Bad guy, good guy, Indian psycho and wannabe bridegroom, he has portrayed them all. Paired with Dimple Kapadia in Drishti 17 years ago, he almost faded out till a clutch of movies kicking off with Haasil and The Warrior made him kayo the competition. His performances in The Mighty Heart and The Namesake have fetched him glowing reviews, from Virar and Venice to Vladivostok. So, will he be nominated for the Academy Awards? The heat is on..over to Irrfan Khan in a chatty mood with Roshmila Bhattacharya.
You're the first Indian to be nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Award at the Indie Spirits. An Oscar nomination now seems a foregone conclusion.
(Smiles) Aren't we putting the cart before the horse? In the west, it's really hard to get noticed.. it's even more difficult at Oscars because your film has to be screened for every member of the Academy to get votes. This means huge expenditure.<b1>
Mira (Nair) has been working hard.. the studio (Fox Searchlight) has been promoting The Namesake too. But there so many contenders, so many excellent performances. Eventually, it's about how much noise you make.
Reportedly, Mira Nair is pushing hard for a nomination for Tabu.
Perhaps she feels Tabu has a better chance because she had a fullfledged role. But they're banking on me too. I've been called for all the q and a sessions. The airplane fares and hotel accommodation amounts to a lot.
If the studio thinks I didn't have a chance, they wouldn't have touched me. Even though my character dies halfway through the film, you don't forget Ashoke, you take him home with you.
I just wish they'd released the film now. But I'm just a naïve guy.. the studios know better. Maybe they wanted to give it more space so it wouldn't be lost in the Oscar rush.
Your The Mighty Heart co-star, Angelina Jolie, has also snagged a Best Actress nomination at the Indie Spirits. What are her chances of winning?
That's difficult to say since I haven't seen the other performances nominated. But even before we started shooting, I knew this role would be important for Angelina. <b2>
The Mighty Heartadequately promoted in India?
I guess the Indian market (for American cinema) is not big enough to merit extra expenditure on publicity. But back there with some nominations - it's been nominated for Best Screenplay too -
The Mighty Heart
could win a few awards. There could be a big re-release on the DVD circuit.
You've just completed a short film with Mira Nair,
Migration, in which you play a homosexual.. that couldn't have been easy.
It was difficult. Mira had offered me the other role (played by Shiney Ahuja) but then she said she actually wanted me to play the gay lover. For once, I didn't know how to approach a character. And Mira said, "Irrfan, it's a love story. You are completely in love with this guy." That made the role clearer.
You were a part of
Yes, Mira had written me into the script. I was this musician whose sarod heals Johnny Depp's character after he comes out of jail completely traumatised. Amjad Ali Khan was to do the music.
has been shelved but Mira is believed to be starting another film.
Will you be in it?
I don't think she's finalised any project yet. She was so totally immersed in
. She told me she'd wake up, thinking she'd wrapped it up already. The rug has been pulled from under her feet. But she'll get over the disappointment. She's a brave woman!
Doesn't Danny Boyle's
Slumlord Millionaire, being shot currently, remind you of
No, the only similarity is that it's about a slum boy who hits a winning streak at a game show and arouses suspicion. It's about the strength of honesty. The very idea of working with Danny Boyle pulled me into the project.
You've done a brief role in Darjeeling Limited - just for the pleasure of working with Wes Anderson?
Yeah, Wes saw The Namesake and specially wrote in this part for me. It was a small role which has got me good reviews. <b3>
Why the itsy-bitsy part in Aaja Nachle? Was the Yash Raj banner the attraction?
A big banner is always an enticement but unless you're an integral part of the film, it can be a useless exercise. Aaja Nachle was just a guest appearance. It didn't take anything away from me.
Why didn't the film work despite the hype?
For me personally, the biggest drawback was the lack of tension. The plot couldn't engage one's attention for two hours.
Is Krazzy 4 as crazy as the title suggests?
(Laughs) It's a fun ride with four mentally challenged guys who are let loose in sane society. Sunday is a laugh too. I'm this star aspirant who's confident of his talent but actually a bad actor. There's also Right Ya Wrong, an emotional thriller. <b4>
Apparently, Arshad Warsi and you had a fall-out on the sets of Sunday.
A fall-out with Arshad? Arrey nahin. But yes, tempers were running high on the sets. Blame it on the Delhi heat. Shooting in 45 degrees is tough.
You'll be returning to Delhi again for Delhi 6.
I was approached and would have loved to work with Rakeysh Mehra but there was no real role for me. I'm not doing the film.
Your dosti with Tigmanshu Dhulia is also supposedly over. Thevar and Gulami have been shelved.
Yes, these two films are not happening but Tigmanshu and I are working on another film based on the real story of an athlete who turns into a dacoit. We're still friends.
Will you be in the Life in a .. Metro sequel?
Metro was a remarkable role,I'd like to explore it further.
When do you start Ocean's 14?
Arrey, the ship's not even in the sea yet. Let it start sailing.. then we'll talk.
It's believed that after Metro and The Namesake you're only open to lead roles.
The industry's attitude has changed after Metro and The Namesake. Now, I'm being offered lead roles. Thank God, I was getting tired of playing the bad guy. Even the audience was getting bored.
Has your price per film gone up to Rs 2 crore?
Price is relative. I want my producers to earn. But if I feel that a producer is using my position to jack up the price of his project, I charge him what I'm worth.
Apparently, in London they're calling you ‘sexy' after The Namesake.
Really? And to think I tried to dissuade Mira from using that look, curly hair and all, after I showed her a photograph of mine from the NSD days. If they're calling me sexy, I love it. (Laughs) I became an actor to hear good things about myself.
But your mother is still trying to get you to return to Jaipur and become a teacher.
(Smiles) Yeah, if I call her now, she'll tell me to come back home.. life will be much better.
You haven't worked with your scriptwriter wife, Sutapa Sikdar, after the TV serial Banegi Apni Baat. Why?
We had massive fights during Banegi.. TV serials demand verbose scripts and I hate too many words. To stay married, we work apart.