Irrfan Khan: ‘I turned producer to tell stories which few people dare to say’



National Award-winning actor Irrfan Khan turns producer with The Lunchbox, directed by debutant Ritesh Batra. The film premiered to rave reviews in Critics’ Week, a festival sidebar for first and second films of directors.

What is it about The Lunchbox that convinced you to turn producer with the film?
Many stories remain untold in our country because there is no one demanding them. I turned producer to tell such stories, to look for stories, which few people dare to say and what could have been a better beginning than The Lunchbox, the most delicious story of the year

How did you prepare to play the character of an almost-retired widower who conducts an elaborate romance via his lunchbox?
The love story in the film did the trick for me. I hated the process of aging — the task of creating wrinkles etc. But the joy of experiencing the emotion of love helped me sail through.

You had once said that Hollywood offers you nuanced and layered characters to play but Bollywood doesn’t as much. Is that changing? Do you see more scope for fleshed out characters in Hindi films now?
I’m very hopeful of the younger generation, let’s keep our fingers crossed.

The critics in Cannes gave the film a thumbs up. Do you think that will give it a step-up in terms of Indian distribution or are films like these still a tough sell in India?
I was touched and stumped to see the 15 minutes of standing ovation in Cannes after the film, which says it all. This is not a dry intellectual film. These kinds of films will always work universally for the emotional appeal — a story simply told with potent said and unsaid emotions. Speaking of our domestic audience, they are ripe for an emotional ride. They are ready to recognise the power of silences and they have started relishing a different taste on their platter, which has acted as an appetiser. The Indian audience is hungry for a delicious meal now and their hunger is growing for good stories, good cinema.

Now that you’ve turned producer, is direction also a possibility?
No, direction has not become a compulsion for me as yet. There is lots to be explored in acting. If I can get beautiful stories, I feel it’s my beginning as an actor.