Irrfan Khan’s forthcoming Bollywood entertainer Hindi Medium has Pakistani actress Saba Qamar as the leading lady, and features a song by Pakistani singing sensation Atif Aslam. The acclaimed actor, who is now “very careful” about what he says, feels lucky that the movie is releasing without any brouhaha.
“The environment has become such that anything can happen any time. I remember at the time of Billu Barber, something had happened over a word. So, you always feel lucky when there’s no controversy,” he said in a recent interview. “You never get to know when a mountain is made out of a molehill,” added Irrfan, who described his experience of working with the “talented” Saba as “excellent.”
It may be recalled here that in 2009, before Irrfan’s Billu released, the Hairdressers’ Associations of Mumbai had made a hue and cry over its initial title Billu Barber. As a result, the ‘barber’ had to be snipped out. Also, around the release of Madaari in 2016, the actor had faced the heat for his remarks around qurbani.
So is he more conscious about what he says now? “Yes… I am very careful, and I realised one thing: we don’t have a place where you can go and express yourself and say what you want to,” Irrfan said. “You’re a media person and your intentions may be good and you might write the thing in the right context. But after you write it, your words will be broken into different contexts and I can’t even comment on what extent it will happen. So, it is very unfortunate that we don’t have a platform where we can say anything.”
Asked for his stance on whether Pakistani artistes should be allowed to work in India or not, the Life of Pi star responded, “I will take a stand when there will be responsible people around. Wherever I feel my stand will not be misrepresented, I will want to take a stand. And if I don’t take a stand, I won’t know what to do.”
For Irrfan, social media is the root of many problems. “One thinks that the internet exposes you to different things but it actually is caging you in its concept. If you have an interest in something, if you are biased and flawed, it will keep feeding you the same things and you won’t get a counter to it,” he explained. “It will feed you the same things which it thinks you want. So, you will be trapped in that cocoon. It’s unfortunate. It makes you stupid!”
Hindi Medium, directed by Saket Chaudhary, shines the spotlight on how education is creating inequality rather than enlightenment, with the divide between English medium and regional language schools and private and government schools. What does Irrfan think of the flaws in the education system?
“Education has become a means to take care of your insecurities. Kids are being raised keeping in mind what they will do when they grow up – will they be able to earn their bread and better, will they become a doctor…?”
He continued, “Nobody is exploring their interests or personality. There’s no way that you are told to seek your interest and then find a line for yourself. But if you’re doing something of your interest, then hard work is not a problem… You will do it automatically. That is something we do not put a lot of emphasis on. Seek the interest, and follow it!”
On his part, the actor says he is letting his two sons find their calling.
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