He received praise all around for his role of the Ganguli patriarch in The Namesake, he took on a very lighthearted and comic role in Metro, and now Irrfan Khan is winning praise for his portrayal of the Captain in A Mighty Heart. Here’s the first part of a recent interview with him:
Did you actually meet the Captain before filming?
I was very eager to meet him. I was looking forward to it, but with the kind of relationship we have between our very friendly countries, India and Pakistan,and he’s in the Pakistani intelligence service, so for him to talk about things which nobody knows what happened… It didn’t happen.
But did you speak with him at least?
We were planning to meet but at the last minute I came to know that he was not coming to Paris so I couldn’t meet him. And for me, it’s a very foreign kind of thing to understand a guy who investigates like this at that time it was a newly formed kind of department, they never had an anti-terrorist squad, and from the book I could make out that they were not equipped at all, at all, so it was all his own personal interest and drive.
Has the Captain seen the movie? Was he pleased?
Yes, yes, he is.
Did you film in Pakistan also, or only in Pune? The unit filmed in Pakistan. I was supposed to go, but then there was a delay in visa so I couldn’t go.
I read somewhere that when Colin Powell had come to Pakistan then gone back to America, he called up Randall Bennett (the security officer at the US consulate in Karachi) and told him “Please see that the Captain takes some rest.” He was that involved in the case. In the 14-15 days he didn’t sleep for 10 hours. He didn’t have phones, they didn’t have anything, no office, nothing, they just asked some people to help them voluntarily. He trained them for three days how to tap the phones.
And you met Mariane?
I met Mariane after the film, when Cannes was through. I was supposed to meet Captain and Mariane but then, you know, it got cancelled.
What was the experience like, meeting with her?
It was more of a formal meeting, at a dinner, so it was not very personal. You always feel uneasy talking about these things, because she has lived it enough. She has lived it through both real life and the film, so I never felt very comfortable about talking.
Did she have anything to say about your part in the film?
No, I didn’t ask. I listened to her when we were doing the press conference in Cannes and I could make out that she was pleased with the outcome and she liked the film.
Did you read the book after you got the role?
Yeah, before that I knew the case, it was just a piece of news to me, that some journalist was killed. Then I read the book. It completely changed me. It was unbelievable. How can somebody turn around this kind of tragedy into something else which is more positive, more constructive.
In that period where she was going through so much immense tension and pressure and pain she had her journalistic instinct in tact, she had space for other people, you know even like, Asra gets pregnant.
After reading the book, there were so many things which were going in my head, except Captain, I just forgot to think about Captain. How to think about this tragedy just took me over, I started thinking about the parents, what they must have gone through, and somewhere I feel that we must know what really happened, because still we don’t know what really happened.