Boman Irani: I didn’t have to mimic Farokh Engineer to play him in ‘83
Actor Boman Irani has been a sports enthusiast from the time he was a little boy. He will be seen as former Indian cricketer-turned-commentator Farokh Engineer in Kabir Khan’s ‘83, which encapsulates India’s first ever cricket world cup win in London.
Ahead of his shoot, Boman had a chance meeting with the octogenarian Farokh, during the course of a holiday in England. Recalling it, he told us, “I wanted to meet Farokh as part of my research. It was strange, but my family and I were on a brief holiday in the UK, and when we were leaving the hotel to head back to India, the manager told me that Farokh Engineer had arrived. He asked me to stay back and watch a match with him, but I told him that I had a flight to catch. Then, he asked me to come back after a few days for the India-Pakistan match. I told my wife Zenobia that Farokh thinks going from London to Mumbai and back is like going to Bandra and getting back. She heard everything and said, ‘Tell him you will come back’. And I am glad that I did.”
Boman eventually spent time with Farokh at his residence in Manchester and also watched the India-Pakistan World Cup match at Old Trafford during the recent World Cup. Talking about the experience, Boman said, “As a child, if someone has seen MS Dhoni on TV and he later gets to meet him or spend time at his house, how would that person feel? I felt just that when I got a chance to meet Farokh and stay over at his place. We watched the Indo-Pak match together. That was one of the best times that I had spent while working on a character. While staying with him, the idea was to try and understand the man, his psyche. I had followed his work as a kid. The Farrokh I met is an 80-year-old guy and the Farokh I am playing is about 40 years younger. He was a different man then. If you try to imitate someone, that is all you get. The idea is to understand what was he thinking back then, sitting in the commentary box and being run down by a white guy who was making racist comments. He was probably embarrassed. I don’t know what he sounded like in those days. There is very little in the records. He insisted that in 1983, he had sidelocks. I saw a stray picture of him and there is no sidelock. But I have got sidelocks as a part of my look. I have to be Farokh at heart. That is the joy of playing him; being able to present his thoughts well. I don’t have to imitate him to play him.”