Irrfan Khan embraces diversity in Dubai

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Irrfan Khan embraces diversity in Dubai

Published: Sun 10 Dec 2017, 9:04 AM

Last updated: Sun 28 Jan 2018, 1:39 PM

The hustle bustle of huge festivals and quick-paced city life doesn't seem to touch the calm demeanour that Irrfan Khan gracefully carries.
Casually taking a seat outdoors in a café at Mina Al Salam in Jumeirah, puffing away, the Indian actor displayed a sparkle too unfamiliar for an early morning.
Khan, who received a DIFF Honorary Award at the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) for his contribution to films for the last 30 years, is hailed for his natural and versatile acting. Despite his long list that extends over 80 works in Bollywood and memorable roles in Hollywood, Khan's simplicity of character makes him stand out.
"Cinema has given me an opportunity to make sense of today's insecurity and to be in peace with uncertainty," said the 50-year-old actor, whose film The Song of Scorpions is being screened at DIFF.

Role rituals
Occupying remarkable roles in works like his celebrated drama The Lunchbox, Haasil, Salaam Bombay, besides Hollywood's Oscar-winning films Slumdog Millionaire and Life of Pi to name a few, Khan tells us he has no specific ritual when preparing for his roles.
"In cinema, it's different every time. It's the role that tells me what to do. Sometimes it comes to you without much work, but other times you keep working towards it and it doesn't come to you. There's no system to it and you must go by your instincts."
What he calls the "trial-error method" is what keeps film enjoyable. "There's uncertainty to cinema, and that's what I love about it. It has no system."

Importance of diversity
With a world that's marked by the fear of the other, Khan distinctively despised the notion of 'sameness.'
"There's a force in the world trying to make the world standardised, and place everything under one system. Today, you can see two different cities starting to look the same."
He then noted, "Cinema is retaining this diversity that makes us rich. If we lose our diversity, we are robots; we lose our wealth and our treasure."
Although cinema cannot change the world, Khan acknowledged it can give a voice to people against standardisation and who tend to lack force and unity.
"Cinema can do what it can do. It won't change the world, but at least it will have a voice, even if it isn't strong enough," said the actor.
His belief in the voice of cinema is perhaps the reason why the actor chose to challenge the idea of heroism in Bollywood. He said in contrast to popular culture that presents a cricketer or movie star as the hero in Indian society, the real hero for him is the common man making a selfless act to change lives around him.
"The hero is the common man doing something heroic and selfless to change lives without waiting for rewards or returns. I like to portray characters who are heroes, but not the typical heroes. Culture gives us a notion about heroism that I always like to challenge."

Story takes a backseat
Khan noted that Indian cinema's focus on 'stars' gives room for him to push the 'common hero' idea further. He said while Hollywood places the emphasis on the story, Indian cinema puts its focus on the star. "The image of the star is the center of Indian cinema. The story takes the backseat to serve the image of the star and maintain his glory, whereas the whole film crew in Hollywood would be working towards the story," said Khan.
"I try to pick the movies that work towards the story," said Khan who is now gearing up for the world premiere of his latest Hollywood film The Puzzle in which he stars alongside Kelly Macdonald.  
"I was looking for that kind of story in Hollywood, which is more personal and intimate. I hope it receives a good reception from people," he said of the new love story of a woman taken for granted as a suburban mother, who discovers a passion for solving jigsaw puzzles, drawing her into a new world. Khan represents her new world.
On the personal front, however, Khan views life as a seamless flow. Asked about his New Year resolutions and the achievements he will be celebrating, he told us, "I don't really divide life. The most important decision for me was the time I decided to become an actor instead of searching for a job and earning a living." For Khan, life would have been wasted if he had worked for money. He makes movies for passion, while money and fame are only "by-products".
At the end of our conversation, it becomes evident from where Khan derives his graceful and calm presence: he found his safe haven - the cinema.
Remarkable career
Having a body of work of over 80 films in India, Khan has a remarkable list of films which marked the beginning of a new definition of entertaining cinema in India.
Seen in different roles ranging from a lonely accountant, an athlete to a stubborn Sikh father, Khan first gained international acclaim for his role in The Warrior (2001), where he plays Lafcadia, a fierce warrior who abandons his tyrannical Lord to seek peace in his village. Khan played the title role in the critically acclaimed adaptation Maqbool (2003), and the Bollywood film Haasil (2003).
His Hollywood hits include A Mighty Heart with Angelina Jolie, the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire and Life of Pi. His other Hollywood films include The Amazing Spider-Man, Jurassic World and Inferno. He has won three Filmfare Awards, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and an Independent Spirit Award nom in 2011.
sherouk@khaleejtimes.com

By Sherouk Zakaria

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