Art holds as much interest for actor Irrfan Khan as do films and theatre

Irrfan Khan seems to have a passion for art. Or, is it just a fad in the film industry now?

The query doesn't anger the actor. He replies serenely: “It works both ways. Sometimes our PR people tell us to be present at prestigious exhibitions, sometime an organiser wants to give ‘face' to their art events, and sometime an individual has a personal interest in art. I don't like art that I can understand easily. I want it to make me ponder over it.”

Irrfan's own interest in the visual arts in his early days was only accentuated by his experiences at the National School of Drama in the early 1990s. Hence, he says visiting art exhibitions isn't an alien exercise. “At NSD, we were trained to visit art shows. I was very good at copying images, but as I didn't understand head or tail of it, I started getting bored of copying. Moreover, I didn't have the patience of an artist, as I was more into sports.”

But being an actor, he often realises that art direction in films is barely talked about by the media. “Film journalism still hasn't reached a place where they can understand the intricacies of what art direction does to a film. Even producers don't value it vis-à-vis business. We actors too don't think how we can contribute to the sets we work on,” he admits.

No stereotypes

Post “Slumdog Millionaire”, Irrfan is looked at with great interest internationally, but he says that doesn't mean he has one foot in Hollywood.

“Generally, award winning people start taking themselves too seriously. I think, if they had made ‘Slumdog…' here, it wouldn't have had that quality, and we wouldn't have got noticed. Post ‘Slumdog…', I got many offers from Hollywood, but none of them as interesting as ‘Namesake'. They suddenly want to make films with some Indian angle. They offered me stereotypical roles such as a psychiatrist who addresses a foreign patient, a man who is a mismatch to a foreign wife, so their kids suffer, or a typical Indian villain; I turned them down. I don't want to do foreign films just to be in circulation there. I don't mind doing it in Bollywood though.”

Well-employed

NRI filmmakers have a reputation for making good English films with an Indian angle, but Irrfan insists they are also getting stereotypical. But in Bollywood, Irrfan assures us, he is safely positioned. “I have unique films such as ‘Pan Singh Tomar', ‘Hisss' and ‘Dar Badar' in my kitty. I am well employed,” he signs off.

RANA SIDDIQUI ZAMAN

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