‘I am like blotting paper’

a2348be44ac1adc4accecbe09d0a662dBoman Irani on the representation of Parsis in films, and how he brings a character alive

Give him a character of any ethnicity and Boman Irani will make it easily identifiable to the audience. From the real estate swindler Kishan Khurana in Khosla Ka Ghosla to a dakhni speaking driver in Well Done Abba , Irani has played them all with equal felicity.

And it’s not as if he hasn’t played a Parsi. From the dark, controlled performance of Being Cyrus to the typical Parsi grandfather in Ferrari Ki Sawari , here again, Irani has done it all. About the portrayal of Parsis in popular Hindi cinema Irani says, “We must accept how we are and not get offended by it. Cinema is entertainment at the end of the day.”

The actor believes there is more to the stereotypical portrayal of Parsis in Hindi films. “This is not something that occurs only in our country. During script writing there is a process of refinement in creating specific and general characters. In roles which are author-backed we can see the effort. But when you have a character walking on the road, don’t expect too much refinement. So if a Parsi is portrayed wearing dagla , pheta (Parsi hat) and has six children with an old car and a dog, we must not get offended.”

Ferrari Ki Sawari was recently screened at the Everlasting Flame International Programme in New Delhi. Irani feels eliminating the film’s last 15 minutes would have done more justice to the subject. “It is a film about morality and human consciousness, which is why I chose to do the film. But I think the film did not resolve its theme properly. Sending the boy to London is not the destination of the film. The lesson learnt is far more important. I feel it should have been a little more refined.”

As for Being Cyrus , Irani says there is nothing in the film to feel offended about as it tells a specific story about a Parsi family where all the members have grey shades. “There is nothing to take offense in it. Aren’t there families with grey members?”

About his power of observation, Irani says he is like blotting paper that soaks in everything citing the example of Charlie Chaplin. “You know the great actor went quietly to participate in a Charlie Chaplin look-alike contest. And he came second! For me playing a Parsi is more difficult than playing a Punjabi as I don’t look like them, speak or walk like them. It takes a lot of research and detailing.”

It’s the process of preparing for the role that he enjoys the most. “Acting is like any other job. I break it down from the inside and work towards the outside. The preparation is about getting the nuances of the character right after understanding where he is coming from and who he is. That preparation is my greatest excitement of being an actor.”

He is not concerned about the diminishing space for Parsis in films and film industry. “There are lots of Parsis in the industry.” He says, laughing, and cites Farah Khan, John Abraham, Zoya and Farhan Akhtar, all of whom have a Parsi mother.

“People make movies to tell stories they believe in. If you are a Parsi and want to be represented, make your own film. Don’t expect people to make movies that represent you.”

Last seen in Dilwale , Irani is now busy preparing to be a grandfather in real life as his son awaits the arrival of a new member in the family this July.

Coming sooner though is Irani’s turn as a sardar, along with Vir Das. in Santa Banta Pvt Ltd that comes out later this month.

“Acting is like any other job. I break it down from the inside and work towards the outside”

Published on The Hindu