It’s been a quiet 2016 thus far for Irrfan Khan following a prolific 2015. Last year, Indian cinema’s most astute chameleon ventured across film genres (from the heartrending Indie ‘Qissa’ to the blockbuster smash ‘Jurassic Park’) and characters – from Deepika Padukone’s reluctant lover Rana Chaudhary in ‘Piku’ to the righteous cop Ashwin Kumar in ‘Talvar’.
‘Madaari’ is Khan’s first venture in India in 2016 – although he’s been busy lending his voice to the ‘The Jungle Book’ and putting the finishing touches to the next Tom Hanks blockbuster ‘Inferno’.
‘Madaari’ tells the story of an Indian father who kidnaps a top politicians son as revenge for his own child’s death in an accident caused as a direct result of government corruption.
The UKAsian caught up with the actor to find out more.
Ruchi Raj: Irrfan thank you so much for speaking with us. Tell us a bit about Madaari first of all.
Irrfan Khan: This is a hard core thriller but it’s also a very, very strong emotional drama of the relationship between a father and a son. So this is a special combination and a difficult juxtaposition of these two elements, a thriller and an emotional drama. It is a story of a father and a son which I want people to watch with their kids. After watching this film, I am pretty sure everybody going or whoever has a kid will hug and kiss their children.
RR: The film’s’ tagline is ‘Desh So Raha Hai’ (“The Nation is Asleep”). Can you elaborate on that?
IK: Well it’s about ‘Awareness’. People should be aware of their duties and their rights. We should not be complacent. You cannot just forget about the system after giving the vote or choosing a candidate. You think that the politician has a magic wand to change everything. You have to constantly participate, otherwise the system starts exploiting you, and the system starts working against you. So you have to be constantly aware and participate and ask the right questions. It’s not just about demanding your rights you must also know your duties.
RR: Your character in the film – the father – appears to take matters into his own hands against the authorities. Is this a good thing to encourage or does India actually need a social movement where people take matters into their own hands?
IK: We are not suggesting people to take matters into their hands. It is a reflection of helplessness. What one should do and are there any answers? I am trying to find answers. You will be better equipped about asking this question once you see the film. What he does after taking things in his hand, you must watch the film and then maybe you will be able to ask me.
RR: You had a meeting with AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal just before the film’s release. What did you discuss?
IK: I was thankful that he gave me time and I did not want to waste his time. He has a lot more responsibility than me. My reason was that my film cannot ask too many questions as it is a drama, a medium of emotions so I can tell a story. There are so many questions that popped up when doing this film so I thought this is the time to go and ask the person the questions about the system so that people who are watching this conversation can get more information about the system and how it works.
RR: But the meeting attracted a lot of vitriol on Social Media. Were you surprised by that?
IK: This is a strange thing about this trolling. It is a new thing which has started happening. It creates a strange atmosphere. It creates an atmosphere of hatred which you don’t like. I feel helpless and bad about it. I don’t know what to do about it. The people who are in power, and who have the ability to make the atmosphere better or more harmonious where there is a possibility of a dialogue instead of throwing stones at each other. People who have the power should do something about it.
RR: Do you have a meeting with Mr Rahul Gandhi lined up as well?
IK: He did respond to me and I am very thankful for that. He was willing to do it. But there was a parliament session going on so he could not allocate time but maybe if there is an occasion later I would meet him.
RR: Your career is going from strength to strength, both in India and abroad. What are the key differences across industries?
IK: They have not been different. I have been fortunate to have worked with renowned directors of the world and I could contribute a little bit and that has been a fascinating thing for me. And here is my hometown, and I am privileged to work in both industries.
RR: What’s your mantra when approaching a character?
IK: There is not one formula of preparation. Every time a role demands a different thing and you have to use a trial and error method. I don’t have one formula which I apply as every film demands are different.
RR: What is the one role that you would still like to play but have not yet been offered?
IK: There are so many roles that I would love to play, not just one role. So many fascinating real life characters I would love to play and to bring them onto screen. There is the area of romance that I would like to explore more. There are so many things. I also get bored with repetitive characters and I’m always looking to expand my horizons. When you do a film about something, you explore that as an actor and that becomes your experience, your personality. If I am doing a film about revenge, I should explore all the possibilities of revenge, how I should define it, I should see it with a naked eye as to what it means, as I don’t want to repeat what has already been said about revenge. Whatever subject I am doing, whether it is love or education, I explore it as a subject and all aspects of it and that broadens you as an actor.
RR: Would you consider moving into direction as well, now that you have done production and acting?
IK: No, not at all.
RR: What is the most gratifying thing about what you do for a living?
IK: I think the experience which you have through life or through exploring a subject, you live that and that experience is what you share through the story with the audience and that experience of yours becomes their experience. This sense of sharing is the most gratifying aspect of being an actor. And this is the most precious thing.
‘Madaari’ is in UK cinemas now.