IRRFAN KHAN – Exclusive Interview on PIKU
Irrfan Khan, an extremely versatile actor and possibly one of India’s greatest talents, spoke to Punjab2000 in an exclusive interview about his role in the latest Bollywood blockbuster PIKU.
Sahabzade Irrfan Ali Khan, born in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India. During his MA Irrfan earned a scholarship to study at The National School of Drama, Delhi. After graduating he moved to Mumbai, where he started his career acting in numerous television serials. In a career spanning almost 30 years Irrfan has won several film awards and nominated for many more. He also received the Padma Shri award in 2011, for his outstanding performance to Indian cinema. He’s best known for his roles in The Warrior, Maqbool, The Namesake, Life In A Metro, Slumdog Millionaire, Life of Pi, Paan Singh Tomar.
In Shoojit Sircar’s latest release PIKU, also starring Amithabh Bachchan and Deepika Padukone, Irrfan plays the character of Rana Chaudhary, a taxi cab company owner, who gets caught in the middle of a dysfunctional relationship between Piku, a moody architect who he has a soft spot for and her elderly hypercondriac father, on a road trip to Kolkata.
*Hi Irrfan, how are you today?
Hi Simran, I’m really good thank you.
*I saw Piku last night and I absolutely loved it so congratulations on a wonderful performance.
Simran tell me, was it at a press screening and what is the buzz about Piku like in the UK?
*Yes Irrfan, it was at a private press screening. Everyone has been excited about it since the trailers were released and since seeing stills from the film. Whoever I saw at the screening, like myself, adored the movie. It’s very different to what has been released for a long time and we all laughed a great deal too.
I’m expecting a lot from the overseas market. I’m hoping that they will react very positively.
*Yes I think due to the subject matter of a daughter looking after her elderly father it’s something many of us can relate to here. I was also my fathers carer for many years so saw several similarities to my own situation. It was endearing and humorous.
*Irrfan, how was the story of Piku and the role of Rana Chaudhary described to you and what was it that made you choose to do this film?
This is an old team and I really wanted to work with Shoojit. I also loved Juhi Chaturvedi’s writing on Vicky Donor. Shoojit, myself and some others were having a conversation. At that time he had mentioned something that he was writing and that he may come to me with it. When the script was ready and narrated to me, I just jumped at the chance. I was very eager to work with Amithabh Bachan and Deepika Padukone. Deepika is fantastic, the way she is exploring herself as an actor. What usually happens when you are at the top, being a commercial actor, you stick to that and don’t dwell in any other form of story telling. In India things are changing, the audiences are revolving. They are looking for a different kind of cinema. Commercial cinema is expanding.
*What did you like in particular about your character Rana Chaudhary or his experiences?
I’ve been wanting to do a humorous film for a long time. He’s smart and straight forward. I really liked his kind of sense of humour. I also liked the love story. It’s a very fine kind of a love story. In commercial cinema the love story is not dealt with in this way.
*Yes I agree most Bollywood based films that have a love story are so obvious. This was nothing like that and pairing you opposite Deepika isn’t an obvious choice either, which I think made it more appealing.
Also sometimes when you don’t say so many things, when you don’t reveal too much, it’s the audience which gets involved. It works much deeper for the audience and the story stays with you longer.
*Tell me about your experiences on set and was it like working with Amithabh Bachchan, Deepika Padukone and the other actors?
It was outstanding and a most memorable trip. Not one of us ever wanted the film to end. We just wanted to keep shooting. The actors and crew were great, the locations. Everything was fantastic. From the beginning, the film had a lovely spirit and we were all treated so well.
*Although the film is about family dynamics and relationships, a great deal of the movie discusses Amithabh’s character Bhaskor Banarjee’s bathroom habits, which was greatly humorous to watch.
Yes it was but the film is not trying to make that subject an item. It is so much more and deeper than that. And the audience will see that.
*Irrfan, what were some of the filming locations like (Piku was filmed in various towns, including Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Varanasi). Did you have any favourites?
Yes it’s the first time I discovered Kolkata. Even though I’ve been there many times it was the first time that I saw it from close quarters. I could connect with it in a much different way and there’s something very special about Kolkata. Being a metropolitan city it retains the rural quality. People coming from surrounding rural areas are not pressed by the metropolitan city life. What happens in big cities sometimes is that you have to leave your culture behind and you end up becoming someone else. Kolkata allows you to be what you want and that’s a very interesting factor.
*What do you hope your audience will take away with them after watching Piku?
I think they will find a new way of being entertained. You see with Piku there are just so many things in making it a memorable movie. I will leave it to the audience. Every audience I believe, will react differently. That’s what makes it fun. It’s like a painting, everybody reacts to it differently and sees it in their own way. The film may talk to them later. If it remains with them then that’s what we really want in whatever way it stays with them.
*I’ve seen you in so many memorable movies both Bollywood and Hollywood. How different are the filming experiences and do you have a preference?
I’ve played so many different roles throughout my life. Hollywood gives me a chance to perform in a different way which is more advanced and more challenging. Hollywood addresses the whole world. It knows the universal language and it’s addressing an international audience. With Indian films the audience is limited to India or those outside of India usually from an Indian background. India still need to work on a language that’s universal that everyone connects to. Mostly in Hollywood with the films that I have done, the story is always the centre point, not the star of the film. Everybody works towards that story which is much more important.
*What have been your most challenging roles and do you have any favourites (apart from your role as Rana in Piku of course haha)?
I have experienced many different challenges at different stages of my career. I have so many favourites but I don’t want to name them as all of the experiences have been so enriching and each film gives you something. I know someone on the censor board and after watching Piku in the UK said it was my best role to date. In every film someone will tell me that’s my best role. The audience will react so differently. I have a different take on it and so do they.
*Irrfan, I’ve always found you to be one of the most versatile actors out there and fascinating to watch. What can we look forward to seeing in 2015-2016? And will you be coming to the UK to visit us soon.
Thank you Simran. I’ve done a film with Vishal Bhardwaj which should be releasing this year. Another film called Madari, with Nishikant Kamath. I’ve completed Jurassic World which will be releasing this June. Then I will be shooting Inferno with Tom Hanks and Ron Howard. I’m in talks with a few others. Nothing planned as yet to come to the UK but maybe soon.
*Can we please have a message for all of your fans at Punjab2000
Yes of course. Please go and watch Piku with your families and be entertained. It’s a film that will stay with you so I really want you to all enjoy yourselves and be entertained. Thank you for all the support and well wishes.
*Thank you so much Irrfan for speaking with me, all the best with Piku and your upcoming projects. Take care.
Thank you so much Simran and all at Punjab2000, lovely speaking with you.
PIKU is a wonderful film and at cinemas now.