Actor Irrfan Khan, who will be next seen in Meghna Gulzar’s thriller Talvar, says he has always been tested. After Talvar, he will be seen in Jazbaa alongside Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.
Khan started his journey from the National School of Drama in Delhi. From there, he went on to act in a number of television serials in the 1990s, but wasn’t happy with the kind of work being offered on the small screen. “Drama school doesn’t prepare you for what will come your way. Thankfully, my graph has gone upwards."
He says that if he had been successful at the start of his career, his journey would have stopped right there. “I might have misused my success then." The big break came with British filmmaker Asif Kapadia’s The Warrior in 2001.
“But I see life as a design; all those years were preparing me for something special," says the actor who has worked in over 30 Hindi movies.
One of the few successful Indian actors who juggle both domestic cinema and Hollywood, Khan was seen most recently in Jurassic World—the highest grosser among the Jurassic Park films. The actor’s exploits can be seen in movies such as A Mighty Heart, Slumdog Millionaire, Life of Pi, The Amazing Spider-man and the forthcoming Inferno.
He used to have problems working simultaneously in Hindi and English films. “Now I am in a phase of withdrawal. I see challenges both ways. I miss home when I am shooting abroad, while I miss the Hollywood culture when I shoot here."
He feels that in the West, people are more organized, systematic and have a professional approach. The actor feels privileged about the opportunities he has got in Hollywood. But if you think he is making big money in Hollywood, think again. “Money is not a factor when I work in movies in Hollywood—there are some terrible taxes levied on actors. I pay almost 20% on taxes after working there."
Despite his success in Hollywood and in Indian cinema, the journey to this point in his career has been a long one. “Before becoming part of movies like Maqbool, Life in a Metro, The Lunchbox, Paan Singh Tomar and Piku, it took almost one-and-a-half years to get such projects. It was a game of patience," says Khan.
His journey has been rough; he has had to work in movies that he was not comfortable with. “When a movie doesn’t require your involvement, then it comes across as the most boring experience; it makes you feel miserable."
So far in his career, he has acted in movies made by well-known directors such as Vishal Bhardwaj, Anurag Basu, Ritesh Batra, Tigmanshu Dhulia and Shoojit Sircar. And it is evident from his career graph that he doesn’t plan much. “I’ve tried to work on plans in life, but life has always surprised me. I am not a good planner; I have foolish ideas all the time."
While he may want to work for films that stimulate his skills, money is also important. “Your entire existence is dependent on money," says Khan, who has endorsed products and brands such as Syska LED, Ceat Tyres, IndiaMART and Envy deodorant.
While the National Film Award winner may have an eclectic choice when it comes to selecting movies to work in, for personal investments, he prefers fixed-income products. “I was trying to buy land near Hyderabad when a director asked me why I was putting my money in land—it will take time to sell. The director used to put money in the stock market, so the whole idea lured me. But I guess it suited his nature more than mine."
Though his experience with equities was good, he is not comfortable with “speculation". “I had invested only for a small period of time. I have realized that wherever speculation is involved, it won’t give you anything."
Other products of interest are tax-free bonds, which his chartered accountant had suggested, and also real estate, but more from an emotional perspective rather than an investment. According to him, his wife has bought some insurance for the family.
Alternative investments also interest Khan, and one area that he would consider investing in is sports. “I would love to own a team like Shah Rukh Khan does in the Indian Premier League or even Abhishek Bachchan in the Pro Kabaddi League, but I don’t know how to go about it." He is not yet convinced of start-ups, though. “I can’t say anything about start-ups right now since I have to understand my role. After that, probably I will do it."
Making choices that he understands and is comfortable with seems to be the actor’s guiding principle, who says one shouldn’t be complacent and should choose a field of work that one enjoys and is passionate about. “Ask yourself, is this engaging me enough? If your answer is yes, then you should go for it. You should also be able to earn money from it."