Irrfan Khan simply loves challenging roles. The internationally acclaimed Bollywood actor has chosen to play a gay character in Mira Nair's AIDS film The Migration.
In fact, Irrfan refused a staid role in the film in order to play a homosexual. "She offered me the part of the sweet, simple and straight farmer that Shiney Ahuja finally did. I saw no challenge in that. Give me roles that aren't fake," Irrfan, who plays an unhappily married man in a secret anguished affair with another in the film, told IANS.
Another challenging role Irrfan loved playing was of a Bengali in Mira Nair's The Namesake.
"The Ashok Ganguly in The Namesake gave me a chance to embrace a beautiful new vision. I could never be this person. Ashok gave me a chance to live a unique life," he added.
After Vishal Bharadwaj's Maqbool Irrfan shared stunning chemistry with Tabu in the The Namesake. Their lovemaking scene in the film had audiences gasping in disbelief.
"I can't say Tabu and I meet after hours, but I must say Tabu is a very special person and actress. It takes a lot for her to open up. She never lies in her performances.
"I remember during Maqbool we'd instinctively understand each other. She knew exactly when to put her hand out, or when to touch my elbow... the little things that make the chemistry between co-stars.
"During the making of The Namesake I was more concerned about getting my Bengali accent right than anything else. I spent hours getting it right."
Irrfan's wife is Bengali. "But that didn't help me much. We don't speak Bengali at home. Ashok Ganguly was a mystery to me. I had to get both, his external and internal life, right."
About the love scene, he said: "Yes, at first I was startled. It was a little more explicit and longer than love scenes generally are. I was worried about her reaction. If Tabu had been even slightly awkward, I'd have been worried. But she made me comfortable by being completely into the scene. After that there was no awkwardness. We were very professional about it."
Irrfan says he didn't expect an overwhelming response for The Namesake.
"I never imagined such a response. People in the US were watching it repeatedly. The Namesake suddenly made me feel worthwhile as an actor. I was fascinated by the silences of my character. It was not expressed even in Jhumpa Lahiri's novel.
"Mira added a lot to the original material. That's the fun of a movie adaptation. The movie is over, but I'm still discovering facets to my character. I just fall in love with my character's silences."
So is Irrfan ready to take on international stardom?
"I took up the Angelina Jolie project A Mighty Heart because I was offered one of the leads. But it's Angelina's story. I could've never imagined anyone could turn her tragedy into such a triumph."
He also received critical acclaim for his performance in another international project - The Darjeeling Unlimited.