Why Irrfan Khan thinks Hollywood needs Bollywood's song-and-dance routines

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 June, 2015, 6:45pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 June, 2015, 6:45pm


Indian movie star Irrfan Khan, lauded for his roles in Life of Pi and The Lunchbox, has urged Hollywood to adopt Bollywood's flamboyant song-and-dance routines.

The actor, whose credits also include The Darjeeling Limited (2007) and The Amazing Spider-Man (2012), says American blockbusters will benefit from an injection of musical hoopla, Indian-style.

Khan, 48, is one of Bollywood's most internationally recognised exports, carving a stellar career at home and in Hollywood where he has worked with Oscar-winning directors Danny Boyle and Ang Lee.

While Jurassic World, Khan's latest Hollywood film, is opening around the world this week, the Rajasthan-born actor says the US movie industry can learn a lot from its Indian counterpart.

"The informality and personal connections in Bollywood are nice. Things are too compartmentalised in Hollywood, and the system can be rigid," he says during an interview in Mumbai.

"Also they should imbibe our song-and-dance culture. I think Hollywood could do wonders with it," the father of two adds.

Khan, who charmed global audiences as a lonely accountant who exchanges secret letters with a neglected housewife in The Lunchbox (2013), is hot property in both major film industries. Piku, in which he has a supporting role as a taxi driver, has dominated Indian box offices since early May.

He will also star in action-drama Jazbaa (Passion), which is scheduled for release in October.

Khan has been involved in almost 90 films during his career, including Mira Nair's New York-set The Namesake (2006), and is presently shooting with Tom Hanks in Ron Howard's adaptation of Dan Brown's novel Inferno, due for release next year.

The star thinks there are big differences between Bollywood and Hollywood, suggesting that one so-so movie in America can hamper an actor's career, while in Mumbai you can still get by.

"In India an actor with one hit in the bag can survive with PR and continue working in another four films, until he delivers his next hit," says Khan.

"Social media activity and perception works more over here, but in Hollywood, you have to perform and deliver. The irony is that while it is a heavily marketing-based industry, you cannot survive there on the basis of marketing [alone]," the actor says.

While Khan - often referred to as "Irrfan" by his fans - is now feted the world over, it hasn't always been plain sailing for the drama graduate. He worked in the Mumbai television industry for several years before landing a small part in Nair's Salaam Bombay (1988), but his joy was short-lived when the role was later cut.

Television and a few Hindi film roles followed but Khan was unable to land the romantic hero roles of Bollywood movies because directors viewed him as not being good-looking enough.

He has often been cast as a villain or a cop, and also played the Indian Macbeth in Maqbool (2003) and the ghost in the Hindi Hamlet, Haider (2014).

Khan was almost ready to quit acting out of frustration with the way his career was progressing, but in 2001 he landed a part in British director Asif Kapadia's award-winning film The Warrior.

He hasn't looked back and now revels in the attention he receives. "I get a lot of importance and affection in the West. They appreciate the elements and layers you bring to the character. Even in India critics notice what you bring to a role."

He rues the fact that Indian films no longer always include songs as they did in the 1960s and '70s. "Music was [our] originality."

However, he appreciates that hits such as Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire (2008) and Lee's Life of Pi (2012) have helped change the perception of Indian movies internationally.

"Although Slumdog and Pi are not Indian films, they are perceived to be, and they are films that are engaging with audiences abroad," says Khan.

Agence France-Presse