Although Om Puri, Anil Kapoor and Anupam Kher have featured in Hollywood films in the past, it is Irrfan Khan who is currently enjoying the limelight in the west. After films such as The Namesake (2006), Life of Pi (2012) and Jurassic World (2015), Irrfan has managed to carve a niche for himself in the industry. “The exciting thing about Hollywood is that it keeps you on your toes,” says the actor, adding, “You have to keep reinventing yourself. It’s an unforgiving industry. If you are not up to the mark, you could be removed from there (Hollywood)”.
Apart from his recent release which is based on a book, Irrfan’s other films such as Haider (2014) and 7 Khoon Maaf (2011), are also adaptations. Ask him if film-makers are being lazy by not coming up with original stories, and relying on books for the same, and Irrfan says, “It is always an inspiration when your films are based on books.” He goes on to add that he is always “excited” to do such kinds of films. “Actors get a lot of material, when they are doing a film based on a book. A film’s script is not literature. Literature has its own kind of storytelling, and it’s more detailed. A film’s script is more of an outline of what’s in the film. It’s a sketch, and actors have to fill colours in it,” says the actor.
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Though Irrfan is presently juggling between the Bollywood and Hollywood industry, he maintains that as an actor, he has to keep working hard to retain his popularity. “There are certain actors who are blessed and have a market value just because of who they are (star kids). We, on the other hand, have to keep on working on varied stories (films). Even to make my profession exciting, I need to keep surprising myself by the choices I make in my career. I cannot rely on a formula,” he says.
Before exploring the film industry, Irrfan was noticed for his work on television. He has TV shows, such as Chandrakanta and Best Sellers, to his credit. Speaking of the content in television shows today, the actor says that he doesn’t see a “change happening anytime soon”. “If online streaming apps could come up with shows that manage to engage the audience, then we have some hope,” he says, adding, “Otherwise our television is catering only to a certain section of the audience. We want to play the same game. We are not ready to take risks.”
Like Irrfan, other Bollywood actors such as Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone, are working in Hollywood films. Reportedly, their characters in these films will be glamorous. But, Irrfan says, “I don’t think makers are merely concerned about the glamour quotient when it comes to Priyanka and Deepika. They are already two established actors, and we are hopeful that they will bring in diversity, which I know they will. They have just started their Hollywood careers.”