IN CONVERSATION: IRRFAN KHAN & GOLSHIFTEH FARAHANI Comment

‘I understood Anup’s film through Golshifteh’s face’



We are in Jaisalmer, on the sets of award-winning writer-director Anup Singh’s third feature film, The Song of Scorpions. It’s Irrfan Khan’s last day at the shoot and his birthday the next day. A chocolate truffle cake and beer has been organised for the cast and crew.

“A tale of twisted love and revenge in the untamed Thar Desert of Rajasthan”, the Swiss-French-European co-production has the renowned France-based Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani cast in the lead role alongside Irrfan. It also stars the legendary Waheeda Rehman as Golshifteh’s grandmother, a “shamanic singing healer confronting the poison of scorpions”.

Golshifteh has already begun to miss Irrfan while he pulls her leg on her unique talent for dancing to Bollywood songs. “I want to cast her in one, she will bring her own touch to it,” he says. Amidst the banter and the laughter, the two engage in a conversation on acting and on getting to work together:



Golshifteh, how did you hit upon Anup Singh’s The Song of Scorpions

We were at the Abu Dhabi film festival and they were presenting Qissa and we just met. I was with Atiq Rahimi and Anup was joking with him about swapping actresses of their respective films. That’s it. He said we will work with each other. This whole movie came into Anup’s dream apparently. It’s amazing how fast and easily they have got this project together.



What are your roles in the film?

Irrfan (I): I play Aadam, a camel trader. He is looking for some kind of completion in this life and thinks that this girl, Nooran, will make him experience God, offer him a kind of bliss in togetherness that is not possible otherwise. He is carrying that longing for her.

Golshifteh (G): I play a girl called Nooran who grows through her pain. (She is a scorpion singer who sings a melody to draw out the poison of venomous scorpions.) She realises that instead of using poison to kill, she can use it to save lives. Nooran opened a big corner of my own personality. She showed me so many things through who she is. It’s been extraordinary, she has been like this very big child, very difficult to give birth to.



When did you see each others’ work for the first time and when did you meet each other?

I: I remember the first time I saw her was in Huner Saleem’s My Sweet Pepper Land at the Abu Dhabi film festival. I fell in love with her and told Anup that we need this girl. I didn’t realise then that Anup will take me so seriously. We interacted very briefly the first time but I was overwhelmed by her. She was going out and I was coming in to the hotel and we met at the gate.

G: I was already in love with him for a long time before we met. I was talking about him with Joel Edgerton, the Australian actor, who is supposed to star in Shantaram. So when I met him at the doorway, I couldn’t help ask for a photo with him.



Qissa was about the Partition and gender politics as well. What about The Song of Scorpions?

I: Anup’s films will always be about gender politics. He makes films for women. Even if he is making a film with the man in the lead, he will find a woman there.



You have worked across cultures. How was it for you two to tune into each other as actors?

I: I think actors are not different, it’s the projects. What is it that a project is demanding from you, the kind of flavour it needs from you… an actor adapts to that. When actors from different cultures meet, there is a common element and relatability.

G : When I look at Irrfan, I feel that we have more or less lived through the same things. He is a poet. Sometimes I wonder how he survives in this world with this gentleness and tenderness. I came to this shoot from a project that was very different. It was like being in the light of the lamp and suddenly there is this sun (points to Irrfan) in front of you.



Is your approach to acting, to your characters similar or different?

I: I don’t think I have discussed this with her or with any other actor. You just go there, you see and you sense a director, where he is trying to lead you, and you seamlessly try to fit into that. Similarly with your co-artistes.

The interesting thing is, the way Anup wrote the script I couldn’t get anything out of it. Maybe I was looking for another story when I took this film, about two people coming together and becoming one. This film is about that and is also not about that. I started understanding the film while doing it. In one of the scenes in the film, I looked at Golshifteh’s face. For me, the film changed that day. I understood Anup’s film through her face. Since then I began approaching it differently.



Golshifteh has been a rebel with a cause. Is it good for an artiste to have that free-spirited attitude?

I: I am not sure. We cannot have rules for artistes. To me, it’s very intrinsic to liberate oneself from all the conditioning and programming we are made to go through. My character in Qissa is all about programming and conditioning, how we try to be free from it, and how difficult it is to get rid of it.




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