Boman Irani on his life and times from potato chips to striking gold in the movies, interviewed by Priya Pathiyan.
You've played practically every role under the sun.. how successful do you feel?
It's good to be in the glow of success..but I don't get carried away, I don't think like a celeb. My family and satisfaction at work are the two most important elements in my life.
My wife Zenobia and my sons Danesh and Kayoze are aware of my success but also wary of attaching too much importance to its trappings. Even when we moved house, we chose a nice quiet place in Dadar's Parsi Colony instead of a flashy apartment in a flashier locality.
What defined your wonder years?
I had a childhood that was full of innocence and discovery There was ease as well as growing up pains. There was a predominantly female presence: three sisters and my mother, plus four maternal aunts and a paternal one! My four maasis would descend upon us quite often. <b1>
Were you a spoilt brat?
Not really In fact, till the fourth standard, I was quite an introvert. After that, something went wrong. I became a naughty boy, I went crazy! I couldn't sit still or let go of any chance to tease people and have fun.
But seriously, let's not confuse love with mollycoddling. If you're from a family in which security and love are in abundance, chances are that you'll be successful in whatever you do.
And you've done quite a lot of different things, haven't you?
Ha ha! You could say that. After school at St Mary's in Mazgaon, I took up science at Pune's Wadia College. I couldn't even boil water those days. When my mother had an accident and couldn't run the family business anymore, I started looking after our Golden Wafers shop at Grant Road.
So you know all about potato chips. What makes for the perfect crunch?
It's all about the quality of potatoes and where they're grown. Potatoes from Shimla are very good, Nashik's are not bad. I could go on and on about this.. I was into the potato chips business for 20 years.
What made you to turn to still photography? <b2>
It was a hobby I took street pictures and landscapes. When I was 32 my neighbour, Aubrey Sequeira, who ran an ad agency in Chennai, encouraged me to turn to photography professionally .
I was in Chennai for a couple of months. I was a full-time photographer doing ad work, portraits, celebrity shoots…
Then you moved on to acting. Does this indicate a rolling stone syndrome?
No. In fact, when I was shooting, Shiamak (Davar) had told me, "You're an actor. You should be acting." He insisted that I should try out theatre. So I did stage on weekends. My first role was that of a pimp! It was just a cameo in Alyque Padamsee's Roshni, but it got me rave reviews.
Every Sunday I'd come back feeling extremely thrilled. I'd be paid just Rs 700-Rs 1,000 a night but I learnt about team work.. theatre trains you for life and cinema.
Was film acting the inevitable next step?
I'd done cameos in Josh and Everybody Says I'm Fine. Let's Talk came about in 2002. It was a small digital video film.. an experiment. Aamir Khan, Ashutosh Gowariker, Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Javed Akhtar had a look at it.
The film went to the Locarno film festival! Vinod Chopra had said to me, "Dates rakhna.. next December." That's how Munnabhai MBBS happened. After that, it's been relentless.. one story narration after the other.
Has your lifestyle changed dramatically after Bollywood?
No, it hasn't. Even when I want to travel, it's to simple but enriching destinations. I always encourage people to find the exotic that's within reach.