When ABN-Amro recently flew down the versatile Boman Irani for a chat with VJ Cyrus Sahuhar, the talent behind “Piddhu The Great” and “Simi Girebaal”, the duo broke into the most entertaining conversation Sudhish Kamath eavesdropped into.
Cyrus Before we start, first, I would like to give you this (hands over a potato)?
Boman: Is it because I look like one?
Cyrus: No way. After Superman, there’s Bo-Man. But seriously, not many people know that the great Boman Irani started off with a wafer chips shop called Golden Wafers. Your family shop.
Boman: Yes, for 14 years of my life, I sat behind a wafer shop. I spent my time observing people.
Cyrus: Most people sort of map their lives? you go to school, then to college, get a postgraduate degree, then get a job, get married and have kids.
Boman: That’s what you did. (laughs)
Cyrus: That’s right, only that marriage never worked out for me because I don’t accept charity (laughs). But, you changed careers.
Boman: I used to take pictures? it was a hobby.
Cyrus: Photography could be an expensive profession.
Boman: I didn’t want to wake up some day when I’m very old and say to myself: ‘I could’ve been a good photographer.’ So I was 32, I woke up at 6.30 a.m. and told myself, ‘Today, I’m a photograp her.’ I was good at sports photography. So I went to the local schools and took pictures of children playing cricket. And the next day, their parents invariably would ask for copies. That was the beginning. Then, I set up my own studio.
Cyrus: That’s also how you met Shiamak Davar.
Boman: Shiamak is a wonderful, wonderful guy. He had come to my studio. I was taking pictures of him, trying to entertain him with my jokes to put him at ease because he kept saying he was ugly. He came back the next day and said, R 16;You know Boman, you should be on stage.’ He asked me to audition for a small part in Alyque Padamsee’s play “Roshni”? Alyque initially had rejected my audition. Shiamak insisted that he would not choreograph the show if I was not in it and I did the show, I did one song in it.
Cyrus: No offence to Alyque, the play was?
Boman: Go ahead and offend Alyque. It’s okay.
Cyrus: Yes, the play was really bad. And the only good part about the play was the pimp? you.
Boman: Parsi mothers are always very proud of their children. After the show, my mother asked around, ‘Did you like my son?’ They didn’t know who her son was. So she said, ‘The pimp is my son.’ Someone ask ed her if she wanted a lift, and she said, ‘My son will drop me.’ ‘Who will drop you,’ they asked from the other end of the lobby and she went, ‘My son? the? the pimp will drop me. Don’t bother.’
Boman: You’re making fun of my mom by laughing. But yes, growing up in a Parsi family, I’m used to Parsi moms. Every time the dhobi comes, she would go, ‘Tum idhar tehro. Main kapda nikaal ke aati hoon’ (You wai t here. I will remove the clothes and come).
Boman: You are laughing at my mom again. I’m offended. (mockingly)
Cyrus: Tell me about the classic romance. Your wife used to buy only 100gm of chips from your shop everyday.
Boman: Dumb me, I would not understand why she would buy 100gm everyday when she could buy in bulk. And then, it struck me that maybe?
Cyrus: Her version is that you were the one who gave her 100 gm everyday saying that you were not allowed to give more. But we’ll stick to yours. Moving on, after “Roshni”, you did “I’m not Bajirao,” one of the longest-running plays.
Boman: Yes, I hadn’t done a speaking part until then and this was a play where I play an 80-year-old. It was about two old men who meet at a park bench.
Cyrus: It was one of the most beautiful performances I’ve ever seen all my life.
Boman: It was an experimental play and I prepared for it by going back to the chips shop to research how old people behaved. I even talked to them about their sex lives.
Cyrus: After that, you played Gandhi in “Mahatma versus Gandhi”. Who would’ve thought you would fit the role! A six-foot- one-inch Gandhi.
Boman: I thought it was a Bakra on me. But then, it was a good role. On the first day when I walked on stage looking frail, someone commented, ‘Yeh toh hatta katta Gandhi hai’ (he looks a well-fed Gandhi). That hurt, but I enjoyed the challenge.
Cyrus: It went on to become a critically acclaimed role. The play went abroad and it was compared to Kingsley’s role.
Boman: I lost 22 kilos to prepare for it. And I fell sick, I had to be hospitalised. But I’m glad that the play did well and has been made into a movie now (Gandhi, My Father). But I really like to be on stage. I like the sound of applause.
Cyrus: Even though you loved theatre, you got into films. You didn’t want to be in films.
Boman: I was enjoying the stage and I wanted to be respected as an actor. Then, we did an experimental film Let’s Talk with a video camera. Ram Madhvani came up with the idea and we scripted it together. Vidhu Vinod Chopra saw the film and he called me and said, ‘Please block your dates next year same time because you will be in demand.’ (He cast him in Munnabhai MBBS). It became true. I didn’t have dates to give him for Lage Raho Munnabhai. I got good money too. Raju Hirani, the director, is one of the finest talents we have. All the goodness in his heart shows on the screen. At the end of the day, you are judged by your work. Your work speaks of the real you.
Cyrus: I’m finished then.
Boman: Yes, the real you is Simi Girebaal. (laughs)
Original article here