Filmmaker Nikkhil Advani Speaks About The Retrospective On Irrfan Khan

Filmmaker Nikkhil Advani Speaks About The Retrospective On Irrfan Khan

It is scheduled for the Republic Day weekend

Roshmila BhattacharyaUpdated: Saturday, January 20, 2024, 10:30 PM IST
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Nikkhil Advani with Irrfan Khan |

Nikkhil Advani shares that when writing the 2013 espionage thriller D-Day, the only name that came to mind for the role of the undercover agent Wali Khan was Irrfan Khan. He was the actor all the young directors, back then, wanted to work with. Nikkhil turned up for the first day’s shoot fully prepped with his shot division. An amused Irrfan listened to the writer-producer-director sketch out in detail how he wanted to shoot before interrupting with a wry smile, “You’ve written a script we’ve all liked. Ab ek kaam kar, let me do the acting while Tusshar (DoP Tisshar Kanti Ray) shoots the scene, you sit at the monitor aur mazaa loot (enjoy).”

Flashbacking to that moment, Nikkhil admits that working with the late actor was a game changer as he understood that all the hard work should happen during the scripting. The treatment, staging, and performances had to happen organically and were to be enjoyed. Today, his cinematic journey can be divided into the ‘before Irrfan’ and ‘after Irrfan’ phases.

Over the last several months, as advisory board member of the film society Cinema House at G5A, Nikkhil has been working with Irrfan’s wife Sutapa Sikdar and Anuradha Parikh on a retrospective of Irrfan Khan. It traces his cinematic journey through nine feature films, The Lunchbox, The Warrior, Paan Singh Tomar, Qissa, Qarib Qarib Singlle, The Namesake, Piku, Talvar and Maqbool. The one-of-a-kind festival also give viewers an opportunity to revisit some of the actor’s short films, including Mira Nair’s Migration and Road To Ladakh, along with a few diploma films from his FTII days and episodes from the Star Bestseller TV series. Sutapa, with their elder son Babil, will be waiting to greet viewers. The audience can take their questions to a panel of directors, producers, actors and technicians after the screenings.

A still from Paan Singh Tomar

A still from Paan Singh Tomar |

Nawazuddin Siddiqui, with producers Karan Johar and Guneet Monga, director Ritesh Batra, Shoojit Sircar, producer Ronnie Lahiri, writer Juhi Chaturvedi, Tigmanshu Dhulia and others will take the audiences behind the scenes of the film. The three-day festival will conclude with Maqbool and a face-to-face meeting with Naseeruddin Shah, Pankaj Kapur, director Vishal Bhardwaj and his wife Rekha who will sing the songs live.

“While assisting Saeed Mirza and Sudhir Mishra, I had attended many such retrospectives in Delhi’s Siri Fort and Mumbai’s NCPA and interacted with like-minded creative people who were in the same space. This led to a meeting of minds and at times, even collaborations. Such conversations have become all the more important in today’s world where they have almost ceased. They can still attract aspiring actors, filmmakers and writers, along with discerning cine goers,” says Nikkhil.

He informs that Shyam Benegal himself attended a few screenings at his G5A retrospective last March, along with actors Shabana Azmi and Rajat Kapoor and filmmakers Sudhir Mishra and Ketan Mehta, who spoke about which Benegal film had influenced them. “For the Irrfan festival, we approached almost everyone he’d worked with. No one refused. Ritesh Batra was even ready to fly down from LA which just proves that Irrfan was loved as much for the person he was as for the star he became,” the filmmaker adds.

A still from The Lunchbox

A still from The Lunchbox |

Surprisingly, his D-Day hasn’t been included in the festival because Nikkhil doesn’t want to be accused of bias. Another notable omission is Tigmanshu Dhulia’s 2003 Haasil, which bagged Irrfan the Filmfare Award for Best Negative Role. “I spent a month talking to everyone, but not even the distributors, Shringar Films, or the producers, Karma Network, have a print,” he sighs.   

The day Irrfan passed away on April 29, 2020, and Rishi Kapoor on April 30, 2020, a distraught Nikkhil had shared how during D-Day, Rishi Kapoor would drive two hours to his hotel every evening after pack-up. However, one night they needed him to bunk in the desert so they could shoot the sunrise on the morrow.

“Irrfan convinced Chintuji to spend the night in a tent with him, promising him khana and drinks. The next morning, we shot the two together, the sun and a triumphant smile lighting up Irrfan’s face as he sat beside Chintuji’s captured don, Goldman,” he narrates, his voice choked with tears.

This retrospective will undoubtedly bring more such stories about Irrfan who left us too soon.

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