Had Shakespeare had been alive, he would have possibly declared, ‘Versatility, thy name is Boman Irani’ ! Never has the always-reinventing actor Boman repeated himself on screen. From playing the absent-minded college principal in Main Hoon Na to the eccentric medical college Principal Dr. Asthana in Munnabhai MBBS to the whimsical Hitler meets Einstein - avataar genius Principal Sahastrabuddhe with a lisp in 3 Idiots, versatile actor par excellence Boman has enacted each of the ‘Principal’ characters with a distinct distinction. In a candid free-wheeling exclusive rapid-fire conversation with Chaitanya Padukone, the bohemian Boman, who has nearly 70 movies to his credit, comes across as the cultured, well-mannered impeccable gentleman. What is laudable about the jovial Irani, is that while speaking to this correspondent, he was laid up in bed, “with a bad double slip disc” and writhing in painful agony. But with his resilient, indomitable spirit, optimistic Boman consented to speak on phone, just to help us meet the deadlines. A rare star quality, that deserves accolades.
What does ‘Pateti’ sentimentally mean to you and how do you celebrate it ? Which is your favourite on the Parsi-bhonnu menu dishes?
Regardless of the community or caste, I believe every religious Indian festival is mainly a khubsoorat-sa bahaana for bringing the families ‘n’ relatives together where they exchange pleasantries and goodies and amicably sort out animosity, if any. There is energetic positivity in the festivity.
Pateti is also the joyous culmination of ten days of fond remembrance of the departed ones. All sweet-spicy food prepared during every major Indian festival are relished by me. In Parsi cuisine, ‘paatra-ni-machhi’’ (steamed fish topped with chutney and wrapped in a banana leaf ) happens to be my hot favourite.
If not a Bollywood ‘star-actor’, what alternate vocation would you have opted for ?
Possibly as an ace sports-photographer. Simply because that’s a classy combination of my two passion-hobbies –sports and photography. But my career inclination would surely have something to do with the visual medium and the performing arts. Actually I look at sports as a ‘theatrical play’. That’s because there is so much extreme dramatic emotional reactions of both cheerful ecstasy and jolting disappointment from the spectators. In slow motion ‘action replay’, the visuals resemble a ‘graceful ballet’.
If you don the mantle of a movie director, what would be your dream lead cast?
It’s every director’s dream to work with legendary Bachchansaab, but then the role should also be worthy of his supreme calibre. Depending on the script-requirement of the characters I would then decide the casting.
Which has been your ‘most demanding’ movie role ?
All of them. Unless my role is demanding, I don’t usually take it up. It’s got to be challenging and impactful, even if it maybe a ‘guest appearance’. But yes, my characters in Eklavya-The Royal Guard and Khosla Ka Ghosla, I feel, are among my demanding roles.
Among your all-time favourite Hindi retro-movies is Bombay To Goa ( 1972) — you have possibly watched it over 21 times !
It’s a benchmark classic comedy with an extraordinary ensemble of over 30 odd assorted characters. But none of them is a junior artiste ‘extra’ . Each one has a well-defined memorable character that leaves a mind-blowing impact. And the-then newcomer Amitabh Bachchan, is a fantastic revelation in all the scenes be it fights, romance or singing and dancing.
What is it, that you wish you could change about Mumbai city ?
Our city definitely needs and deserves better infrastructure, maximum hygiene-cleanliness, better traffic management, smoother roads. At the same time the ‘public attitude’ also needs to change. While we continue to criticise the concerned departments, we need to blame ourselves also. Otherwise, I share an everlasting sentimental bond with my birthplace and work zone Mumbai. The city that hardly sleeps, just to make people’s dreams come true.
Any unfulfilled wish, with regards to Hollywood?
Wish I could have worked with Oscar-award-winning amazing senior actor Jack Nicholson.
Your message to fellow Parsis?
Don’t worry about the numbers, retain your identity and protect the values. That in turn would uphold the reasons why other communities look up to you.