Entertainment

Irrfan Khan: Sahir is the role I was waiting for

It’s close to midnight but Irrfan Khan is in another time zone. Speaking to us from New Orleans, the actor who’s in the midst of a Jurrasic World shoot, is surrounded by pre-historic dinosaurs and the latest in space technology.

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“This is my first visit to a NASA centre and though we cannot wander around the hi-security zones, we’re still at close quarters with the rockets that are being readied to zoom into outer space and their size is mind-boggling. The photographs I’d seen don’t do justice to them. They’re as tall as a 20-feet skyscraper,” describes Irrfan, sounding like an excited schoolboy.

The dinos, he promises, too will spring a surprise. Irrfan plays the new owner of the dinosaur park who imagines kids frolicking with the creatures, but not all of them turn out to be friendly. Eventually the character and the franchise explore the ethical issues simmering beneath the intention to entertain.

“Colin Treverrow’s script is insightful yet playful. Would you believe, this man had just one movie before this, Safety Not Guaranteed, a time travel drama made on a budget of $70,000. And now he’s directing a multi-million dollar film for Steven Spielberg. What a career jump for him!” he exclaims.

Irrfan himself is on a professional high after the worldwide mainstream success of ‘The Lunchbox’, followed by Qissa which has released to fantastic reviews in UK and Germany. “The perception of Indian cinema has changed and there is a lot of interest in the European market in both Indian cinema and me,” says Irrfan who is looking for collaborators, including specialised writers, after bagging filming rights to some books.

He is partnering with Mira Nair to launch her nephew, Ishaan, as a director. But he will not be acting in the film. “I’ve turned producer not to be seen on screen but to offer opportunities to new talent and tell stories I believe in. I didn’t even know Ishaan was Mira’s nephew. He was looking for a like-minded producer who would not interfere with his vision and we liked his concept,” he says.

As an actor, the role he’s most excited about is poet-lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi. “Ever since I learnt that Ashi Dua was planning a film on Sahir and Amrita Pritam’s love story, I wondered why they were not coming to me with it. They did after a month. It’s the role I have been waiting for a long time. It is well-researched and beautifully written. I can’t wait to immerse myself into the character,” says Irrfan, admitting that he’s heard that talks are on with Priyanka Chopra to play Amrita. “Imroz, a beautiful man and Amrita’s non-demanding companion, is another outstanding role waiting to be cast.” Irrfan doesn’t know what would have happened had the incomplete love story of the two literary legends come to fruition, but says that Sahir and he are similar in many ways.

“Chalo ek baar phir se ajnabi ban jayein hum dono… What an original thought!” raves Irrfan who while growing up had scant interest in verse and wasn’t allowed to listen to music. “But while at the National School of Drama, I developed an interest in both and also acting. But as an actor, I didn’t follow the rules. I let things happen, following stories and characters which made me feel good about myself. I guess there’s a Sahir in me too,” he laughs.

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