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We need new terms to define cinema today: Irrfan Khan
Debarati Palit Singh | Thursday, 23 June 2016 AT 05:09 PM IST
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Irrfan Khan, who visited Sakal Times office on Wednesday to promote his film Madaari, spoke about the film, the censor board and why Bollywood needs to pull up its socks

Irrfan Khan is one of the busiest actors today. Last week, he was at the premiere of his Hollywood film Inferno in Singapore along with Tom Hanks and director Ron Howard. And now he is back in India promoting Nishikant Kamat-directed Madaari, which is releasing on July 10. The film has been produced by Shailesh Singh, Madan Paliwal, Sutapa Sikdar (Irrfan’s wife) and Shailja Kejriwal.

During his visit to Sakal Times, when we ask him what made him act as well as produce the film, he replies, “Shailja (Kejriwal), Sutapa (Sikdar) and I were discussing the idea and it stayed with us. We thought, ‘We can make a film on this’. Then Ritesh Shah came and jumped at the idea. We were thinking about who could direct it and then we approached Nishi sahab. He too felt the same about the subject.”

The actor adds that Madaari is based on real incidents and deals with real issues. “It’s a hardcore entertainer which will make you think at the same time,” he says.  

He, however, refuses to slot Madaari under any particular category. “Today, cinema is changing,” he says, adding, “We need new terms to define cinema as  new elements are coming and audiences are evolving. Madaari is not a regular film; you can call it a thriller or a socio-political thriller. Watch the film and then decide.”

Does that mean we need to now move beyond terming cinema as either commercial or independent? “There was a time when we made only certain kinds of films — those without any credibility and the others which were issue based but not entertaining at all. Now, a new kind of cinema has emerged which has blended both the aspects. These films deal with issues but are entertaining at the same time,” Irrfan says.

In Madaari, Irrfan is shown to be a man who takes on the system because he is unhappy with it. Many commoners too get angry with the system like him. But in real life, isn’t it easy for celebs to get their way easily? Irrfan disagrees. “An actor’s life is equally difficult. Because actors are in the limelight, they become easy targets. The place where I live in Mumbai, some mobile towers have been erected. The residents, including me, are running from pillar to post to get them removed but nothing has happened. It’s our duty to question the authorities. We have to ask the right questions and understand our duties,” he says.  

The actor has been shooting for numerous projects. So how does he switch from one character to another, we ask. “Actually, I avoid working on two films simultaneously because I can’t be in two different worlds at the same time,” he adds.

Irrfan, who has carved his own niche in the Hindi film industry and is also a name to reckon with abroad, has had his share of struggle. When asked about his work philosophy, he says, “When I was in Class 10, I just wanted to finish studies and start something of my own, which I did. But I soon realised that you cannot do any work if you are not interested in it. And when I started acting, I realised that you have to be devoted to your work. If you are not, you are being disrespectful towards your work and yourself. When you are dedicated, both your craft and you, as a person, evolve. I also feel that when you choose your work based on how much you will get, you will not go far. Money should be a byproduct.”

As we move towards Bollywood’s ongoing battle with the censor board and how films are not being passed because of their content, Irrfan says that censorship in itself is an absurdity. “The CBFC is supposed to give certificates. If you want to censor, then censor the Internet. Today, an 8-year-old boy can watch everything on the net. I think they need to respect the maturity of the audience and certify what they can watch. They cannot interfere with the content,” he adds.

The actor is also unhappy with the government’s attitude towards the Hindi film industry which, he says, pays Rs 4000 crore tax per year. “On one hand, the government wants more people to come within the tax bracket and here’s an industry which pays so much of tax and yet it’s not being given a chance to flourish,” he says.  

For someone who has worked in both the industries — Bollywood and Hollywood, does he feel that our films are under a serious threat from their foreign counterparts? In the last couple of months, films like The Jungle Book, The Conjuring 2, Deadpool, Kung Fu Panda 3 and many others have made more money at the box office in India than Hindi films. “I have been saying this for many years now. If we do not pull up our socks, Hollywood will finish off our business. It’s a part of their history — they have completely wiped off cinema businesses from countries like the UK and France. Recently, I was watching an interview of one big star, I do not wish to name, and he said, ‘Till the time we have six songs, dances and actresses, they (Hollywood) cannot touch us. I found the statement very strange because some big star’s film had released with The Jungle Book and no one thought that the latter would make more money. We have to make stories that will connect with our evolved audience. They want to watch intelligent films, and not just time-pass films. If we do not change the narratives and engage the young generation, then we have to be ready to sit at home (laughs),” he says, adding, “It will be very soon.”

Talking of Hollywood, does he think India’s fascination with it is uncalled for? “Absolutely not. Filmmakers over there are making cinema for the entire world, so we have to be fascinated. It’s a big market after all. Their films engage you. They make issue-based films but do not lose their credibility. It’s also the toughest industry to break into,” Irrfan says, adding that no matter what, India will always remain fascinated by foreign land. “We have borrowed everything from foreigners including the way we talk, walk, live and eat. There is nothing of our own that we respect today. First, we need to respect ourselves and work on our limitations,” he says.  

Having said that, The Lunchbox actor is happy with the cinematic collaborations happening between countries and says, “Such collaborations should happen because we are able to create new talent. The Lunchbox is a great example. It improves cinema.”

Post Madaari, Irrfan will be busy with Inferno. He terms the experience of working in the film as  ‘excellent and memorable’. “This is the best of the lot. It’s a topical issue and he (Dan Brown) hasn’t focused on history alone,” he says before heading off to promote Madaari at a different venue in the city.

The writer can be followed on twitter @DebaratiPalitSi

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