This has been a basking-in-success year for Irrfan - first it was the National Award for 'Paan Singh Tomar , and now, The Lunchbox has won the Viewers' Choice Award, also known as the Grand Rail d'Or, at Cannes Critics Week.
But Irrfan refuses to do the victory dance. "Yes, so far, it's been a good year," he says, cautiously. "I like being part of interesting films, films which are experimental, issue-based. And of course, films which have a fine support system. It gives me a high - those intense acting schedules, like I emerge a new person after every such film I do. I would have learnt something new, understood things, and even myself, a little better. So, each film gives me a high. The awards help with the motivation and inspiration, of course, but it is always acting first," says Irrfan.
So, what did he do at Cannes? "This was the 100 years of Indian cinema year there, and so, there was a lot of India there. But then, the competition section had only two films - 'The Lunchbox' and 'Monsoon Shootout'. Now, there are two ways to look at it - Cannes is a great place to celebrate cinema, per se. It is a fantastic setting, the weather, the food, the parties... it is one hell of a mela. But when you are there with your film, you really cannot watch many other films, because you are doing the PR for your film. And our film got fantastic reviews - standing ovation and all. I knew it was an audience-pleasing film, in the sense that it will leave something for everyone to ponder over, but the kind of response we got - I wasn't expecting that."
"When we screened it for the common audience, people were crying. And in the three-four days that I was there, I heard people talking about us in the same wavelength in which they were talking about other good movies. That made me happy. Otherwise, Cannes is work - you go to market your work, and the best results are if you can sell your film," says Irrfan.
Irrfan believes that it's time Bollywood took creativity seriously. And as for him, apart from choosing his projects carefully, so that his body of work "reflects a thought out process", Irrfan says he is also "very choosy about the director I work with." "A director is a very important person for me. For me, I have to feel a bond with the director. As an actor, when you are bringing your inner world to the fore - laying it open - to be controlled by someone else, it's like you are baring yourself to an unknown entity. So, you need to trust the person who is going to control that, and for that, you need to have an emotional bonding with that person," he says.
For him, he shares, every film he has done, from 'The Namesake' to 'The Lunchbox', has been an exercise in bonding, "with people, images, imageries, places..." and heroines, perhaps, we prod. He snaps out of his world, laughing, "No, no". No? Being called a fine actor, winning a National Award now, should definitely have put him in a position to command who he wants to act with. "I haven't exercised that, yet," he says, quickly adding, "And I don't think I will ever do it either. I have suggested who will be good for a certain kind of role. And I do feel about the character that is going to be with me for the film, so I have my suggestions, definitely."
He has a say now, or has it always been that way? Straight-faced, he says, "See, I always used to have a say, but was not taken seriously. Now, I am taken seriously." 'Now' also seems to be a state of being for Irrfan, as he says, "Most of me is in the 'now' of my life. I seldom go back, or fast forward. I believe that in life, there are many things that happen automatically if you let the larger design work for you. I believe there is a design in this world for each and every individual. If you don't interrupt that design too much, if you don't step in every now and then to modify or change that design, and if you let that design take over you, it makes things happen automatically for you. This is what I have learnt - maybe I will change my views, or maybe, I will be proved wrong. But till such time that I am proved wrong, or till I have another experience, I would like to believe that I have come so far because it was all designed for me - I have done the hard work bit, no doubt, but without a pre-ordained design, I believe even hard work wouldn't have gotten me so far. Work hard, stick to your karm, let destiny take over."
Was it this design that made him do 'Paan Singh Tomar', though many told him it wouldn't work? "And it got me the National Award," he grins. "And this is one award that carries a kind of respect. I got it for the first time, and I enjoyed it," he says.
And the controversies that always swirl over these awards? "At that moment, I was happy. I didn't want to see anything other than positive things into it. I wanted to celebrate and enjoy that moment. And I did," he shrugs, adding, "For me, the most important thing is, more than me, everyone with me is happy with this award. I would like to risk sounding immodest and say this, that I would like to be at a position where they just have to give me an award because they cannot ignore me - I want to reach that level of performance-oriented professionalism."
But he is not a conventional, good-looking hero, so looks wise... Irrfan cuts it off even before this question is finished. "I find myself very conventional, and very good-looking." But... "No, no. Kaisi baat kar rahi ho? This is immodest, what you are saying." But log toh kehte hain na, kecovnventional hero nahi ho... "Kaun kehta hai? Woh kaun log hain? Kahan hai? Lao mere saamne," he mocks, "Haan, main Ranbir Kapoor ya Hrithik Roshan nahi hoon, but down the history of Bollywood, good actors have always had this issue. Koi bhi good-looking nahi considerkara gaya - Rajesh Khanna wasn't considered good looking initially, neither was Dilip Kumar. And when Amitabh Bachchan was a newcomer, people had an issue with his looks, ditto with Shah Rukh and Ajay Devgn. Dekho, people have tongue and mouth and they can say anything, but I am handsome and you know, people like me because of my inner Irrfan, and also the outer Irrfan. So, I don't question my looks, I am OK with it, and I think people who watch me are also fine with it."
So, with all this handsome-ness, and a National Award, and his Cannes accolade now, his market value must have definitely gone up, isn't it? "Market value?" Yeh kya hai? Main kya koi sona hoon?" he laughs, but adds on a serious note, "I have to wait and watch. I still have to experience that. I am doing both foreign and Indian films. I am reading two-three foreign film scripts, they are interesting ones. I don't want to speak about them till something is finalised. And even now, when I think of The Lunchbox - it makes me happy. It was made with a lot of heart. I am always happy when I take my films to the international festivals - it shows the level where filmmaking in India has reached."
Source - Times Of India