The actor spoke of the difference between working in Hindi cinema and Hollywood, cons of improvisation, and current cinema.
Irrfan Khan: Actors perceived as magicians in India, performers in West
Mumbai - 30 Nov 2017 15:00 IST
Acclaimed Indian talent Irrfan Khan, who has dabbled in Hindi cinema and Hollywood, says the key difference between performing in the two industries lies in how the audience perceives an actor — for one, the parameter is engagement and charisma, while for the other, it is the nuance and subtlety.
"I think the most interesting part of exploring both the worlds of cinema — Bollywood (Hindi cinema) and Hollywood — is how the audience perceives an actor. In our (Indian) cinema, actors are like magicians who come on screen and do something to engage and mesmerize. On the other hand, in the West, actors are performers, and the audience looks for a certain amount of nuance, subtleness. It is really an interesting area to explore for an actor like me," Khan told IANS.
Iconic film directors like Mira Nair, Colin Trevorrow and Danny Boyle have worked with Khan on international projects. Some of the titles he has worked in include The Warrior (2001), A Mighty Heart (2007), The Namesake (2006), Slumdog Millionaire (2008), Life of Pi (2012) and Jurassic World (2015).
Khan may not be among the blockbuster Khans of Hindi cinema (Salman, Shah Rukh, Aamir), but he has made his mark as a critically acclaimed performer who has strengthened Indian presence in films internationally.
Critics praise his performance for intangible elements and for how he can convey a situation or a reaction with mere silence sometimes.
He says there's a thought behind it.
Explaining how he adds 'soul' to any written character, Khan said: "In the National School of Drama, we learned how to perform, deliver a dialogue or monologue, and how to carry a certain body language for a character that we are playing. But the thought that always played in my mind is how a character establishes its relevance in silence, without uttering a dialogue. In film acting especially, it works — a small expression, a small silence and then amalgamate it with the subtext of the situation."
However, he believes, one has to be very careful about improvisation as it might just spoil a character at times. Khan stressed that having this understanding is important in the character-building process for an actor.
"For instance, in Maqbool (2003), after improvising certain parts in two scenes, I just realized that what I am trying to add is taking away the essence of the character," Khan explained, whose Indian filmography is decorated with projects like Paan Singh Tomar (2012) and Piku (2015).
Pointing out how actors at times create their own comfort zones by improvising, he said: "I have seen actors taking an unnecessary pause between lines because he did not learn the lines properly and is trying to find his own ease in between. For me, that is not the right thing to do. For a performer in a film, how the director is setting our frame of mind also matters."
The year 2017 has been eventful for Khan.
Asked if he is saying "yes" to more scripts these days instead of being too choosy like earlier, Khan said: "My criterion of a good script as the deciding factor has not changed. But scriptwriters are coming up with some brilliant stories and that is bringing all the changes in our cinema."