At the age of 40, when some actors are considered over their prime, Boman Irani debuted in Bollywood with Josh in 2000. And after entertaining the audience for 10 years, with some unforgettable roles in Munnabhai MBBS, 3 Idiots, Khosla Ka Ghosla and Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd, the actor for all seasons has now turned musician.
After surprising the audience with a live performance on the guitar, at the recently-concluded IIFA awards, Irani is now taking his “hobby”, as he calls it, one step further, by going on a five-city tour with singer and composer, Shankar Mahadevan.
The duo will be hosting and performing at the Teacher’s Origin Highnights at New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Kolkata, over the next month. Says Irani, “It’s not a concert as such, but Shankar and I will be performing songs together. I’ll be singing solo as well. I can’t reveal much about the songs at the moment, I’d rather let that be a surprise.”
Irani laughs and adds that the event isn’t meant to showcase the musician in him, “Let’s not be presumptuous and call me a musician. I’ve been a part of Teacher’s nights for years. This time, Shankar’s a part of it too, and so performing was obvious.”
“It’s fun to wear different hats as an actor,” he says. “But if someone gives me a mike, thinking of me as a singer, it would be a disaster! I’m just lucky to get the opportunity to sing.”
Irani may be modest about his musical skills, but he admits the grand musical performance at the IIFA awards, where he sang Give me some sunshine (3 Idiots) along with a Djembe player and a Sri Lankan children’s choir, was his idea. “I don’t like taking credit for things usually, but it was just an “idea”, so there’s no harm in saying that it was mine,” he jokes.
“But yes, right from the djembe player, to the idea of having kids in a choir, to the ‘star-with-a-guitar-solo’ idea, I had thought of the entire thing.”
The multi-faceted artiste, who’s also worked as a professional photographer and a theatre actor before devoting all his time to cinema, says that playing the guitar was always an “unfulfilled desire. I had always dreamt of performing music live in front of an audience,” he smiles. “But I’ve just been so lucky to get the incredible chance of performing with 50 children in front of thousands. People initially thought it was a gag, but when they realised I was serious, they were very encouraging.”
Though Irani says he knew how to “grab a couple of chords”, he took guidance from composer Raju Singh to perfect his guitar skills and singer Marianne D’Cruz to train his vocals. “I’m sure Raju thought, ‘Oh God! Another wannabe singer’, when I first met him,” he laughs.
“But we soon became friends, and I had a marvellous time learning from him. He was a big help. He first had to make a track here imagining what the Sri Lankan choir would sound like. Then, after hearing them, he had to accommodate them into a song.
“Even Marianne was a big help in opening up my vocal chords,” he continues. “I know I made one song such a big deal, but it started out with a guitar, then a djembe was added to it, and by the time the Sri Lankan kids came on board, it had become quite a production!”
Irani’s act was always meant to be a surprise, and the actor says he was ‘leading people on’ by tweeting about his doomed guitar lessons. Over the last month, the actor had tweeted several times on the microblogging website, Twitter, saying things like, “My teacher says my fingers aren't good enough to pick my own nose!! Both my hands strum at the same time.” Or “Teacher gave me a grip the strings exercise and then dozed off. He said 'good good ' in his sleep.”
He even tweeted some hilarious things like, “I asked my teacher when I would be ready for Hotel California. He said I ain’t ready for baa baa black sheep. He said....maybe it’s time I learn to play the TRIANGLE instead! maybe I should learn the cymbals and accidentally...aim for his ears...that I can practice for hours...”
When asked about his tweets, Irani laughs, “I was just fooling around. It was my sweet way of telling him how he was being patient with me. But to be very honest, ‘Give me some sunshine’ is very simple on the guitar! Even then, the audience at IIFA was extremely supportive. Salman (Khan) and Anil (Kapoor) were very sweet to me. I think it’s because I was doing it from my heart.”
Other recent actors-turned-rockstars
Saif Ali Khan: Khan has a fascination for playing the electric guitar, and a couple of years ago, he took his hobby seriously. He did a few concerts with rock band Pentagram, where he performed his favourite rock numbers with them live.
Farhan Akhtar and Arjun Rampal: For their hit movie, Rock On!! the duo picked up guitar skills and have even performed live in concert after that.
Sanjay Dutt: Often called a ‘rockstar’ by friends and admirers in the industry, Dutt has a penchant for air guitar strumming. Yes, that’s a legitimate art! He’s even won an award for the Best air guitar player at a competition in the US once.
Neil Nitin Mukesh: The son of singer Nitin Mukesh, and the grandson of legend Mukesh, Neil has music in his genes. The actor knows quite a few music instruments, and has even sung the title song in his movie, Aa Dekhen Zara.
Shruti Hassan: Kamal Hassan’s daughter may have just made her Bollywood debut, but she’s been a full-fledged musician for years. The actress is the lead vocalist of a rock band, and has played many gigs across India.
Katrina Kaif: The actress took rigorous lessons on the cello for the title role in Subhash Ghai’s Yuvraaj.
Jiah Khan: She may not be the most prolific actress, but Khan is said to be a great piano player. She’s even composed songs of her own on the piano.