India's gifted talent Irffan Khan on the master Ang Lee, Life Of PI and much more
You speak less about your Hollywood projects?
I don't believe in making empty noise. I don't want to feel embarrassed when the films come out. This film has my contribution and I should speak about. If you haven't played a major role in the success of the film then what is the point of talking about it. You want to own the film. Like Namesake I can say it's my film. Spiderman I wasn't sure how much role was there or not and I don't want to cheat my fans. I don't want to give wrong impression that I AM DOING SPIDERMAN COME AND WATCH IT. It hasn't suited me. I would like to talked about the film which I am sure about..
What's your role in Life Of PI?
The character deals with faith, existence, nature and creation. I play Ang Lee's PI not Yannmartel the authors PI. As I said this subject deals with lots of issues and physically it is difficult to accumulate the tiger, the boat and the sea. Ang wanted me to have French Canadian Indian accent. I had no reference for that and I don't know how to do that. I never realise that I could have voice coach for that. And then I kept preparing myself lot of time.
What preparations you did?
You do always have preconceived notion about the character. You have this for the character, about the story, you have lots of ideas when you enter into the set.. with Ang Lee its different. I became zero when I went for the shoot whatever homework I did it didn't help and I felt I haven't contributed to the film at all. I felt like everything is taken away from me and I don't know how to act. That night I have to take out all my preconceive notion about myself that I am an actor Irffan khan and came here to do Life of PI. Next day I went to the shoot as a blank sheet.
As an actor how difficult it is to represent a novel character?
it's all depends on the subject. To make a film like this needs many million dollars. This kind of subject is for the masses, it requires lots of effort and understanding. I don't think Ang Lee has made such a film before. I hope this becomes Ang Lee's best film Just like Tigmanshu's Paan Singh Tomar, Vishal Bhardwaj Maqbool, Danny Boyle Slumdog Millionaire.
What is your spiritual exploration via this movie?
It also deals about faith but doesn't talk about organised religion. What I think is what I see now a day is more people are getting away from organised religion. All the people want to believe that they have faith but they don't want to confirm it to any religion. Same with me I can connect to any religion but cannot confirm it to any organised one.
Did you have any kind of interact with Ang about the character?
Ang was too busy shooting the journey of the boy so I couldn't get enough time. I move to Taiwan before 6 days but I met him just one day. To understand his vision in one day was not possible. So I was lacking the interaction with Ang. well Ang has its own vision of the character. So I have to completely understand what he wanted.
Did you see the rough shot of the film to understand the character?
Yes I did but that wasn't enough. And it wasn't even edited. When you see it now it is having the impact at that time it wasn't like that.
Did you consult Yannmerte, the author of the book?
Yes I did then I realise it won't help because it was yannmertel version and I was concern about Ang Lee version.
What you will say about the 3D used in the film?
I am proud to be in the film. This is one of the film where you can say you have never seen a 3D like that there is new exploration of 3D. He has taken 3D to another level not just about its effect he used it in a poetic way.
Did Ang Lee welcomed your inputs as an actor?
Oh yes he constantly asked and we used to discuss the character. It was a collaborative work, discuss was just to make his vision my own. Initially when I met him when I heard the story I thought it is bullshit. Pi is bullshit. Whatever he is saying you completely deny. I cannot appear to be fake. The story he was telling was so fascinating but it leads you to doubts. He is also evolving, he is also searching. During the process he was also exploring the characters as I was exploring the characters. I cannot take those words as final judgments. If the pi becomes unreliable then the whole film will turn unreliable. I have to make out whether he is telling the story or just cooking up and that was fascinating.
You have worked with both Bollywood directors and Hollywood directors what difference you found?
We make films which are at the surface there is no layer beneath but if you take any big Hollywood film even if it's a commercial blockbuster kind of film there are hidden layers beneath. If you see Slumdog Millionaire it is a drama but for an intellect viewer will relate to the film in the completely different manner. When a child will watch Life Of Pi he will take it differently and when and adult will watch he will take it differently. That was it strives for. our next generation are going to watch this films which will help them, inspire them. This is our film it is based on Indian character.
Where do we lack?
There are few areas where we need to work like release of the film. The way it is planned in America we still need to find it in our system. They find the right audience for the film. They really works out what type of audience are going to watch the film and they release accordingly. We find the formula and we applied it to every film. We don't have different strategy to release a film of different budgets. We have a similar way of promotion, similar way of release we haven't worked out the system yet. The ticket rate of 5 cr film and 100 cr film is same.
Can you say that this film belongs to India?
I am very clear that people come to watch cinema for emotional experience. This kind of film is for world not just for India. Our audience will not watch dark and depressive cinema. They want emotions eg. Sahib Biwi and Gangster this film is not just the people but it talked about the whole society. The Zamindar is like values we had and the lumping class which are coming up which doesn't have any values and there is a women who sway here and there. It reflects society. It's never there on surface and never tries to impose you the kind of intellectual but it is there for you.
How you choose Hollywood projects?
I get lot of Hollywood films. If want to shift there and live there I can do it but then I have to depend each and every movie coming my way and I don't want to do that. I choose the subject which are special to me and which is giving me some extra as an actor to engage myself. I earn less. I get one fourth of the money and sometime I have lost money as well but the kind of film I did has given me longer life as an actor. The prime thing was to keep me interested in this job. Once I will lose interest then what I will do.
Why western directors zero in on you?
You ask them. I enjoy the situation.
Do you believe that you are a saleable artist?
I am doing films because I am a saleable artist or why would anyone have taken me on films. Industry is not for social service. They cast you because you bring them money. I have my own limit, market and viability that why I am being cast. They are paying me because I can bring money to them not for being a good actor. Good acting is just bonus. They have casted me in PaanSingh because I can act as well as I can bring money.
The why critically acclaimed film then 100cr films?
If we talked about 100 cr Slumdog has earn more than 800 crs, Spiderman has gone beyond that. Pi itself is 500cr so I am working on both kinds of films. I am talking about 1000 crs.
How you will define your life?
Its similar to PI. It is sea, ocean, tiger you feel the same way.