Madaari is Irrfan Khan’s “passion project”, his way of asking uncomfortable questions about accountability in India. Here, the actor speaks about issues others are too afraid to say out aloud.
In Madaari, your character seeks redress when he loses his family in a metro bridge collapse in Mumbai. What was the trigger for this story?
Some friends were sitting together and discussing a few real-life incidents. Then, we started talking about accountability — how our system does not demand accountability. If a person is in a position to take decisions that affect people’s lives and, if those decisions have negative repercussions a few years later, the official is transferred from one post to another. So, who is to be held accountable for it? It took a year to develop a story about this because we had to keep in mind that the audience is also to be entertained and engaged.
Can we call this a passion project?
Every film is a passion project. Sometimes you do a film where the film or the atmosphere does not let you really dig deep. Doing a film with the mindset that it is a job would be a torture. It has to deal with your inner being.
What was the motive behind taking up such a subject?
To raise questions. The intention was also to ask questions, such as ‘where would a common man go when something goes wrong, even though there are various departments?’ Our judiciary is so overloaded. There are many instances of our sticking to the laws that were made decades ago. As a country, we have to ask questions collectively to bring change. Sometimes, you have a story that you wish to reflect on through cinema although you are not an activist.
Also read: Irrfan Khan condemns Dhaka attack, questions silence of Muslim community
Was your trip to Sabarmati on Father’s Day planned as part of the film’s promotion?
We keep hearing about Father’s Day and Mother’s Day though I don’t even celebrate my birthday. At home, we never used to celebrate birthdays. We thought of this visit when, recently, I was reading about Mahatma Gandhi and he (his words) keeps back coming to my life at different points. When the Madaari team asked me what they could do for Father’s Day, I thought of a visit to Sabarmati with my son Ayaan.
Is Ayaan’s involvement in the movie’s promotion a planned move?
It was the marketing team’s idea to involve him since the film shows a strong father-son relationship. They suggested that he send out invites for the film’s promo launch. They had prepared a letter on his behalf. He rejected that and wrote one himself. Our visit to Sabarmati became news. I believed it was necessary for him to know our history. During the Udta Punjab controversy, you said that we need to revisit the Cinematograph Act.
As an industry which gives Rs 4,000 crore as tax, don’t you feel that, as a gesture, they should make it flourish. In our cash-based economy, only a small percentage of people pay tax and you don’t even care about them.
Also, in our industry people think: “Mera ho jaaye, chalega (It is okay as long as my purpose is served)”. Why can’t we be more organised like the south Indian filmmakers. As an industry, we don’t work together. We have to push and ask questions, collectively, to bring change.
Do you see piracy as a big threat to the industry?
Again, the system should not be so insensitive and come hard on piracy. If they are not finding out who are behind it is because they don’t want to find out. If a political person is maligned by a (social media) post, you can find out who it is but you don’t find out the people who are affecting the economy and reputation of the country. The present system is not very encouraging.
You have been doing a mixed bag of films. How do you manage them?
It is an instinct. People ask me how I approach a character? Every actor has a system, I have not really understood that. When I joined National School of Drama in Delhi, I thought that they would teach us some technique. But then I discovered, unlike the West, in India you don’t have a system that teaches you realistic acting or how to develop a character, though we were taught all the aspects of drama. So, the way I explore one character, I can’t apply it to another character. At times, while reading a script, I feel a need to work on it and, at other times, I immediately feel that I am ready.
What made you move from Madh Island to Oshiwara in the city?
It is no longer fun to drive in our cities. It is a very tedious thing. You develop a strange kind of rage when you are in traffic. I would love to stay in Madh Island while I am doing cinema but I can’t anymore. It is impossible to go and