MUMBAI (Reuters) - Irrfan is no stranger to Hollywood. The Indian actor, who uses only his first name, has played roles in acclaimed films such as “Life of Pi”, “Slumdog Millionaire” and “A Mighty Heart”.
His new film “The Lunchbox”, an Indian-French-German co-production, won the Grand Rail d‘Or at Critics’ Week at the 66th Cannes film festival and the North American movie rights were acquired by Sony Pictures Classics.
Director Ritesh Batra’s debut feature film is about a wrongly delivered lunchbox that connects a young Hindu housewife to a Catholic man played by Irrfan.
Irrfan, 46, told Reuters about his latest film and how he sees Indian cinema changing to become more international:
Q: Tell us about “The Lunchbox”.
A: It’s a sweet love story, it’s a feel-good film, it makes you feel nice but the narrative is very simple. The strength of the film is that it says so much without talking. It is the things which the characters are not saying that are the most powerful in the film. That’s the uniqueness of the film.
Q: “The Lunchbox” is directed by a first timer director, Ritesh Batra. What were your expectations and why did you agree to be part of it?
A: The story, the writing, it was special. The story was unique. I saw he hadn’t made full-length features but he had made some short films and that gave me a clue. He is one of the directors who capture actors, their performances, and that is a great combination. I had full faith in him. There was an international team around him. The editing happened in America then there was the music which I think happened in France. I knew the producers involved in the film ... were experienced producers and they know how to arrange a team.
Q: Since most big studios are averse to making films like “The Lunchbox”, do you think that collaboration with international studios is the way forward?
A: It is. I think it’s a new thing which will erupt in the Indian market and I have been telling this to producers for many years - collaborate with other countries, collaborate with producers from other countries and we will have our international product. Somehow this has started happening and this will keep going on and this will help our directors and our producers to find new markets, to find new languages of cinema, to find an Indian universal language of cinema.
Q: At Cannes was Indian cinema being taken more seriously?
A: We still need to come up with strong films to really make our mark. Although people know about India, 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.
Q: What is the general view of Indian filmmakers?
A: Indian cinema has to come of age. They are still waiting. 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 “The Lunchbox” could strike.
Q: Are we only making films for our own audiences?
A: We have a diverse generation of filmmakers coming up and they should diversify our filmmaking. If we go on making similar kinds of films they will have a limited appeal. We need to experiment, we need to come out with a different language, we need to come out with different cinema.
Q: India is celebrating 100 years of cinema this year. How do you see things changing in the next 100?
A: I can’t see 100 years ahead but I can definitely tell you that in five years the industry is going to change. You will have great cinema coming up. The pattern of cinema is such that every 10-15 years it changes because of the generation of filmmakers, the generation of the audience. I believe cinema will evolve very drastically and very quickly.
Editing by Belinda Goldsmith