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Paan Singh, on record

Irrfan Khan, out to ‘immortalise’ the story of India’s rebel runner, talks about playing Spider-Man’s newest opponent and other projects. The actor plays the antagonist in the blockbuster summer release.

bollywood Updated: Feb 25, 2012 13:49 IST
Roshmila Bhattacharya

He was missing in the first trailer of Mark Webb’s superhero film, Amazing Spider-Man, but Irrfan Khan has now been sighted in the second promo. The actor plays the antagonist in the blockbuster summer release. Nels Van Adder (played by Irrfan) pitches in with his superior intellect to help Rhy Ifan’s Lizard take down Peter Parker’s masked superhero in this Spider-Man film.

Buzz is that if he survives the encounter, Van Adder could reappear in future installments of the franchise. He may be even metamorphosing into the red-skinned, yellow-haired Proto Goblin from the Marvel comics.

Quiz Irrfan on this and he shrugs, “I don’t know the ‘sources’ of these stories since I myself am clueless about what will happen or who will be there in the next Spider-Man film. I haven’t even seen this one yet. But it’s a big high for an Indian to be a part of a popular folklore in the American film industry. I like the way Marc Webb approached me with the role. I wasn’t just another Indian actor for him, he had seen all my movies and the respect he accorded me was fantastic.”

Meanwhile, Irrfan has been shooting for another international movie in Punjab. “Qissi is an Indian, German, French and Dutch co-production. I play a sardar and have come straight from the fields. The turban is gone but I’m still wearing the ‘kada’ (bracelet) and have to look into the mirror again and again to convince myself that this guy in a jacket who’s at the studio promoting Paan Singh Tomar is the same Irrfan,” he laughs.

Tigmanshu Dhulia’s biopic on one of India’s greatest athletes opens in the theatres on March 2 and Irrfan is hoping the film immortalises his achievements. “Paan Singh Tomar won the steeplechase event at the National Games for seven straight years, yet, when we were researching the film, we could not find any records on him. It’s so sad,” sighs the internationally acclaimed actor.

To add to the irony, the hero on the tracks, gives up running, quits his post of a ‘subedar’ in the army to become a dacoit. However, Irrfan is quick to dispel any misconception about his reel life avatar turning bad. “ He was a rebel with a cause, not a rebel without a pause. Even in the Chambal ravines, Paan Singh led a disciplined life. He didn’t loot for money or picked up girls from the villages. He had his values and his self-respect. It was the system that let him down,” asserts Irrfan pointing to the film’s promo, ‘Bihad mein baaghi hote hain, dakeit milte hai Parliament mein’ (There are rebels in the wilderness and dacoits in Parliament).