Great actors have one thing in common. They can get inside the skin of the character to such an extent that it's impossible to distinguish them from the character they're playing. Boman Irani is definitely one such actor. From the stern principal of a medical college in Munnabhai MBBS to the neurotic college director Prof Sahasrabudhhe. His ability to convey an entire horizon of emotions through his expressions and body language have put him into a league of his own. His latest stint as a middle-aged cynical Parsi father in 'Ferrari Ki Sawaari' lives up to his brand. We got the man himself, Boman Irani, to come and visit the Yahoo! India office where he chatted with Kunal Guha about his mantra for acting and what he looks for in films before deciding to feature in them. Here's a transcript of the chat.
What excited you about the film and your character when you first heard a narration of 'Ferrari Ki Sawaari'?
Honestly, I was cast even before the narration. Mapuskar (Director Rajesh Mapuskar) had come up to me at the party organized for 'Lage Raho Munnabhai' and said that he has going to make a movie and if I would do it. I just joked and said that I wouldn't do it. He took it too seriously and didn't realize that I was joking. Later he met my wife at a party and he told her that I had declined his offer. Then Zenobia (Boman's wife) came to me and asked me why I had declined and then I said I was joking and then I finally agreed to do it. When I heard the story, it was warm and tender and there was a lot to explore thematically and as a story. Thankfully, at the heart of it and the thought of it and the vision remained consistent and has only grown since then and it's a film that we're all very proud of.
But are there elements that you look for before selecting a film?
Whenever a story is narrated to me, I request the person to not tell me which character they want me for. I just want to hear the story and the screenplay. If that is exciting, then we talk about the character. If I am told which character I am playing, I am distracted then and I am thinking how is this interesting for me and how I would do it and so on. Sometimes a character jumps off the page and sometimes it doesn't. So you have to embroider it and garnish it. But all that comes later.
Read the review of 'Ferrari Ki Sawaari'
Religious and cultural stereotypes are always magnified in films. So were there any clichés about Parsis that you tried to consciously avoid imbibing into your character?
There are no clichés in the film. You are right about one thing though. Every time they show a Parsi in a film, he is wearing a Dagli and a Feta and running around with an egg in his hand. At home, you will never see a Parsi dressed like that. No Parsi dresses up like that at home or goes out to dinner dressed like that. I have never seen that. But that apart, behavior emanates from thought and culturally what is your take on life and society and the world around you. And if at all there are stereotypes, you can find one little thing in those stereotypes that is truthful, then it works. But in this case, it's just a background. They're Parsis, so they're upright and they don't want to break the law. That is the last thing in the world that one should be doing as a Parsi. But there is always a perception of how a community is and how it behaves and sometimes those perceptions aren't entirely incorrect.
Did you have any reservations or apprehensions about working with debutant director Rajesh Mapuskar? Or how did you put your concerns to rest?
Wait a minute (raises his voice). I have done 22 films as an actor with first-time directors. So there is never a concern or reservations about a debut director. I don't get into, 'Yeh karega kya? Camera placement isko ayega kya?' I hear the story and I read the story and I go back and try to understand what does he want to say in this film. The moment I know that this guy knows what he wants to say, I am convinced. Eventually films are about themes and they're not just there to tell you stories. For me, I look for a man who is willing to give a part of himself into the film. His life, his time and his dedication is good enough for me. You may be a technical whiz of films but if you're not willing to put your heart in it and not be inclusive and not be collaborative then God bless you. I like to work with people who are willing to share, who're willing to allow me to share my thoughts and make it a co-operative effort.
Are you one of those Parsis yourself who worships his car and pampers and protects it with all his love?
I'll tell you what (takes a brief pause), I love my wife more than I love my car. Sometimes, people feel otherwise. But I am attached to my car as well. I love how my seat fits into the seat of my car and I feel comfortable in the warmth of my own space. I don't have my first car anymore, my assistant has it.
Since the film involves Parsis and also one of the world's most celebrated sports cars, do you think a Parsi would every buy a Ferrari? If yes, will he allow it to roll out of his garage ever?
Would a Parsi buy a Ferrari? (sounds surprised) What is this thing about Parsis? You're making a stereotype of Parsis! You're making it seem like they always keep their cars in the garage and they spit polish it all the time. I think we had a rally driver called Bomsi Wadia, who drove at the London rally. So Parsis are fearless drivers even. Otherwise, they also go minus 25 kms/ hour on the first gear as well. But then, you need to be careful. A fast car doesn't mean that you have to drive it fast. There is a time and place to try a particular car at a particular speed. The ideal place to try out such sports car would be the racing track. A lot of people ruin their lives by rash driving. So I am not a propagator of 'burn those wheels'.
Why a Ferrari and not any other car?
You know Mapuskar has a great story. When he was a production assistant and he was into procuring things for a shoot. So once he was supposed to find a sports car. And not just any sports car but a Ferrari. He looked around the entire city but couldn't find a Ferrari in Mumbai. Finally, he was at CST station and he wanted to commit suicide by jumping off the foot-over bridge. That is when he came up with the idea for this film. So great stories can come out of any situation.