His latest release is a slice-of-life film which finds relatability to life in some way, but the thing about Irrfan Khan is that – he is such a natural! He brings in some sort of honesty to every performance and you don’t really see that as acting. We catch up with the actor at a coffee shop chatting about ‘Qarib Qarib Singlle’ and more…

Was it the emotional core of the film which attracted you towards ‘Qarib Qarib Singlle’?
When I was reading the script, I took some time for it, about 8-9months. But when Sutapa and Shailja heard the script, they saw a very bright happy film. They said, we keep making films but we don’t make stories where the families can come and be happy. I saw the possibility through them. For me, it is about two odd people coming together but I’m coming from a background which is futuristic. Though we studied in co-ed school, but from what I saw, I believed that there’s always tension between a man and a woman. In my childhood, I could never see a possibility of just being a friend with a girl. If there’s a girl, you have to fall in love. There has to be sexual connotation with the girl – that’s the mental set-up in north India. Rather, it was the society in which I grew up. So, for me, to see a man-woman together, they are not really giving importance to each other’s gender. That’s the kind of liberation and freedom which was more important to me in this film – that how to treat a girl when she’s not guarded, she’s with you, she doesn’t know you, you don’t know her and you’re on a journey.

Also, was this kind of love story refreshing amidst the usual love stories that Hindi cinema has to offer? Also do you think it’s important to bring out something new even if the genre maybe the same?
I think it has become necessary to bring out something new. Either you make a big budget film, with all big elements which doesn’t need to relate to life at all or if you are making films otherwise, it’s necessary for them to reflect life. Now 4-5 years back, I used to still get scripts which were influenced by good films, bad films, from here and Hollywood. Now I do see films where people are using their language, and films reflecting lives. And the audience is demanding it. If you don’t do it then the audience will disappear and one has to do it. Even if you’re doing a formula film, you have to find freshness in that. The formula is never going to go away ever, but you need innovations and the audience is getting more and more smart day by day. Because the audience is exposed to world cinema, world drama. We don’t lack subjects, it’s just that the producers aren’t there, writers are still coming up. But things are changing and changing for good.

You mentioned this to me last time, that you’ve learnt to re-invent yourself from Hollywood actors, but do you look that as a bit of a pressure too?
The only concern while doing a movie is that, it has to engage me, it has to entertain me. That’s the only thing and that’s why you need so much time to say yes and then prepare. Like for this film, I didn’t know how to approach the character. It’s coming from two brilliant female writers who have their own take on a man and woman. So, you’ll see that there are so many nuances in the female character. The male character is entertaining but it might get stereotypical if you don’t take care of it and don’t bring in your own shade. It was a brilliant role for Parvathy, I told her you are the hero of the film. But for me, I couldn’t connect to the character. He is an entertaining guy, but for me, I need to seek a character and understand it. He might say a joke but it’s not working for me. So what is it working for him? That took time for me to soak in. I didn’t know how to play this character for a long time!

Then how did you get it right?
It came because you keep trying things and they start seeming natural. You see some aspects at first and then when you dwell into that, the rest of the things start showing. Then when you get footings, you just go by the flow. Then many things just happen on the set, instantly. That’s the magical part of doing any role. You know that you are now riding the horse. It’s just that you need directions.

“Sometimes in cinema, non-actors are much more magical than actors because actors bring expected reaction to a situation”

Is it your exposure which has made you less scared to try out different characters?
It is my need. I always hated it when I saw the craft in people’s performance. I used to see great actors but I could still see the craft, I could see how they’re constructing the role. There are certain actors where the craft used to disappear. And that’s why sometimes in cinema, non-actors are much more magical than actors because actors bring expected reaction to a situation. A real person doesn’t know what he is going to do. And the camera captures your subconscious sometimes. I always tried to reach to a point where I don’t know what’s going to happen.

How happy are you about ‘Hindi Medium’ doing so well, especially when it comes to the return on investment?
It’s a pleasing experience and you want that to repeat, for the only reason that it gives you more power to do your kind of stuff. You’re looking forward to it but you don’t want to create a formula or definition for it. That will become a trap. So, I want to keep things simple – that I believe in my instincts, I believe in certain stories and I’m aware that a film is not just a canvas where I’m creating a painting in isolation. It needs acknowledgement from the audience. And it’s not even a book, which people can read after a while. It will need an instant reaction from the audience. I am aware of that. So you choose subjects keeping that in mind for sure. When I get a film, I’m definitely thinking if it has the possibility to get people’s acknowledgment. I want to keep it instinctive.

What’s next after ‘Qarib Qarib Singlle’?
I have another film with T-series, it is still untitled and Abhinay Deo is directing it. Then there’s a film called ‘Puzzle’ which will go to some festivals. ‘Karwan’ is complete. Now I’ll get into a web-series.

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