London, he also met Asif Kapadia, but more than that, he does rue not being able to explore the city. Says Irrfan: “I think I was here five months ago. I love this weather, this is fantastic. I like to walk in this city. Most of the time, I’ve come here to work, so I haven’t really explored the city in a way that I can spend time with myself. I’d like to do that one day. Maybe my thoughts (about the city) will change that way.”
Irrfan seems to fit in as a perfect choice for the programmers of the London Indian Film Festival, who pick films that are mainstream, artistic, obscure or relatively-unknown to showcase to a wider audience. From the erotic noir film BA Pass to action-drama Monsoon Shootout starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui and the festival closer, the celebratory Bombay Talkies, a collection of four short films created by some of the best directors in Bollywood – Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee, Zoya Akhtar and Karan Johar (who also made an appearance during the film’s premiere at the closing night of the festival on July 25).
Irrfan is a bit like the choice of LIFF films in his choice of roles doing roles that has emotional resonance rather than being a stereotyped Indian in a Hollywood production. “I’m an Indian, and I keep playing an Indian all my life. It doesn’t mean I’m a stereotype. If an American plays an American, does that mean he’s a stereotype?” says Irrfan.
About his upcoming films, Irrfan has two releases lined up, from the big-budget, high-octane action-thriller D-Day (directed by Nikhil Advani) to the tug-at-your-heartstrings story of two individuals brought together by an unlikely lunchbox in Dabba (directed by Ritesh Batra). “These are the films which signify how the (film) industry in India is changing. They are made in a mainstream way, but the way the story is explored and the way the detailing has been taken care of is new in Indian cinema. D-Day is a thriller with emotions, and it’s a topical issue. With Lunchbox, the USP of the film is simplicity, along with the emotional appeal. These two films give you a sense of range, as to what the Indian film industry is trying to do right now.”