, the biggest talent of Indian Cinema is ready to set foot as a producer with The Lunchbox
that has garnered praises at Cannes and back. He says that the beauty of this film is in the things unsaid. The very effortless National Award Winner talks to the team of India Forums in a heart warming conversation. A tete-e-tete with the dacoit that this country loves, Irrfan Khan
After the response that The Lunch Box got in Cannes, you got a little teary eyed...
Ya. That happened because even I was watching the film for the first time and then you get attached to the story. The most interesting thing that happened in Cannes was that before the film got over, 2-3 people got up and left, so Ritesh (Batra) got very concerned thinking that they have not liked the film. But our French producer told us that the people who have left are the buyers. So you should be happy that they are leaving early because they want to line up things and buy the film before anybody else buys it. This has happened for the first time that in one night the film was sold. The biggest territory there is is America and we thought that either Fox Star or Sony Classic would buy the film. But much before we tried to show the film to Sony or Fox, Sony bought it. That is something very unique. This film even has a universal language and anybody from any country can understand it.
When did you decide to co-produce this project?
That happened slowly and gradually. I was wanting to be a producer because sometimes you want to release a certain story in a certain way and own it and when you're not producing, maybe a certain film is not released in the way you would want it to.
The Lunch box has just been garnering praises from everywhere. Were you expecting such a response?
This film's market is the whole world and not just India so one country cannot decide its future. This film is a small budget film and the way it has been marketed, the money has already been recovered. So now whatever happens is profit only. We only want that it should reach to more and more people. When Karan Johar
saw the film, he was in love with it. What has happened with this film is that everyone wants that their name should be attached to the film. This is the strength of the emotion of the film. Its a good sign.
Talking about your face value, if your name is attached to any kind of an arthouse film, it becomes appealing to the general masses. Do you feel that you're a torch bearer when it comes to art?
For me it is incorrect to call cinema art house. I don't believe in it. It is a commercial art. An art needs to have commerce in it, it will have to earn profit somehow. A very interesting thing that has happened with me is that in whichever film I have worked, that film somehow has been the most successful film of that respective director. Be it Life Of Pi
, Slumdog Millionaire
, Paan Singh Tomar
. So this is a happy co-incidence that I have been a part of a director's most important films. For me its very important to engage people through a film and I don't like boring cinema. Cinema is a medium to entertain and engage people. I don't like time pass entertainment, you walk out from a film, yawn and forget about it. Cinema is very strong medium, we explore stories so the strength of the story should not be lost. This is very important for me. So maybe because of my name is attached and if the film becomes important because somewhere there is a promise in the film that it is going to engage the audience.
You have shared screen space with Nawazuddin Siddiqui in The Lunch Box who is again a character actor. How was the experience?
This is a very interesting time for Cinema. A lot of different actors and directors are coming in the industry. This has happened after 60s that new talent has come in that has a drive for interesting cinema which was lost in the middle. Talk about Rajkumar Yadav who worked in Kai Po Che which was a beautiful film, Deepak Dobriyal
, Randeep Hooda
. New generation of actors have come in that would add colour to Cinema and change it a little.
While watching an Irrfan Khan film, we have always felt that the character touches you and it becomes alive. So what is your approach while preparing for a character?
Actually I am finding my entertainment in the character. Will it make me alive or no? So maybe that is give and take. Its very important for me to see life in that character. What is that thing with which I will have fun playing the character or what is new for me to play. I felt the emotion of Saajan Fernandez in The Lunchbox
and it is very beautiful. The old school romance is the aspirational romance which you want in your life. In this film, these 2 characters who have no spark in their life and are the most boring people in the world and to take out emotion from such characters was very interesting for me. The inspiration for this character to a very large extent was my uncle. I have seen him like that. He used to take a bus, then the train and the bus again to reach office and while coming back from work everyone's expression in the train used to be exactly the same as if a witch has sucked everyone's blood. ( Smiles). Everyone used to sit like a zombie and I could never forget that.
Be it Namesake, Paan Singh Tomar or The Lunchbox, your looks have always been very distinguished. How much do you work on the look of your character?
I work a lot on the look of my character. Like in a Paan Singh Tomar
, I had a big discussion with Tigmanshu (Dhulia). He wanted my look to be the same throughout the film but I had a lot of faith in the fact that the look should be after he becomes a dacoit. The understanding that me and Tigmanshu have is great. The way he believes and has faith in my conviction and vice versa. After seeing my conviction towards the look of the character he gave up and agreed with what I was planning. A little problem in shooting schedule also happened because of it. When a journey of a character is told through the look of the character then it becomes very important.
You are the biggest unconventional super star of India and many stars end up paying a price for their stardom. Have you ever paid a price for your stardom till now?
Its a very small price that I have paid. Sometimes when I feel like walking and going out it becomes difficult. If I want to play tennis then you are not the co-player in the match and everyone wants to click a photo of you or record the match. So your privacy is affected a little. For me the meaning of being popular is not that I would show someone that I am better than them or a measure to inflate my ego. But to be able to share my happiness, sadness, experiences, things I have seen, things I have not seen with people, engage and entertain them.
Has the behaviour of the Industry changed towards you as an actor after the success of Paan Singh Tomar?
Yes, the film has done good business and it has become popular so definitely the behaviour has changed. There are not so many roles written in the industry that I get a lot of roles. My journey still continues but surely the respect and the faith people have in me has increased that I can make a film work on my shoulders but I have a long way to go.
What is that one genre that you want to explore?
Many, I mean I am really craving to do comedy now. I want to do something on music as well. I want to make a trilogy on sports. I even want to do love stories. I just want to keep doing work.