That easy smile and the twinkle in the eye are hard to miss. Bollywood’s cant-do-without actor and one who is known more for the immortal characters he has played than the Parsi man he really is, Boman Irani is indisputably the finest of the lot. In conversation with Chandni Dev, he reveals his nuttier side in the upcoming film Fruit And Nut.
You are known to be the finest character actor of Bollywood. How do you take that comment?
Why? They don’t think of me as a sex symbol (laughs). Well I am a character actor, I can’t be a hero, as I am 60 years old, you don’t want me to go spread my arms wide open.
I can’t be a hero, I am 60 years old!
If it’s Boman, its comedy, people expect you to make them laugh.
If that’s the way I am perceived, then fine. I can’t change people’s perception, even though I’ve done many films where I’m not playing a comedian and being funny. In Lage Raho Munnabhai, Lucky Singh wasn’t a funny guy, he was a mean chap. It’s just that there were situations that made you laugh out of nervousness. In Eklavya mine was one of the most tragic characters that I have seen in Hindi cinema, in a long time. My Wife’s Murder was serious again. Don was a nasty piece of work, in 3 Idiots I would be playing one unhappy and nasty person. In some scenes you might want to laugh, but he is not intending too. Crooked is coming out in Jan, again he is not a funny guy at all. Don 2, not funny at all. People like the comic side of me, which is fine, but at the same time I am an actor, character actor, as you label me, so I am suppose to do all kinds of roles, and that’s what I will be taking up.
In Three idiots I would be playing one unhappy and nasty person
You’re not just a film actor you are also a Theatre person, which platform gives you more satisfaction?
There’s a great charm in theatre, I enjoyed doing it for twelve years and did lots of plays. There’s great fun in being a cinema actor and I wouldn’t trade one for the other. I am enjoying my stint in cinema, it’s only been six years and I would like to continue till I get fed up of it myself.
I am enjoying my stint in cinema, I would like to continue till I get fed up of it myself
One film after another, do you miss the stage at all?
Yes, very much in fact. But like I said I wouldn’t trade one for the other. At this chapter of my life, I am a cinema actor and I would like to continue to be so and at some point I would return to the theatre.
Having done variety of roles, with still more pouring in. Are you happy where you stand today or are we still searching for the dream role?
I am not looking for just one dream role. I would say it’s been going very well so far. In six years, I have done range of roles that I feel were challenging, some not so, some that I am proud of and some that I am not but I will stand by them. But if I turn around and say that I am satisfied, my game is up. I am looking to explore myself as an actor as a character as a lead actor, but it’s not just one role, it can’t be, It’s stupid!
How do you decide which film is worth it and which is not?
There are many reasons to do a film. One is that the script should be great even if the role is just ok. If the role is great but the script isn’t, I don’t think that’s the best way to go. The people you are working with have to be of a certain kind of commitment, and then there are others you work for because you support them. Thankfully it has not happened to me yet, but you might need the money. I don’t think I can just do one kind of film. I want to do all kinds of films from big blockbusters to shoestring budget films, and enjoy both the worlds, learn what goes into the two kinds. It’s not necessary that they would work, there is a great possibility that a blockbuster might not work. We have to find a good enough reason to wake up in the morning and be excited to go to work and for the time being I am looking for that.
Let’s talk about Fruit And Nut, what’s this film all about?
Kunal Vijaykar is a very dear friend of mine. He’s a friend who has bonded with me over food. He wanted to do this film and I said ‘ok’. This film is mad if you ask me, it’s insane. He is also working with insane group of people. We have Cyrus, we have Mahesh and Divya who seems to be the only straight person in the film. There’s also Rajat Kapoor in the film, a complete nut job. I think there are more nuts than fruits in Fruit And Nut. It’s just that I don’t want to describe this film or put it under a category. It’s insanity without description. Insanity has no real description or else I would have been a psychologist.
I think there are more nuts than fruits in Fruit And Nut
Then let’s talk about your character in the film.
My character claims to be a maharaja of Mumbai. His name is Maharaja Harry Holkar. Who insists that if you don’t give him back his city he will blow it up. The movie is an experience you either love or hate, we’re not trying to say that we have a message for you. We were just out there making a movie that has no description. It’s insane, it’s mad; it’s wild, and its whacko!
What was your intention when you took it up?
The idea was there and I was all set for the ride. Kunal would come up with ideas on how the character look’s, what he says, his quirks. He is suppose to be this terrorist who’s whimsical, one day he would be caring and next day he would want your head. I don’t want to tell you too much because he defies description and logic. We are not apologetic at all because the filmmakers never said that they are making a meaningful film at all. It’s not meaningful it’s bizarre.
Working with a debut director on a bizarre film, how was it?
A first time director wants to give his best but at the same time he didn’t get serious on the set thinking what if this doesn’t work. As far as he is concerned, it was ‘let’s go out there and do it and let’s have fun while doing it.’ I think it’s a great spirit to have around otherwise you are worried about whether it’s working and then trying to mend it, fine tune it or polish it and it looses the essence of what the film was intended to be. I think Kunal gets the spirit of the film going.
With edgy Mahesh Manjrekar on one side along with funny man Cyrus, what were the dynamics on the set?
Most of the times I couldn’t understand what Cyrus was saying because in the film I am suppose to be a senior 90 year old man. When I watched the film I understood what was really being said. Mahesh was inventing dialogues as he went along. When I saw the film I was like what the hell did he say? That’s the spirit of the film we made.
Mahesh Manjrekar was inventing dialogues as he went along. When I saw the film I was like what the hell did he say?
What about Dia? You’ve worked with her before as well.
Actually I have very little to do with Dia in the film, we just have two scenes together. One is where I kidnap her and threaten to kill her, and then I don’t even know why she is there and I forget. I say ‘who have we brought?’ and I would ask her ‘did you have your breakfast.’ But Dia is an extremely pretty girl and is extremely fond of me and likewise.
You always do a lot of field work for your characters, what research did you do for this film?
There is nobody who exists like Harry Holkar. I’ll be very honest, I did not go out there doing homework for this. We just came up with his look and the way he spoke. There is no one who remotely looks, behaves and exists like Harry Holkar. The character defies logic and sanity.
There is no one who remotely looks, behaves and exists like Harry Holkar. The character defies logic and sanity.
The character sings though, there is a song you sang here.
I did sing a song, it’s his introduction and it’s called ‘Khabardaar’. He is telling everybody beware, Holkar is on its way. I didn’t insist on singing, though I wanted to sing. But I made them come and request ‘would you please sing for us?’
Fruit And Nut, we’ve figured out the nuts, what’s the fruit about?
The way you say ‘As nutty as a fruit cake’. That’s the phrase that explains this.
Your final take on the film?
The test audience that saw the film were laughing and I asked them what do you find funny in it and they said we don’t know we just laughed. An audience makes the film eventually. We had great fun making it and we just want people to know that we are not pretending to make a very meaningful film or a masterpiece with great many layers, there are no layers. It’s a stupid film and its fun.