Boman Irani doing Bale Bale

What do you think will happen when Boman Irani, better known as the absurdly laughing Dr. Asthana from Munna Bhai M.B.B.S., dons the hat of Farhad and romances a Shirin on screen? A touching yet funny, instead of tragic, love story is the best guess. Released in August, Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi has the zestful Farah  Khan debuting as an actor alongside Boman Irani. The movie has the funny man pondering over the stupid things one does when one is in love, regardless of age.

Boman Irani doing Bale Bale
Boman Irani doing Bale Bale

Ferrari Ki Sawaari released recently and you played one of the three important roles. Are you satisfied with the response the movie generated?

Yes. People have loved it and media is going crazy about it.

What matters more to you—Box Office collections or reactions of audiences?

Ferrari got good reactions and good collections too. As an actor you want your movie to be seen by as many people and the Box Office is an empirical way of telling you how many saw it.

Ferrari has done very well considering it was pegged as an underdog movie—there is no conventional hero, and no heroine in the movie. People were wondering what it was all about and going to cinema halls to find out. It’s done well business wise. But lets say it didn’t do well. Even then, I’d say I was happy if the reaction of the public remained the same. I am thrilled with the love and the respect the film has got.

Khosla Ka Ghosla, Munnabhai, Lagaan, Rang De Basanti … these films came out long back but are still remembered. Ferrari ki Sawaari is one of that ilk—people will talk about it. The movie is one from the heart.

After Ferrari your next big one is Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi. How did you get the offer?

It’s a strange thing—Farah says she did the film because she was going to be acting with me. (But I was thrilled to know I was doing a film with Farah.) When I heard that Farah Khan was being cast, I agreed to do the film. I knew it would be a different kind of film.

Do you consider this your first conventional lead role in Bollywood?

No. Well Done Abba was my first. But that was more of a dark comedy. It took convention and bent it. It was a satire. This is my second lead role.

What makes you happy about this role?

I don’t know what makes me happy. As an actor maybe it’s the opportunity to be in a film that tells a good story. Afterwards, you can say you displayed your acting talents. But then you are deviating from why you are in the film. A film is a story-telling process. It’s about how the story is told, and how well the actors help the story by emoting. A movie should not be a vehicle for you to show your acting talents alone.

So the story is important?

The narrative style is also very important. The story and the style in which it is said are crucial elements of filmmaking.

For Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi, did you read the original Persian story?

It’s just a coincidence that the names of the characters in the movie are Shirin and Farhad—it’s got nothing to do with the original tragedy. It’s a comedy in which I play a 45-year-old bachelor.

Could you share a bit more about the movie’s lead couple?

Look, there is this monologue of mine in the film. A little speech—nothing like a Shakespearean soliloquy—in which Farhad says to his family, “Let me be, I am in love.” He tries to explain to them that “just because I am 45, you all want me to get married. You are missing the point that I AM IN LOVE. You all just want me to get me married to anybody—uski shaadi karwa do!” But when you are in love, you should understand that it is a very beautiful feeling. Tell me, have you been in love? What’s the feeling like?

I’d say initially it’s superb, and then it develops …

Develops into a pain in the ass? (Laughs) It can! The point is that love is something that has to happen to you once in a lifetime. You are never too old to be in love. That’s what the film says—love has no expiry date! You can fall in love at any point in life.

The story is exactly that: just because you are in your 50s, don’t get married for the sake of getting married. You can still find love. Like a teenager’s love, you can behave stupidly and giddily and enjoy the holding of hands and walking down the street and cuddling in corners and stealing kisses … Everybody is stupid when in love. If you’re not stupid, you’re not in love!

How difficult was it to do this stupid bit at your age?

I’ve done a lot of stupid things in my life. What is so difficult about being stupid here? You’ve got to really enjoy life to do things that are stupid and crazy. It doesn’t matter what age you’re at. Nothing is difficult if you are unprepared for it. It’s sort of like preparing for exams, the more you prepare, the tougher it seems!

When was this movie shot?

From December to January. All here in Mumbai.

Since Farah is a choreographer, should we expect dance sequences in the film?

Yes. But Farah refused to get involved with the choreography. She refused to do anything apart from acting. She surrendered completely to her job and asked me to help her. She needed a little help initially but later she was on fire.

In fact on occasion even I asked Farah, “Do you think I should have said my lines this way?” That is very much what actors do. We are not directors or producers. We actors like to hold each other’s hands and help each other.

Among your movies this year, Ek Main Aur Ek Tu did not do well at the box office …

(Cutting in) It did very well. It’s nothing to do with who went to watch it at the theatres. There is a budget for a movie. And there is a recovery from the movie. In that sense the movie was a success.

Housefull was a blockbuster while Tezz bombed. Do you plan the genre of films you will take up after one is over?

No. I have planned nothing. I do films because I want to do them. End of story. If I plan anything—it is about taking a break to rejuvenate myself. Its not like I do one film for one audience and another for another.

Is there any particular director you wish to work with?

Something in the story should excite me. After the meeting (with the director) when I sit in the car, I should feel—“Ya, I should do this, it’ll be exciting.” Shyam Benegal is one person for whom I’d do anything, whatever the experience. Vinod Chopra and Raju Hirani are my best friends. But even for Raju’s film, 3 Idiots, I did not want to do the movie as the character was very similar to Munnabhai, and I told him it was not for me. But he said, no, we’ll make it different. Let’s sit and work towards it. Its not like “ye ghar ka mamla hai so lets do it,” not like biwi ke haath ka khana, that you’ll eat whatever is given. You have to be true to what you are doing. I’ve to justify my presence in the film.

You have a role in Student of the Year?

Yes, I have done a 2-3 minute appearance.

And your son Kayoze is debuting in a Karan Johar film. Do you think you inspired Kayoze to take up acting?

It is not a family business. One of my sons has not taken up acting. Even Kayoze was not inclined to act. Karan met him and wanted to audition him. Kayoze was the director’s assistant in Ek Main Aur Ek Tu. One day Karan called me and told me that “your son has been working in my company for three months and you have not even told me.” I said “why should I? You hired him on his own strength. I have nothing to do with him.”

But has your presence in the industry influenced him?

I don’t think so. He came and asked me what he should do. I told him to give it a try! See if you have the chops in you. It may be that he was enamoured by cinema. But there is no handing over of a legacy or business.

What is it that you want audiences to check out in Shirin Farhad?

I think they should see look out for two actors who are enjoying themselves on screen; two characters that are very fresh and playing off and beautifully dependent on each other. n

Suchi Sargam is a journalist in India.