Boman Irani recently made his OTT debut with Masoom, currently streaming on Disney Plus Hotstar. The word debut, usually reserved for newbies, somehow does not suit this veteran of over 200 films. But Boman, 62, is excited about it. For, every time he signs up to play a new role, he feels like entering a whole new world. Each character is unique, he says. In Masoom, created by Gurmeet Singh, he plays Balraj Kapoor, a well-connected doctor who seems to be holding on to some dark family secrets.
Unsurprisingly, this was not the first web series script he was offered. “I got many offers which were pretty good. Somehow, the dates didn’t quite work out. But in Masoom’s case, I had a nice break after a project,” he says. Despite his preference for being lazy, Boman’s a busy man even at this age. Just a few weeks ago, the Ranveer Singh-starrer Jayeshbhai Jordaar, in which he played a major role, was released. He has finished shooting his portions for Rajkumar Hirani’s Dunki, starring Shah Rukh Khan. He will also be seen in a Sooraj Barjatya film, Uunchai, alongside Amitabh Bachchan, Anupam Kher and Danny Denzongpa. He will also be seen in an Agatha Christie-like whodunnit murder mystery shot. These apart, he is also writing and directing his own film. For now, however, Boman is excited about Masoon. Excerpts from a chat:
What is the difference between acting in a series as compared to a film?
There is no difference. In both cases, there’s a camera, a unit, lights, and some confusion. While acting, you are not thinking if it is going to be shown on a big screen or on someone’s phone. All I know is that I have to bring life to a character. That’s all I am concentrating on at that point of time. Having said that, I am excited for Masoom because it is my first series, which allows for more screentime. You can see the full-fledged journey of a character. However, just because there is more time doesn’t mean you can take things easy. Whatever the duration, you need to be economical in the way you are projecting a character.
What made you sign up for Masoom?
The first few pages are enough to know if I am hooked on to it or not. I tell my screenwriting students that your opening page should look professional – the typing, the spacing, the formatting… all these matter.
Next, I look at how you are telling me the story. With this script, the opening was simple. A girl comes into town, distraught. She has a flat tyre. A cop comes up to her and asks, ‘What happened? Oh, aren’t you Balraj Kapoor’s daughter?’ She replies ‘Yes.’ And he says, ‘Let me take you on my bike. A guy will fix your car and bring it home’. This might sound too simple. But it conveys a lot of things to me without telling me a lot of things. Since the girl is distraught, we know something’s brewing. She has a flat tyre – so we know her journey was not an easy one. We know Balraj Kapoor’s a powerful man. We want to know who he is. So, I just read the first two pages and called up Gurmeet Singh.
Masoom is a remake of the Irish series Blood. With remakes and adaptions, actors usually don’t prefer to check out the original lest it would influence their acting. What about you?
I made a conscious decision not to do that. I don’t want to go into the shoot feeling, ‘Oh the other actor did it fantastically! How am I supposed to top that?’ So, I choose to rely on my instincts. Also because, that story is happening in Ireland. So, the emotions of those characters will be very different from the emotions of the characters in this series, which is set in Punjab.
Over the decades, you played a plethora of roles. Do you sometimes feel a sense of repetition with the kind of characters you get?
There is a chance of that happening. After all, I have just one body, one voice, and one man’s life experiences that I use for my roles. But the person that I am breathing life into is unique. Just because a character is a principal of one institute and another guy is a principal of another institute, does not make them identical. Every human being is unique. Even twins can be diametrically different from each other. So, as an actor, you need to search for that uniqueness – find what makes them who they are. You can, of course, make some changes to the face, the body, and the voice. But those are external things. We have to concentrate on the internal stuff.
Do you try to reinvent yourself, for instance, by changing your expressions?
Expressions are just a manifestation of what you’re thinking or feeling. I can’t say ‘I’ll make this expression to let the world know I am feeling this way.’ I need to find something within. I don’t put on an expression and then say, ‘Ah! Now I look confused.’ If I’m feeling confused, you get to see whatever my expression is. Because I don’t act in front of a mirror. I am not looking for a magic sauce while I act. I am just trying to look into a human, understand his problem, and how he is solving that problem. You don’t act for the character, you need to let the character do things.