Irrfan Khan began his journey in showbiz with the small screen — from Bharat Ek Khoj to Chanakya and Chandrakanta, he essayed a variety of roles on TV and soon, took the big leap onto the silver screen with Salaam Bombay.
However, the actor worked for two decades in the industry before bagging a role in Haasil, a film that brought him both appreciation and his first Filmfare Award.
Despite the wide critical acclaim, Irrfan did not get the traditional hero’s role for years. He mostly played character roles in movies that ranged from typical Bollywood entertainers like Gunday to crime thrillers and ‘different’ cinema like Maqbool by Vishal Bhardwaj and Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster by Tigmanshu Dhulia.
Now, 29 years after he began his journey in showbiz, the Padma Shri awardee is experimenting with his lighter side, and is defying norms of a typical romantic hero.
Irrfan does not boast of a traditional hero’s assets: a typical hero’s face or chiselled body. He also doesn’t resort to typical Bollywood-style heroism. Yet, he has created a space for himself in the industry which is now ready to offer him the role of hero in love stories. Of course, the actor continues to ensure that even these are not run-of-the-mill films.
With Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox (2013) Irrfan had a major switch in roles — the film that also starred Nawazuddin Siddiqui, saw Irrfan in the lead in a love story. In 2015, we saw him paired opposite Deepika Padukone in yet another unconventional film: Piku. There was a very unusual romantic undertone to Irrfan’s equation with Deepika in the film and he received wide acclaim for his understated performance.
With Hindi Medium (2017), the actor began essaying the role of a typical romantic hero, one where he woos the heroine, sings songs for her and plays the charmed lover.
With Tanuja Chandra’s Qarib Qarib Singlle, Irrfan steps into the zone of the most favourite character of the masses once again. While Hindi Medium received rave reviews, Qarib Qarib Singlle is also expected to be a film riding on content rather than star value of the lead actors.
But the actor has something else in mind.
“People tell me I am now featuring in romantic roles. But I believe if I am stuck in one kind of roles. I am done as an artist. That is a problem with our industry. If an actor finds his zone, filmmakers want him to stick to the genre. I don’t want that. Most probably, I will soon surprise you with a film that is completely different from what I have been doing recently,” he told Hindustan Times.
“Actually, planning has never worked for me in my entire life. Each time I have started something with elaborate planning, I have miserably failed. So it is not any well-thought out strategy under which I am picking these films,” he added.
He had earlier said that some issue-based films tend to become boring. “So there is a need to have second layer in the story.”
Directed by Saket Choudhary, Hindi Medium had a slow opening with mere Rs 2.81 crore on day one, but the film saw a huge jump on the second and collected Rs 7.06 crore. Made at an estimated budget of Rs 22 crore, the film has made a lifetime collection of Rs 69 crore.
The film showcases the class struggles of a Hindi-speaking man trying to find an English medium school for his daughter. It stars Irrfan and Pakistani actor Saba Qamar in lead roles.