Irrfan and Kangana Ranaut came together for an informal chat about the Hindi film industry, the `100 crore obsession in Bollywood, and more, for film critic Anupama Chopra's Film Companion. Here are some exclusive excerpts from the conversation.
On 'heart-breaking' criticism:
Kangana: What's the one thing you would change about the Hindi film industry?
Irrfan: I think I would like to change the name, Bollywood.
Kangana: I agree, it's embarrassing. It is degrading.
Irrfan: It's very regressive. I think our industry is very insecure and people keep feeling threatened by other people's success. Also, audiences say they love you, but somehow there's a kind of grudge everybody carries.
Kangana: The recent instance was the case of Bombay Velvet. It's my friend's movie and it didn't do well. I have seen this happen a lot... everyone became so venomous… it's heart-breaking. I don't understand how critics and people get so personal. Movies are not everything. Honestly, 90 per cent of the country doesn't even care about the movie business. Money is not everything, but you guys (critics) can seriously scar people. This social media platform, which people go crazy about; it's venomous.
Being an outsider in the industry:
Kangana: I have always been asked about the 'outsider' thing, and for the longest time, when I wasn't that successful, and you (Irrfan) were doing a lot of international work, kyunki meri bhi bahut ichha hai ki I do international work (even I really want to do international projects), I used to give your example. I have watched you on TV, doing small roles. I've watched you in the best films in the world, and today, I see you as an extremely successful person and completely deserving. That's the most important thing, right? What do you feel about being an outsider?
Irrfan: It takes time. Being an outsider is one thing. There's another cross we are carrying — we don't want to do the formula thing. When I did Haasil (2003), we (director Tigmanshu Dhulia and Irrfan) wanted to redefine commercial cinema. What is entertainment? We should redefine it.
The international perception of Bollywood:
Kangana: People internationally think Indians have low IQ because they need to make cinema that can entertain only a child. They really look down upon us… they think we really have low IQ when it comes to cinema, which is not true.
Irrfan: It is partially true. That's the reality. Bhatt saab (film-maker Mahesh Bhatt) is a really intelligent person. Kai baar bolte the ke, "Irrfan! Gandi acting kar. Spoon-feed the audience (he often used to ask me to act badly)." That's because he has a connection with the audience, with the kind of films he makes.
Kangana: Somebody told me that, "If you carry on like this, tumhari acting ki dukaan band ho jayegi (your acting career will end)."
Irrfan: Exactly! Mujhe bhi yahin bola gaya tha ki "Kaam milna band ho jayega agar acchi acting karega," (Even I was told the same; you won't get work if you keep doing impressive acting).
Kangana: People ask me, what is the formula for success? I tell them no faces, no fingerprints, no leaves, and nothing in the world is alike. Everyone has their own journey.
The ‘`100 crore curse’:
Irrfan: How do you react to the `100 crore curse?
Kangana: It is a curse indeed, but I am just talking about the numbers. I don’t even pay attention to them. The most amazing film of my life, I don't know how much money it made, and it is not even my concern.
Irrfan: I think the audience shouldn't follow everything that has been fed to them.
Kangana: I agree.
Irrfan: A film should be remembered for whatever it is. Agar `90 crore ki picture hai aur `100 crore kama leti hai toh kya matlab hai (if a film is made in `90 crore and does a business of `100 crore, then what's the point?) It's (the concept) a curse. Every film is now judged by numbers. There was a hit film, I don't want to mention the name, which did a business of `90 crore, and the makers said "Arey yaar, char crore aur ho jate (wish the movie had made four crore more)". That's the kind of mentality.
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