Life of Pi’s Irrfan Khan: “We don’t have a culture of realistic acting in India”

irrfan-khan-life-of-piIrrfan Khan has finally found roles that have helped him break away from Bollywood—with his newest turn in Ang Lee’s Life of Pi.

“I did those films, but I was never, ever comfortable with things like just breaking into a dance without any rhyme or reason,” he said in an interview with NPR.  “I think it’s a kind of a challenge for an actor to believe in these situations which are completely fantastic…These elements are not really used in an innovative way; they are more used as a kind of formula, and that takes away the strength of these elements.  But I think it’s a great way of entertaining people and trying to create a world to make-believe in.  I like that, but I couldn’t do it.”

Khan knew from a young age that he wanted to be an actor, and he ended up studying at India’s National School of Drama.  However, Khan notes that learning acting is very different in India than in America.  “We don’t have a culture of realistic acting in India.  Our films are still influenced by Parsi theater,” he said.  “Parsi theater was known for melodrama.  So even in today’s time, it still carries that melodramatic aspect; it’s still there in our cinema…It’s all about emotions, and you just have to project your emotions; you don’t have to behave in a realistic way, you don’t have to be believable, you just have to mesmerize the audience with histrionics.”

“We don’t have any ‘school’ like you have here.  You have teachers like Stanislavsky who developed their own techniques and their own way of teaching people how to go about doing a role or performing a role realistically.  We have no techniques, so it’s like trial and error.  You find your own method.  You try things, you learn things by doing it.”

Through his training and subsequent roles, Khan came to think of acting as duets. “You strike a note, and somebody responds, and then you respond accordingly,” he noted.

Khan’s most well-known role, in the Oscar winning Slumdog Millionaire, has helped him earn other roles and increased his popularity.  “It didn’t have any direct effect as far as Indian viewership or Indian exposure is concerned,” he said.  “It didn’t do the slightest thing in my life, but definitely here in America, people have seen it, and it was a real opportunity for me to be in the [Oscar] ceremony…It gave me a visibility in America, but there were films which I did which were close to me, [like] The Namesake—you know, I’m still very fond of that film—which really made a difference in my life as far as the American market is concerned.”

Life of Pi is now playing in theaters.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Latest Videos

http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/director-david-gordon-greene-nar.jpg
Director David Gordon Green Narrates a Scene From ‘Joe’
Director David Gordon Green narrates a sequence from his new film, Joe, featuring Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan. In the video, he mentions his reasons why he likes to hire non-traditional actors. He likes people who have real skill-sets and not actors who have the skills on their resume. He also talked about this in […]
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/david-gordon-green-joe.jpg
Director David Gordon Green: “I find actors in unusual places”
I keep missing screenings of director David Gordon Greene‘s new film, Joe. I hear it’s really good so I’m looking forward to catching it at some point. Joe stars Nicholas Cage as ex-con Joe Ransom, who isn’t the greatest of role models until he meets a 15-year-old boy (Mud‘s Tye Sheridan). In this featurette, Green […]
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/judy-greer-i-dont-know-why-you-know-me-from.jpg
Please Don’t Say These Things To Judy Greer (video)
Judy Greer - who we love here at Daily Actor – has a new book called, I Don’t Know What You Know Me From (Confessions of a Co-Star), a series of essays about her life as an actress, friend and someone who everyone thinks they might know. Here’s a blurb about the book: “Want to […]
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Captain-America-SamuelNick-Fury.jpg
How Samuel L. Jackson Learns His Lines for the Marvel Movies (video)
Samuel L. Jackson stopped by Good Morning America earlier this week to talk about Captain America: The Winter Soldier – which is terrific, by the way – and he told Robin Roberts that for the first Cap film, he had trouble learning his lines. “I sat at home and I did all my studying, and […]
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/andy-karl-margot-seibert-rocky.jpg
Andy Karl and Margo Seibert Talk ‘Rocky: The Musical’ on ‘Today’
Andy Karl and Margo Seibert, the stars of Rocky: The Musical, talked to Today‘s Matt Lauer about the new Broadway musical. Karl talks about the final fight and taking on the iconic role. This is Seibert’s Broadway debut and she’s asked about her callbacks (9 in all!) and more. Check it out!