Irrfan Khan has to be one of the coolest dads in showbiz. How many parents out there would want their son to keep long hair or allow them to take a gap year! The 49-year-old is currently growing his hair for a film and wishes that his 11-year-old son Ayaan would emulate him. “Ayaan has a round face, so I keep telling him that long hair would suit him, but he has an aversion to long hair. I wish I was told as a kid that I could keep my hair long,” Irrfan says with a laugh.
The actor’s older son Babil, who completed school earlier this year, has decided not to enroll in college. “He wanted to take a year off and explore,” says the father. While Babil decided what he wants to do, Irrfan took him along on the first promotional leg of his next Hollywood release, Inferno. “He has met Tom (Hanks) and Ron (Howard, the director) when we were shooting in Budapest, but it was nice for him to interact with the greats of our time. He could accompany me to dinners and listen to our conversations. Experiences like this can only enrich a person.”
Also, inspirational was Irrfan’s recent visit to Sabarmati Ashram with Ayaan on Father’s Day. While he doesn’t really believe in the concept of Father’s Day (it’s a Western idea), Irrfan decided to spend the day at one of Mahatma Gandhi’s residences. “It was really nice to spend the day in Sabarmati and talk to Ayaan about Gandhi and his importance.” Irrfan’s fascination with Gandhi started after he watched Richard Attenborough’s film on his life. “That film overwhelmed me,” says the actor.
A few years ago, when Irrfan was shooting in Hawaii for Jurassic World, he came across a statue of Gandhi on one of the tiny islands. “I was out for a walk and I came across his statue. It was so nice to see him—in his dhoti and with a shawl draped around his frame—so far away from home.” Recently, while shooting for Inferno in Budapest, Irrfan met a professor ‘who had tears in her eyes while she said Hungarians love India because of Mahatma Gandhi’. “His lessons weren’t just limited to India but for the human race; they resonated in the world.”
Irrfan plays a father in Madaari, but the actor insists that he is ‘struggling to be a good father’ in real life. “It’s a big challenge. Being a father completely changes you. Before your child is born, you never imagine yourself as a giving person. You let go of your own dreams and start dreaming for your kids. The biggest challenge for a parent is to understand that each child is a unique human being who should not be moulded according to what the parent wants.”
In Madaari, which Irrfan describes as ‘thriller with a message’, his character is out to get revenge for the death of his son. “What got me interested was that the film has a layer beyond its thriller element. Madaari is the story of a common man. What does he do when injustice is done to him? The film is a reflection of the society we are living in. No one seems to have any sense of responsibility anymore. How does a society function like this!”
After the Hindi version of the giga-hit The Jungle Book, Madaari is Irrfan’s second release of the year, which will be followed with Inferno. “When I was initially told the story of Inferno, I didn’t know it was from Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon series. But when I signed the film and met Tom… he is such a wonderful human being. Even when we are shooting an intense scene, he makes the atmosphere on the set so cordial and nurturing. He is a very engaging person,” says Irrfan. After Slumdog Millionaire, The Namesake, Life of Pi and the HBO series In Treatment, Irrfan is one of the most recognisable Indian faces in Hollywood.