Collaboration key to Bollywood’s global appeal – Irrfan

May 24, 2013

Irrfan is no stranger to Hollywood. The Indian actor, who uses only his first name, has been part of critically acclaimed films such as “Life of Pi”, “The Namesake” and “A Mighty Heart”.

The 40-something actor is doing his bit to help Indian films reach more audiences worldwide. Irrfan says he’s goading local movie producers to collaborate, find new markets and swap its Bollywood image for a more universal language of cinema.

His new film “The Lunchbox” is one such international co-production and won the Grand Rail d’Or at the ongoing Cannes Film Festival Critics’ Week. Director Ritesh Batra‘s debut feature film is about a mistaken lunchbox delivery by Mumbai’s dabbawalas that connects a young Hindu housewife to an old Catholic man played by Irrfan.

“The Lunchbox” is a far cry from the song-and-dance films Bollywood has been identified with in 100 years of Indian cinema.

“It’s a sweet love story, it’s a feel-good film, it makes you feel nice,” says Irrfan. “But the narrative is very simple, the strength of the film is it says so much without saying.”

For Irrfan, this is a recipe that shows promise. Sony Pictures Classics has acquired the North American movie rights for the Indian-French-German co-production.

“We need to experiment, we need to come out with different language, we need to come out with different cinema,” the actor told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Irrfan says he did “The Lunchbox” because of its script, its international production team and the director’s ability to effectively capture his actors’ performances. Excerpts from the interview:

ON WINNING AT CANNES
“The way the film has touched audience, the way it has moved the audience, that is something special, that is why you are an actor, that’s what you want to experience, that’s what you want to share.”

ON RITESH BATRA
“He is one of the directors who capture actors, their performances. So that was a great combination. I had full faith in him, there was an international team around him. Like cameramen, the post-production was supposed to happen in France, Germany and also in America. The editing happened in America.”

COLLABORATING ON FILMS
“I think it’s a new thing which will erupt in the Indian market and I have been telling this thing to producers for many years. Collaborate with other countries, collaborate with producers from other countries and we will have an international product. Somehow this started happening and this will keep going on and this will help our directors and our producers to find new market, find new language of cinema, to find an Indian universal language of cinema. It will contribute in many, many aspects.”

INDIA AT CANNES
“We still need to come up with strong films to really make our mark. Although we are registered, people know about India but we still need to make films one after the other to be talked about as a filmmaking country. We make films for our audience, we are not making films for international audience.”

ON INDIAN CINEMA
“There are elements in Indian commercial cinema which are excellent, which are original but we need to find a story-telling language which is relatable to anybody, everybody. That’s the language Lunchbox could strike. That’s the victory of Lunchbox.”

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