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January 19, 2021

‘My father was defeated at the box office by hunks’

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‘My father gave his life trying to elevate the art of acting in the adverse conditions of noughties Bollywood.’

IMAGE: Babil with his parents, Sutapa and Irrfan. Photograph: Kind courtesy Babil Khan/Instagram

Irrfan Khan’s son Babil says he does not like the political debates around Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, but there is now a wind of change in cinema, something his father kept fighting for throughout his life.

Babil said his father constantly tried to challenge the existing ecosystem in the Hindi film industry, but he would be defeated at the box office by hunks with six pack abs delivering formulaic dialogues.

Irrfan passed away on April 29 at the age of 54 following his battle with a rare form of cancer.

‘My father gave his life trying to elevate the art of acting in the adverse conditions of noughties Bollywood and alas, for almost all of his journey, was defeated in the box office by hunks with six pack abs delivering theatrical one-liners and defying the laws of physics and reality,’ Babil wrote in a long Instagram post recalling his father’s struggle.

‘Photoshopped item songs, just blatant sexism and same-old conventional representations of patriarchy (and you must understand, to be defeated at the box office means that majority of the investment in Bollywood would be going to the winners, engulfing us in a vicious circle),’ he added.

The cinema student said the mainstream films work because the audience want and enjoy movies that only offer entertainment.

‘All we sought was entertainment and safety of thought, so afraid to have our delicate illusion of reality shattered, so unaccepting of any shift in perception.

‘All effort to explore the potential of cinema and its implications on humanity and existentialism was at best kept by the sidelines,’ he added.

IMAGE: A young Babil with Irrfan. Photograph: Kind courtesy Babil Khan/Instagram

Recalling the days before he went to a film school in London, Babil said his father ‘warned’ him that he would have to prove himself there as Bollywood is ‘seldom respected in world cinema’.

Irrfan, he said, had asked him to inform others about Indian cinema that is beyond the control of Bollywood.

At his film school, the aspiring artiste said he found that Bollywood was not respected and people had no awareness of Indian cinema of the 1960s and 1990s.

‘There was literally one single lecture in the world cinema segment about Indian cinema called ‘Bollywood and Beyond’, that too gone through in a class full of chuckles. It was tough to even get a sensible conversation about the real Indian cinema of Satyajit Ray and K Asif going. You know why that is? Because we, as the Indian audience, refused to evolve.’

Babil said he feels there is a change, a ‘new fragrance in the wind’ with a new generation searching for meaning.

Referring to how the conversations after Rajput’s death have been about starting anew, he hoped it leads to something positive.

‘We must stand our ground, not let this thirst for a deeper meaning be repressed again… Although I resent that Sushant’s demise has now become a fluster of political debates, but if a positive change is manifesting, in the way of the Taoist, we embrace it.’

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