3 years

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The Reluctant Reader

Rajeev Masand is Entertainment Editor and film critic at CNN-IBN
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The Reluctant Reader • One Film at a Time • The Starstruck Go-to Guy

Irrfan Khan, who stars as the older version of the protagonist Pi in Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, revealed to me that he simply refuses to read a script unless the filmmaker has made a concrete offer for him to star in it.

When Mira Nair asked him to read Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, which she was in the process of adapting three years ago, Irrfan willingly immersed himself in the book after being told by The  Namesake’s director that she was “strongly considering” him for the lead. Eventually, Mira decided he wasn’t “young enough” for the part, and Irrfan says he was shattered. “By then I’d read the book, I was emotionally invested in the character and couldn’t bear the thought of not playing him.” But Irrfan has said he doesn’t hold a grudge against Mira because “she was right” in wanting a younger actor. “It’s just that I couldn’t see that at the time, because I believed the part was mine, and I’d already begun working on it internally,” Irrfan added.

No wonder he wasn’t prepared to read Yann Martel’s Life of Pi, or Ang Lee’s script based on the book, until he was sure the Brokeback Mountain director was offering him the part, and not merely ‘considering’ him for it. Ang, who’d reportedly watched and was moved by The Namesake, offered Irrfan the part outright. Like Tabu, who plays the mother of (the younger) Pi, Irrfan was apparently the director’s only choice for the part.

But describe the role of the older Pi as a ‘small’ one (given that the older Pi bookends the film by narrating the story in flashback), and be prepared to wrestle it out with Irrfan who insists it’s not small, but a “significant” role. “The main observation—the lesson, if you like—is made by the older Pi in the end. How can you call it a small part?” he bellows. 

One Film at a Time

Hrithik Roshan doesn’t want to work on more than one film at a time. And if that means he has to let go of some promising projects with top filmmakers, then that is a price he is willing to pay. The light-eyed star, having wrapped up Krrish 3, has now reportedly dived into Salaam Namaste director Siddharth Anand’s Knight & Day remake, collaborating with writers, brainstorming with the director, and offering inputs on everything from locations to action choreography.

Having already committed to Agneepath director Karan Malhotra’s next, a period film apparently, Hrithik is thus unavailable for Karan Johar’s next directorial venture, also a period piece, a sprawling love story set during Partition. There is a good chance Ranbir Kapoor may now step in as Johar’s lead in this film, which is expected to go into production later next year.

Also apparently waiting for a firm commitment from Hrithik is his Jodhaa Akbar director Ashutosh Gowariker, who has finished the script of his next film. Gowariker will direct—wait for it—a period love story set during the Indus Valley Civilisation, one of the world’s earliest urban civilisations. Tentatively titled Mohenjo-daro (after one of the two cities to be first unearthed and excavated in the 1920s when the ancient civilisation was discovered), the film is likely to have music by the director’s favourite composer AR Rahman, and a leading lady will be cast only after Hrithik commits and assigns dates to the project.


The Starstruck Go-to Guy

The chatterati has been talking incessantly about the star-struck behaviour of a prominent young Mumbai businessman who reportedly attached himself ‘like an appendage’ to an A-list male star at the premiere and then after-party of a blockbuster film recently.

The event was held at a major film studio in suburban Mumbai, and while the young businessman landed an invite because of his closeness to the film’s leading man, surprisingly he decided to spend half the night tailing the actor’s arch rival. Funny thing is, the star he was following around like a lamb didn’t seem to care or even notice. The businessman apparently just ‘hung around like a bodyguard’ even as the star engaged in conversations with friends and colleagues.

His friends in fancy circles are amused and even a little surprised by his behaviour because they insist it’s not like him to be so enamoured. Himself quite influential and well-connected, he has earned himself the reputation of being the go-to-guy when ‘important’ people find themselves in sticky situations. When a young heartthrob actor was allegedly caught with drugs on him in his car a few years ago, it was this gentleman who pulled strings and hushed up the matter.