“It’s the daddy who gets the tightest hug from all the female actors, in Bollywood films. So it’s okay for my schoolmates to be jealous of me,” joked the versatile and very cool Boman Irani, to a crowd of 200 women — who had gathered to hear him and later didn’t let him go anywhere!
At an interactive session last Friday, the 57-year-old actor spoke about his life journey (from being a shopkeeper to a sports photographer), learning and leadership skills, which enraptured the audience — members of FICCI Ladies Organisation at FICCI auditorium in Mandi House.
His charm and witty one-liners worked well on the ladies, who took to the stage, after his talk, and crowded the actor, to the extent that he had to fold his hands and request them to arrange themselves in neat rows, for a perfect picture.
I was called duffer by the neighbour’s mom.
Guess, he was too much to handle! And why not, when he could jest about the multiple disorders, he was born with. “I was born dyslexic and till date have dyscalculia. Do you know what was the technical term for dyslexia in the ‘50s? Duffer. I was called duffer by the neighbour’s mom,” he said, thanking Aamir Khan for making the film, Taare Zameen Par (2007) - in which the young protagonist suffered from dyslexia.
Those 5 bucks, of tip, was my first ever hard earned money.
He added that though he did manage to pass in Mathematics, it was a challenge for him to choose a profession for himself. “I decided to become a waiter, and went for an interview at the The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel but was asked to join the housekeeping department first. “A cup of tea at the hotel used to cost nine rupees, in those days when you could get a tea at an Irani cafe for 25 paise. One day, when I served a tea to a guest, he left five rupees. I told him: Sir the bill is of nine rupees; and he told me: I know. That’s for you. Those five bucks of tip was my first ever hard earned money,” recollected Boman.
In between the talk, when the actor showed pictures of his first family trip with wife and two children, the audience comprising women went awww. “I got married when I was 25. I thought, I got to do something creative, something beyond manning my family’s wafer shop. That’s when I bought a camera - I always wanted to be a filmmaker and I always wanted to be, in many ways, where I am today - and started taking pictures of sports matches in neighbourhood because families always wanted to buy photographs of their children playing. I charged 25 rupees for a picture,” he said.
Sachin Tendulkar had both - talent and passion and Virat Kohli has both.
The actor also shared the story behind his appointment as the official photographer of The World Cup of Boxing that took place in Mumbai. “You might have the talent but not passion. Sachin Tendulkar had both and Virat Kohli has both. To prove my passion to get my first official sports assignment, I worked hard, clicking pictures of boxing matches. When I went and showed them to the president of the Indian Boxing Federation, Aspi Adajania (he is father of filmmaker Homi Adajania; that’s why I have to do all his films - laughs), who then gave me the offer letter.”
It’s a lesser known fact that Boman, after making a mark in theatre, thanks to thespian Alyque Padamsee, first acted in a short film Let’s Talk (2002). “One man saw my role in this film and gave me a cheque of two lakh rupees as signing amount for his next project. Six months later, I got a call from him saying he has found the script of the film, for which he paid me. The film was Munna Bhai M.B.B.S. and that man was filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra. Also, the person who made Let’s Talk is Ram Madhvani - who I recently accompanied to Delhi, for the 64th National Film Awards [where the filmmaker was recognised for his Sonam Kapoor starrer film, Neerja].”
Still life wasn’t as perfect for him, as one would imagine, since Boman says, “I was signed for Munna Bhai... that had to be the debut film of Vivek Oberoi but he walked out. Then Shah Rukh [Khan] and Kajol also walked out. I was the only member in the cast who was left because I had been paid already. Then when the film was finally made with a 44-year-old Sanjay Dutt playing a college guy, what happened after that every one knows.”
When that tailor got to know that it’s for the actor who played the character of Dr JC Asthana, which he was a fan of, he played and paused a pirated DVD of the [Munna Bhai] film, to stitch a suit for me in such a short time.
Ten days after Munna Bhai... released, Boman was nominated for an award and it was actor Arshad Warsi, who suggested that he wears a suit for the night after. “I didn’t have a suit, so he immediately called up a tailor, who refused to make a suit in just one night. But when the tailor got to know that the suit is for the actor who played Dr JC Asthana - who he was a fan of - he immediately agreed to help. He then came up with the idea of playing and pausing a pirated DVD of the [Munna Bhai] film, to stitch a suit for me, without taking my actual measurement, and managed to come up with a perfect fit in such a short time.”
At the awards night too, Boman had an interesting experience. “I fell twice when going on the stage to collect my first award from Prem Chopra, for the film, Munna Bhai M.B.B.S. But that’s how my life has been — falling and getting up,” Boman concludes.