The man has done it again, and he continues to throw in a surprise with every release of his. More than 20 years in the business and Irrfan Khan still has a knack of showing something that he hasn’t before to the audience. At times, one is left wondering if there are numerous stories that are still waiting to be told with Irrfan as a protagonist. Especially with a recent stack of films that is as varied as The Lunchbox, D-Day, Haider, Life of Pie, Paan Singh Tomar and now of course Piku, Irrfan Khan is making it count big, and how. Still, with all the accolades coming in, he continues to be grounded as ever. Over to Irrfan.
Deepika Padukone playing the title role, a veteran like Big B occupying the screen with his towering frame, and then Irrfan comes in and suddenly makes the movie his own. You have a knack for making it happen all the time, right?
I don’t know actually (smiles). Whenever I watch my films, my basic concern is that whether audiences like the film as a whole or not. If they like only about one performance then it’s a problem as it doesn’t help many. A story should work for the audience and Piku is one film with which cinema has scored rather than individual people. This is an ensemble cast and Shoojit (Sircar) was clear from the beginning that story was going to be the biggest star. Piku has now turned out to be a film with which mainstream cinema has moved ahead.
The understated romance between you and Deepika is a highlight of Piku. How do you think that has connected with the audience?
Initially when I heard then narration, the romance quotient was not so underlined. It blossomed while shooting. Yes, it was there in the script but not so apparent. It was the eagerness of me and Deepika and Shoojit who wanted to bring out the flavour of romance that wasn’t seen before on screen. Working with Deepika brought it all out. While shooting, I thought as if I had known her for years. As a matter of fact, I had never met her even once in my life. We interacted for the first time on the sets and as we started working, it seemed as if I knew her from childhood. Our chemistry turned out to be great.
And then the two of you hit it out of the park!
You find it that way because you too were an outsider in the story, just as my character was. So that flavor of romance seems very fresh. It is the kind that you haven’t seen in Hindi cinema before. So at one side you are having arguments and khich-khich and then the other side there is this beautiful romance blossoming. That is what creates a spell.
Guess you are redefining romantic genre in your own way with films like The Lunchbox and Piku.
These are the ones that fresh in your mind but I have done Saheb Biwi aur Gangster 2, Maqbool, Life…In A Metro, Yeh Saali Zindagi as well – Now all of these are romantic as well. See, I have been longing to do romantic stories. There is so much more to explore in romance; there is so much left out there. Main hamesha chahta hoon ki aur romantic movies aani chahiye. Rest is on what destiny offers me. I wish I can have the best of them for me with which I can entertain people. I will wait for it.
Other than romance, your outburst in the car with Big B turned out to be a highlight as well?
Yeah, that was a fantastic scene on paper itself. I remember that we were shooting at night and there were lights outside the window of our car. Initially for the scene I was think of stepping out, lean on Mr. Bachchan’s window and tell him on his face what I felt. I tried and it didn’t feel right so I did it while seated itself. Mr. Bachchan also felt that stepping out of the car was breaking the tempo. Maybe if it was a day scene then I would have done it the way I envisaged. However, because of lights outside, it was difficult to do that, so I just thought of going with the flow.
Guess audience is not complaining either ways. Moreover, the film has taken a huge opening internationally. Guess you can be given good credit for that considering your stint in Hollywood?
I have international audiences which love my work and there are NRIs who feel proud of somebody coming from India and doing those films. I think it takes time but that is translating well now. That said, Piku has Bachchan saab and Deepika who have their own special place in people’s heart. Moreover, Shoojit has proved his worth time and again. All of that counts collectively.