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Well done, Boman Irani

Last updated on: March 26, 2010 09:51 IST

Well done, Boman Irani

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Nithya Ramani in Mumbai

Who says middle-aged men can't look forward to a career in Bollywood?

Theatre actor Boman Irani was 44-years-old when he took to films and wowed us with his performance in Munnabhai MBBS. His journey since then has been both remarkable and versatile, but he remains best know for his comic performances.

And now, he's back with a political satire under the august baton of Shyam Benegal. He plays Abba aka Armaan Ali in this week's release Well Done Abba.

Boman, clearly, is very excited that Benegal 'finally' had a role for him. He talks to Nithya Ramani about how he got emotional at the end of the shoot, why he has been stereotyped as a comic actor and much more.

Excerpts:


Image: A scene from Well Done Abba

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'According to to Shyam Benegal, my character in the film is God's fool'

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You have yet another comedy on your plate. Though you have done serious roles, why do you think you are synonymous with comedy?

I guess that is because those films have done better than the ones in which I have played a serious role. It is all about the perception people have. Ultimately, I want to do roles that are challenging.

In Well Done Abba, I play Armaan Ali, who is a very common Indian. You can't get more common than him. He is polite, gullible, lovable and respectful. He follows the Gandhian principles. He takes a stand without violence.

A progressive Muslim, he has a daughter he wants to get married but makes sure she approves of the boy.

When he goes to meet the boy's parents, he is very polite. When they criticize the fact that she doesn't wear a burkha, or that she is studying and intends to work later, he listens to them patiently and walks off after thanking them.

He doesn't want his daughter to be just another commodity at her in-laws' place.

According to to Shyam (Benegal), he is God's fool. He doesn't understand the lingo or manipulation or wicked thoughts that people have. How he goes about learning their style, even as he stays true to his Gandhian principles, is the story of Well Done Abba.


Image: A scene from Well Done Abba

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'Shyam will even cancel the day's shoot if we are not ready'

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And you finally you got to work with Shaym Benegal.

It was wonderful. It couldn't get better than this.

I have always wanted to work with him and I've always wondered why he didn't call me earlier. When he finally did for Well Done Abba, he said, 'Boman, I finally have something for you.' He thought I could play Armaan Ali best.

It is sheer pleasure and joy working with Shyam. For all the fame and accolades he has, he is very humble and down-to-earth. He is a very simple man and never complicates anything. I call him the intellectual Abba.

When you are on the sets with him, he doesn't shock you with changes. He knows what he wants from his actors and tells you well in advance how he wants you to react in a particular scene. We wouldn't be shooting that scene in the next few days, but he still tells you casually and prepares you. So, when you actually shoot the scene, you are not surprised.

You are intimidated initially by his fame and the body of work he has and the international acclaim but he makes you very comfortable. He doesn't behave like he has been there done that. He is cool, calm, composed and lets you do your thing.

He reads your mind, which I think is the best thing about Shyam.

If you are not in the mood for a particular scene, he understands it without you having to tell him. He is flexible and adjusts by shooting other parts. He will even cancel the day's shoot if we are not ready.

But I think that is just reverse psychology he tries on me (laughs).

If he says, it's okay if you are not ready to do this scene, we will shoot something else and do this scene later when you are ready... it makes you wonder why you are not ready. You make up your mind and get ready and go for it. I think that's a nice trick he plays (laughs).


Image: A scene from Well Done Abba

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'I think every growing actor should work with Shyam Benegal'

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What genre does Well Done Abba fall into? Some call it comedy, some a satire, some a film with a serious message.

You can call it whatever you want. I think this is the kind of movie that will inspire people to stand up for themselves. Even if it does not make them implement what they think is right, it will surely inspire them. It has a message alright, a strong one -- that you don't need violence or hatred to get your work done. You can be polite and yet make you point.

But who does that these days? Do you think it is possible?

It isn't impossible. Which is exactly why I said it will inspire people, if not make them actually implement it. People have been complaining that we don't give them sensible cinema. Now we are giving them sensible cinema. Let's see what they take from it.

As a senior artiste, what was it like to work with not-so-experienced actors like Sammir Dattani and Minissha Lamba?

I think every growing actor should work with Shyam Benegal. They will learn a whole new meaning of cinema. They will learn a different perspective towards understanding cinema.

As far as my working with them is concerned, I loved it. They are sweet kids to be with and it was fun working with them on Well Done Abba.


Image: A scene from Well Done Abba

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'We were shooting for 35 odd days in Hyderabad and on the last day I broke down'

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You have always tried something new with your filmi characters -- be it different make-up, get-up or, in this film, a different dialect. How easy or difficult was it to learn the dialect?

Learning to speak in Dhakni is only a basic requirement of the character. I don't think that is difficult or challenging in any way.

I think the most challenging part is to be able to get into the mind of the character and play him right. Other aspects like make-up, look, language are all just an add-on.

Minissha was raving about the way you kept them all in good spirits despite the tense climatic conditions you were shooting in. What was your memorable part of the whole experience?

I am a family person and can't stay away from home for long. I need to be with my family.

We were shooting for 35 odd days in Hyderabad and on the last day I broke down. We were celebrating in the same house in the backyard near a well and I got very emotional. I couldn't believe it was the last day of shoot and we weren't going to come back there again.

I was dying to get to the sets every morning of the shoot.

I have a huge expectation from this film. This is something I have been dying to do -- work with Shyam Benegal and play a character that is so uniquely defined. I am sure people will like it.


Image: A scene from Well Done Abba

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