Director Vishal Bhardwaj and actor Irrfan Khan are a “match made in paradise” says the actor. In 2004, the duo worked together in Maqbool, an adaptation of Macbeth, which showcased Khan as an obsessed lover, who ditches his loyalties and kills his godfather, only to be with his ladylove.
Penning scripts with dark, tragic overtones and satirical undertones has been Bhardwaj’s signature style, and Khan, in turn, plays them well on screen. So when Bhardwaj offered Khan a small role, it didn’t stop the actor from saying yes to the film. “I trust Vishal and his sensibilities. He portrays all his characters well,” he says.
Khan plays a poet, Wasiullah Khan aka Musafir in the film. However, in real life barring once in his childhood, Khan says he has never attended a ‘mushaira’ (poetry reading). “I play a modern poet who writes about the state of affairs of a society he lives in. He is not one of those who only writes about romance and pining for love,” he reveals. Much like his character in the film, Khan says he doesn’t like pessimistic poetry. “I don’t like poems where a lover talks about pain. I like it when love is metaphysical and isn’t constrained to being about a particular person. I like existential poetry.”
Bhardwaj wanted to show “a vulnerable side” to the poet, who is helplessly in love with Sussana. “His concern was if he would be able to get that softness on my face, despite the intensity he wants to reflect,” says Khan. The director made Khan listen to some songs that he had composed to help him understand the character better.
Khan, who shot for his role in the movie in Kashmir’s remote markets, reveals that while he has very little dialogue in the film, there are three songs featuring him. “I am mostly reciting poetry or song. It was challenging to recite Gulzar saab’s work. To prepare, I listened to him on CDs and he’s very enigmatic in his recitations.” About shooting in the Valley the actor says, “We shot in a guerrilla manner. We would finish our scenes quickly and run to another location. Kashmiris were very excited and a huge crowd thronged to see us.”