How Irrfan Khan inspired 'Angrezi Medium' director Homi Adajania


Irrfan Khan, Angrezi Medium, Homi Adajania, Bollywood

The director tells City Times how Khan brought magic to the sets of his new film 'Angrezi Medium'

By Enid Parker

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Published: Tue 10 Mar 2020, 4:01 PM

Last updated: Wed 18 Mar 2020, 7:03 PM

This weekend's big Bollywood release Angrezi Medium marks award-winning actor Irrfan Khan's return to the big screen after undergoing treatment upon being diagnosed with a neuroendocrine tumour in 2018.
Keeping this in mind, it's rather difficult to watch the trailer of the film dry-eyed; despite the many laugh-out-loud moments you come away profoundly moved, not only by Irrfan's character Champak, an unassuming sweet shop owner and single father trying to fulfil his daughter's dream of studying in London, but by Irrfan himself - his resilience, his zest for life and the great joy he takes in his art.
Director Homi Adajania, who has helmed offbeat and satirical films like Being Cyrus and Finding Fanny, reveals to City Times that it was Irrfan's strength throughout his personal crisis that drew the cast and crew of Angrezi Medium together, resulting in a magical film which he hopes will click with audiences.
Excerpts from our chat with Homi:

You recently told Outlook India that Angrezi Medium changed you as a person and you learned a lot from Irrfan Khan. The trailer is a feel-good one which is sorely needed in these troubled times for the world, something to cheer us up and inspire us. What's the biggest lesson working on this film has taught you?
I think the biggest takeaway from the whole journey and process of making Angrezi Medium is that we became better people; we became lighter people; we realised that if you just love one another and are positive in your approach then everything can get done.
We stopped fretting and worrying about trivial things that don't really matter but we for some reason decide to complicate our lives with that. Ironically Irrfan's strength is what the whole crew fed off, rather than it being the other way round. He never wanted pity or sympathy from us. All he wanted was love and positivity and we all learned how to live like that. Once we did that, magic happened.

What were the challenges of bringing this father-daughter story to the screen and what message do you hope viewers take away from the film?
It wasn't very difficult for me to bring the father-daughter story to the screen because as a father myself I am very in tune with what it is and what it means. The soul of the film actually is - and I can tell you this from personal experiences - as you hold your little child's hand and journey through life you'll reach a point in your life when you'll have to let that little hand go. And you'll do it with a lot of pride but a lot of pain as well. But I think in your heart there will be a lot of hope that one day that little hand will come back and hold yours when you need it. That is the soul of Angrezi Medium. That's the tone we followed and that's pretty much the message that goes out to the viewers - that often our parents make so many sacrifices for us that they don't let us know about and only when you grow up and become a parent and do the same thing for your child will you realise what your parents had done for you.

The film boasts a talented cast of Kareena Kapoor, Dimple Kapadia, Kiku Sharda, Ranvir Shorey and of course Irrfan Khan and Radhika Madan. This is your first time working with Kareena - what can you tell us about her role in this film?
It's a dream cast - very different people and very different acting styles - but all very high calibre actors. It was my first time working with Kareena and an absolute joy. She was born an actor. I think that talent just courses through her veins. Her calibre is unrivalled and she is very intuitive so she can fit into pretty much any world of acting; she's so convincing and effortless that it just made my job so much easier.

We laughed quite a bit at the trailer. Who is the funniest among the cast, do you feel? Who cracked you up on set?
Everyone is funny. There are very quirky people and very quirky characters. But as soon as you put Irrfan Khan and Deepak Dobriyal together, their 'jugalbandi' is magical, and you can see that chemistry. Often they aren't even looking into each other's eyes but they just have a vibe going that is difficult to describe.

You waited for a long time for Irrfan Khan to resume shooting for the film. Why did you feel there was no alternative to Irrfan?
Irrfan and I wanted to work together after he'd done The Namesake, we wanted to collaborate but for some reason it never happened. And when this opportunity came up it was a very, very big reason why I took on the task of directing this film.
What can I say about Irrfan? There is no alternative. Unfortunately he fell ill and we couldn't shoot when we had planned to shoot and the whole project got delayed by a year but honestly I don't think our producer Dinesh Vijan or myself would have ever made this film if Irrfan was not a part of it.

What was it about this story that made you initially want to get on board as director? What touched or inspired you the most?
I think a lot of things did inspire me about getting on board. One was working with Irrfan, two was when I heard the narration for the first time and I was rolling on the floor laughing, then I was rolling on the floor crying a bit.
It was a very instinctive decision and I do all my films based on instinct. I really don't like doing something that I'm comfortable doing or that I know how to do - I need uncertainty, I need a challenge, and this had all of that and the icing on the cake was Irrfan.

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