For Indian audience the parameter for judging actors is engagement and charisma, while for the West, it is the nuance and subtlety
Acclaimed Indian talent Irrfan Khan, who has dabbled in Bollywood 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.
Exploring both the worlds
“I think the most interesting part of exploring both the worlds of cinema – Bollywood and Hollywood – is how the audience perceives an actor. In our (Indian) cinema, actors are like a magician who come on screen and do something to engage and mesmerise. 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,” Irrfan said.
Iconic film directors like Mira Nair, Colin Trevorrow and Danny Boyle have worked with Irrfan in international projects. Some of the titles he has worked in include “The Warrior”, “A Mighty Heart”, “The Namesake”, “Slumdog Millionaire”, “Life of Pi” and “Jurassic World”.
Leaving a mark
Irrfan may not be among the blockbuster Khans of Bollywood, 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, Irrfan 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. Irrfan stressed that having this understanding is important in the character-building process for an actor. “For instance, in ‘Maqbool’, after improvising certain parts in two scenes, I just realised that what I am trying to add is taking away the essence of the character,” said Irrfan, whose Indian filmography is decorated with projects like “Paan Singh Tomar” and “Piku”.
Pointing out how actors at times create their own comfort zone by improvisation, 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,” said the actor, who has enjoyed working with Vishal Bhardwaj, Shoojit Sircar and Tigmanshu Dhulia.
An eventful year
The year 2017 has been eventful for Irrfan. He got commercial success with “Hindi Medium”, acclaimed movies like “Doob: No Bed of Roses” and “The Song of Scorpions” and had another commercial release “Qarib Qarib Singlle”.
Asked if he is saying “yes” to more scripts these days instead of being too choosy like earlier, Irrfan 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.”