I felt we must share this story with the audience
Irrfan Khan is an actor known for his versatility and penchant for engaging roles. His latest venture, Talvar, is grabbing eyeballs for all the right reasons including Irrfan’s stellar performance. In a tete-a-tete with Pandolin, Irrfan talks about the the film, his preparation for the role, working with Vishal Bhardwaj & Meghna Gulzar and more.
This year has been fairly good for you, with Piku and Jurrasic World doing great. Now you have Talvaar coming up and right after that Jazbaa will be hitting the box office. How excited are you?
I am really excited for both the films. They are completely different films and they both will give you a completely different experience. Actually these two films are such that we could have released them on the same day. This way the audience would have seen me do two different stories! (laughs) They both promise a complete different experience.
Talvaar is something the Indian audience hasn’t seen before. It’s a drama which is truly based on facts and how to make facts so engaging and entertaining. It’s something which you will take along and have a dialogue with. It’s a film which will not leave you.
Are you playing the role of a cop in both your films, Talvar and Jazbaa?
(In Talvar) I am not playing a cop. It’s more like CBI but we can’t call it CBI so we called it CDI. It’s more of an intelligence officer work than a cop. But my department has to interact with the cops.
In Jazbaa, yes I am playing the character of a cop but a suspended cop. The style of the film is such that I don’t need to behave like a policeman. It’s more of a role that entertains you with one-liners.
Meghna (Gulzar) has said that you were her first choice for this role. But when this offer came to you, what was your initial reaction like? Did you know about this case?
I was shocked. I said “Shit. I didn’t know all this. How did I not know?” I then thought that if this is true, and this is how things are done, I felt we must share this story with the audience. Cinema is a means to reflect on what is going on, around us or inside us. It’s a medium to explore ourselves, our society and of course entertainment.
Where you apprehensive about doing a movie which was on such a sensitive topic like this? What made you take it up regardless?
I was concerned and was cautious but I could see the team’s – Vishal had written it and Meghna was directing it – intention. Their intention was not to make a hit film on a particular case and move on. They wanted to tell the story for different reasons. So, automatically, your reaction is also such that the responsibility comes to you. You are not doing a film for the sake of it but trying to bring the truth or whatever happened as neutrally as possible. And also, you are relying on audience intelligence to understand and see what’s going on.
How did you get into the skin of your character? Was it challenging, considering this is a very sensitive issue?
I met the guy who had actually conducted the investigation and took his point of view. I asked him all the questions I had and all the unsolved things I had in my mind, I discussed with him. I tried to understand how his department functions, what are their limitations, what can they do, what do they do illegally, and what efforts they put in to solve a case. Also, what is their interpersonal relationship with other departments, say the police: these were things that I had to find out.
It was challenging because it was a kind of responsibility. Whatever you are doing, saying or projecting, are you 110 percent sure? You can’t say “let’s make a tight thriller on it because it’s a take on a real case”. You need to consult again and again, and try to find out the truth on your own. Then you do the scene. At one point of time, when the film was complete, we had a discussion that there were other points of view which were important for the film. Because we are not telling a story about a particular person here but we are trying to put a point of view and in that, there is a larger picture on how the system operates. So, we decided to do that. We started researching again and for five months we met those (accused) people and took their POV. And it took us five long months and then we came up with a final thirteen minute scene in a room which has a strange climax.
Since, this movie is based on a real case, there must have been a lot of research that must have gone into it. Did you also follow it closely?
Initially yes. I was aware of it but later when it became an item number on the news channels, I stopped.
You’ve worked in a lot of international films. In comparison to that, how is Talvar, knowing that it’s said to be a very bold film?
That you can make out from the reaction at Toronto where the theatre was packed with foreign audience and also from the reviews in Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Mint and other magazines. This film has, in the true sense, the capability to entertain a universal audience. It’s making, it’s content, it’s style: it has that level.
Producers start off by promoting their films and saying that they are based on true facts and stories, but when it’s time for the release, a lot has been dramatized and altered in the content. Why do you think producers even today are shying away from making films like Talvar, which are raw and fact-driven?
As I said earlier, films can be a medium to reflect about yourself and the society and it can also become a tool to fluffy entertainment. It’s a personal choice of the filmmaker: in which direction he wants to go in. There’s no judgment on that. We can’t judge. But it shows/reflects the time in which we are living.
How was it like working with Vishal Bhardwaj and Meghna Gulzar?
As it was earlier. (Laughs)
Would you elaborate please?
We have a good team. We understand each other. He likes my interpretation of things, what I do with his writings, although he doesn’t cast me (laughs)
Tell us about the experience of working with Konkona?
We don’t have many scenes together. But I love Konkona. She’s a very engaging actress. There are some great performances in this film. Gajraj is a revelation. He’ll make you laugh in the most absurd and weird circumstances. And it’s all black humour in true sense. It’s a very unique film in that sense.
Aishwarya had recently spoken at an event that she was looking forward to working with you as soon as she knew you were on board for the film. What was your experience with Aishwarya like?
It’s a dream for any actor to be paired with Aishwarya. I am fortunate that I worked with her and I found her to be a very genuine, kind-hearted, warm and caring person. She’s a beautiful woman and she’s done a great job in the film. I had a great time working with her.