Kolkata, 12 March, Saionee Chakraborty/The Telegraph: Nadal to Dhoni, corruption in cricket to boo-boos in Bollywood, Spielberg to Sircar — Irrfan Khan says it as he feels it.
I love tennis! I watch when I get the time. But more than tennis, I like watching football. In tennis, (Rafael) Nadal is my favourite….
(Pete) Sampras had a powerful serve which was outstanding! Roger Federer is also equally good. Nadal has worked on himself a lot.
Is Federer past his prime?
Yeah… whether he should call it a day or not, I don’t know, but he is definitely past his prime. Tennis stars have a short shelf life, but look at Martina Navratilova. She kept playing.
She is a huge inspiration for a lot of women too…
Woh woman hai ki man hai?! She prefers to call herself a man I think!
Who are you watching in football?
I don’t remember the team names but my kids know everybody. They like Messi… sab se zyada toh wohi hai… Cristiano Ronaldo. I used to like Ronaldinho a lot.
Is cricket on a decline now?
Cricket ka down hona bhi chahiye! It is a waste of time. Compared to the charm and the drama of a Test match…this T20… it is raping the game. All kinds of goof-ups are happening.
Have you ever played cricket?
I played cricket. I wanted to become a cricketer. I was an all-rounder and the youngest one in my team in Jaipur. I wanted to make a career out of it. I was selected for the CK Nayudu tournament I think and then I needed money and didn’t know who to ask. That day I decided I cannot pursue it. I couldn’t have asked for Rs 600 at that time.
I needed Rs 300 for National School of Drama, which was difficult for me. My sister finally got it for me. Giving up cricket was a conscious decision. There are only 11 players in the whole country. Actors mein koi limit nahin hai! There is no age limit in acting… jitna mehnat karoge….You yourself are your own weapon.
Any cricket anecdotes as a fan?
There was an India-Pakistan match. I was very young. Zaheer Abbas was there. I went to take his autograph. That was the first time as I never took autographs from anybody in my life. He just looked at me… and I felt so humiliated. I felt really bad. I was a Zaheer Abbas and Imran Khan fan. Imran kitna khubsoorat lagta hai! What a persona… open-chested,aisi uchhal ke bowling karta tha. Even now, he looks great. David Beckham is also very good-looking. Beckham ka ajeeb sa hai… anything suits him. Very stylish. At one point of time, I used to like Sachin (Tendulkar). Kapil (Dev) was also a favourite. (M.S.) Dhoni has shown some character.
I don’t have any current favourites as I don’t watch cricket now. It is too corrupt now. Everything looks fixed. Abhi lagta hai key waisa bola gaya tha ke jao Champions Trophymein aur Virat (Kohli) ko bola gaya tha ke jao haar key aao taakey yeh baat uthey hi nahin aagey ke tum captain bano! Otherwise, how can this happen? Srinivasan (N. Srinivasan, the BCCI president) aur yeh sab ki mili bhagat! Hazaaron karoro rupaye! The report by the (Mudgal) Commission has Dhoni’s name. Supreme Court ko unhoney request kiya hai ke naam na baahar nikaaley. Why?
All this disappoints you as a fan?
The kind of money cricket was generating, it was not propagating a sporting culture. It was just for cricket and corruption. If that money is utilised to develop any other game, you feel it is right. A politician who hasn’t picked up a cricket bat wants to become a chairman… Sharad Pawar… what have they got to do with cricket? Aapney country ka jo haal kiya hai… even if one department rectifies itself just for a week, you will see the change. This country is going to the dogs. I feel sad.
You travel so much. Is this also a realisation when you see how other countries function?
Yes… the realisation becomes bigger. Then you know your country is up for sale now. Privatisation is going to take over. It hasn’t done good to any country. They say democracy, which as a concept is good, but unless people are evolved to choose their leader, there is no point of a democracy. Neta aake kuch bhi sapna dikhata hai… woh log dekh letey hain. They are not mature enough, but it is politically incorrect to say that the public is blind or that they are sleeping! They are dead. Kuch bhi naach gaana dikhao they are okay.
I don’t have the temperament to be a politician. Unless and until you can make a difference, there is no point. There are good politicians too. There are people who are concerned. Jairam Ramesh did some good things… Sitaram Yechury… the kind of awareness Arvind Kejriwal has brought or what I hear about Mamata Banerjee… that she doesn’t take facilities and she still lives in that house… I don’t know if it’s a gimmick, but if she does it… somebody should set the standards.
Who do you see as a youth icon?
There is no youth icon. If you are looking up to film stars and cricketers to become youth icons, this is a sorry state. No scientist or nobody who is changing people’s lives… you don’t even know about them. They should be youth icons. Every middle class ka bachcha chahta hai ki TV par aa jaaye. This is a very bad sign.
Since you are here for an ad shoot and Abhishek Dutta is dressing you, what’s your take on fashion?
If it makes me look nice and comfortable, I am good. Sometimes the kind of fashion people try becomes a burden on them. In India we don’t have a sense of fashion. We haven’t even changed our uniforms which the angrez gave us. In this heat, advocates wear black coats! Why cannot we come up with our dress code? Ho kya raha hai? Are we dead?! Are we in slumber? So, I have lots of grudges.
Who is the most fashionable personality according to you?
Brad Pitt. I like Sean Penn as a person very much. The way he has conducted his life. Or the way Daniel Day-Lewis lives. I like it very much. It is an ideal way to live. That’s a sign of success where your status as an actor doesn’t become a burden for you. Aap ek filmkartey ho and after that you are gone… you go and do what you want to do and come back again.
Do you as an actor want to lead that kind of a life?
Ideally I would… but there are pressures and insecurities. That’s what I am working towards where you have a choice to work with the kind of directors you want to work with or the kind of life you want to lead. Ideally, I would love to have a life where I choose films season-wise… in summer I go to Kashmir…. Like we did Paan Singh (Tomar). I loved the location… the ravines… mesmerising… Chambal, alligators, you are a bandit… what an experience!
So, you can turn producer and do what you want…
That’s what I am trying to do. I am part-producing films, so that I have more control. Time has come when people want to see different kinds of stories and they are viable. I never knew that The Lunchbox was going to do more than 20 crore business, only in India. I thought it would make 5 crore. So, people are hungry to watch good cinema… not indulgent stories, art cinema, a film which bores you. The audience is mature. I think the industry is lagging behind right now. That’s why so many Hollywood films are working. Life of Pi did 100 crore in India and Avatar 150 crore. So, the audience is hungry and they are growing.
We just need better film-makers now who can tell interesting stories and which can also engage the international audience. We are happy and complacent making films for NRIs. You have to expand your markets. Otherwise, Hollywood might eat you up because they have mastered the art of telling an issue-based story and yet making it so engaging. If we make issue-based films, it tends to become boring and preachy and loaded with concern that is fake. Or, we make cinema in the name of commercial films which don’t have any kind of layering. The way people act, say lines, handle situations, nothing is true to life. Audience will force the film industry to change.
What was the last film you saw that moved you?
Her, which is very interesting. That kind of story has been told earlier… relationship with computer, but they didn’t work the way this Spike Jonze film has. And Scarlett Johansson’s voice… outstanding. Beautiful. He has shot it so simply…. American Hustle was a great film and Christian Bale was so good…. Matthew McConaughey took time to change tracks.
One film that you would have loved to be a part of?
I think Gravity was a unique experience. Although it became a formula-film later, the way it concludes, the world it creates is fascinating.
And of course there is Jurassic Park 4 coming up…
We start filming from April in New Orleans and Hawaii. I have watched the first one. Because it is a (Steven) Spielberg production and the kind of writing they do, amazing. One scene of mine is just four lines but it says so much about so many things. I play a park owner.
Which is your favourite Steven Spielberg film?
Schindler’s List, E.T. and Lincoln. Spielberg is ultimate. He makes films on issues but the kind of insight he brings…
You will soon be camping in Calcutta for your upcoming films with Sujoy Ghosh and Shoojit Sircar…
I will be here for a long time. Shoojit is my favourite. He has integrity and lots of guts. He will keep making good films. After watching Madras Cafe, I was in tears. He is the only guy who could have done that. He is someone who will not falter… ke mein sau crore ki picturebana leta hoon. He is not into that. He is mature and sorted out. Sujoy is very passionate about cinema and that’s what I love. As an actor, you are almost in love with your director. You have an affair kind of a thing. An actor when he plays his emotion, you need somebody who respects that and reciprocates.
[ Source input via The Telegraph by Saionee Chakraborty]