Ive come to this planet to challenge things. I dont just survive. What Indian cinema has done for 100 years is to survive, Irrfan said. In the course of an intelligent, informed conversation, the Paan Singh Tomar actor held forth on issues ranging from the R100-crore club to the difference between Bollywood and Indian cinema and from taking risks in his profession to his admiration for Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
The Express Adda is a series of conversations with prominent personalities from fields ranging from cinema and fashion to diplomacy and the corporate world. Fridays session was moderated by Shekhar Gupta, Editor-in-Chief, The Express Group, and Screen editor Priyanka Sinha Jha.
Irrfan, who said he disliked the term Bollywood, spoke about Indian cinema instead We are selling ourselves, our cinema was not like that. Lets not add wood and make it Bollywood.
To a question on how deeply a character affects him, the actor who is known to literally become the characters he plays in film after he film, had a witty response: Sometimes a character is a one-night stand to whom I can come back any time to make love, and at other times, it just comes back home with me.
One such role, Irrfan said, was Paan Singh Tomar, a character whose dignity and simplicity he associates with his own father. Its a character that I will carry with me all my life, he said.
Reminded of his dream initially of becoming a cricketer, Irrfan said, In a way both these professions (acting and cricket) are the same because in both, people play for importance and money. But I prefer cinema. It gives me a chance to explore my surroundings and express myself. There is something very precious about being an actor. I share my experience with the audience and they connect with what I am doing.
Irrfan, who effortlessly straddles the line between being an actor and a star, spoke about the earlier era of films which, he said, were ahead of their time in having, despite the routine dance and drama, a story.
The audience at Adda learnt about his fascination for Suchitra Sen, Korean, French and Spanish cinema, as well as how a ghazal by Abida Praveen enabled him to portray the role of a sadist in Saat Khoon Maaf.
And for everyone who believed that Maqbool and Haasil were his most challenging roles yet, Irrfan had a surprising response: In these films, I had larger-than-life roles, whereas in The Namesake, my role was a big risk. That role demanded that I be unnoticeable, almost non-existent. That gave me a clue on how to demolish my own trap.
Irrfan, who has been part of Oscar-winning films such as Slumdog Millionaire and Life of Pi, gave his perspective on the much-discussed R100-crore club.
It is a good feeling that business is growing at an annual rate of 30%. But in a few months, the R100-crore figure will become pass, replaced by a higher figure. The media gives too much importance to a films collections. Filmmaking is an art and the role of a story is that it should come from the heart and touch somebody elses heart. It is a sad situation if you judge a film by its business, he said.
The actor saluted the audience for driving the change in cinema. He said he had a long wish list of roles, which included a trilogy of love stories. He signed off by saying that he had no regrets in his career.