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I feel that I remain an underrated actor: Irani

CultureI feel that I remain an underrated actor: Irani

Delnaaz Irani, best known for her comic role in Kal Ho Na Ho [2003], speaks to Guardian 20 about her recent play titled Hello Zindagi. In this play, Irani portrays the role of a strong Gujarati woman who owns and manages a hotel business by herself. The 46-year-old actress also spoke about the ups and downs in her acting career that now spans nearly
two decades.


Q. Tell us about your new play, Hello Zindagi. What is your role in it?

A. Hello Zindagi is a brilliantly crafted play that revolves around five women of different backgrounds and personalities staying together in a posh flat in Mumbai. It is a gutwrenching drama as these strong, sharp, witty women lead you to an unforgettable journey filled with intrigue, comedy and

The play has got music, it has got dancing, it has got drama and it has got suspense. My role is of Bakula Sasodia, a businesswoman from Ahmedabad and has shifted to Mumbai with her daughter-in-law. She basically faced a problem with her son and so she throws him out of the house and business and keeps her daughter-in-law with her. The Gujarati mother-in-law and Punjabi  daughter-in- law are not the typical sass-bahu duo that you see in TV serials. They have fun together, they drink together and party together. My role here is of a strong-headed woman.

Q. How did acting happen to you? Did you always want to be an actress?

A. I was always inclined towards arts, elocution and dramatics in school and in college. I won a lot of competitions and was quite active on stage. As soon as I finished my school I got an offer for a professional play. I was 17 years old at that time and was offered the role by the famous Dhaniyad Contractor, who later became my mentor. I became independent at a young age. It was not only the money that was attractive but I knew that I had it in me . Then I moved to TV serials and from there I moved to movies. So that is my journey as an actress.

Q. Do you think to excel in acting one has to be a good theatre artist first?

A. I really don’t believe that you need to do theatre to become an actor. I believe in one thing: you are either an actor or you are not; either you are god- gifted with acting talent or you are not. Many people try and join acting schools but sometimes it just doesn’t happen. You have to ask yourself whether you have that ability in you, and if you think that you have that ability, then I absolutely think that theatre is the stepping stone to bigger things in life. It gives you a lot of confidence, especially when you are performing in front of a live audience.

Q. You have acted in films, television shows and theatrical dramas. Which medium do you enjoy most?

A. All three mediums have their own charm… Theatre is my first love. I started at the age of 17 with theatre and I have done more than 30 plays now in various languages like English, Hindi and even Gujarati. When I started out, I made sure to study theatre very closely. Actually, it is difficult to ask an artist what medium they prefer. I breathe and live theatre as an artist. TV serials give me my daily bread and butter and films create history. So there is no comparison. Basically, all three mediums are equally important. They are equally glamorous and you need to put in hard work for all three of them.

Q. We are generally seen doing comic roles. Any particular reason for that?

A. Yes, you have seen me doing a lot of comic roles because I have been typecast in the industry, and that’s how our industry functions. It is a little sad but it is the truth. I started doing comedy TV shows like Yes Boss, Sajan Tum Jhut Mat Bolo and so on. My role Sweetu, in Kal Ho Na Ho cannot be forgotten. If people accept me in the comedy genre I am happy about it. First and foremost, doing comedy is very difficult, being a woman comic is even more difficult and thirdly there are very few actors who can do good comedy. I am one of them and honestly, I am proud to be a comic actor.

Q. In terms of content quality and new talent, do you think Indian television shows are heading in the right direction?

A. When you are talking about content on television you have a lot of choice. Now people have started doing a lot of web shows, short films; people have started making content on digital platforms too. I guess everybody has a chance to improve their content and to bring about a change. The change is coming, be it television or digital medium or films, and people are very open now. People kind of blame TV shows because of the content, saying that the same old thing is being shown repetitively. But this same old thing is what the audiences want. They crib about the content but they switch on the TV, they keep watching the same stuff, they keep increasing the TRP, so obviously if you will like something or watch something then creators will give you what you like. It’s very simple—it’s a vicious cycle. If people want change, they will have to change.

Q. Tell us about the challenges you come across as part of the entertainment industry.

A. The only thing that I feel after working for so many years is that I am the most underrated actor. I just feel that people have not really tapped my talent. They don’t know what Delnaaz Irani as an actor can offer.

Q. We haven’t seen you in Bollywood films in a while. Why?

A. Why am I not doing any Bollywood films? I think you should ask the producers. Like I said, I feel that I am underrated and people have not explored my talents to the fullest. Yes, maybe the roles that are coming to me are not exciting enough, but I am sure as soon as I get something interesting I will take it up.

Q. What else is keeping you busy these days?

A. I am working on a Marathi feature film right now. It’s called Monsoon Football, which will be out soon. I think most of my projects these days are women-centric so the Marathi film also has eight women and it is a story of these women playing football and going international with the game. It was a tough job as an actor but all in all we finished the film—it has come out very well. I am also working on a new show for a leading channel.

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