Why I think even Irrfan Khan can't do justice to Tamil cinema

Language is an undeniable means of expression.

 |  3-minute read |   20-10-2017
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Of course cinema is a out-and-out visual medium, and must rely on facial expressions, not so much on gestures and gesticulations or even words. Some of the greatest actors like Ingrid Bergman, Julie Andrews, Gregory Peck, Jack Nicholson, Soumitra Chatterjee, Guru Dutt, Waheeda Rehman, Nutan, Rekha and Irrfan Khan among others have enriched cinema with their marvellous performances. The elasticity of their faces and their extraordinary ability to disappear into a character have made movie watching a fascinating experience. I can never forget Bergman and the way she infused poignancy into Ilsa Lunda in Casablanca. And how can anyone not remember Rehman's mesmeric portrayals in some of Guru Dutt starrers. Her eyes expressed even the most profound.

But all this may not be possible if an actor becomes part of a film whose language is alien to him or her. Though many actors have said time and again that language does not matter in a medium that has its own language, how does one hope to emote a line when one has to lisp it, not having the vaguest clue as to what one is talking about? Let us not forget that language is an undeniable means of expression and communication.

amy-jackson-dhanush__102017071735.jpgHow in the world can an Amy Jackson perform in a Tamil film?

So, I was quite disappointed to note that one of India's finest actors, Irrfan, when asked whether he would like to work in Tamil cinema in a recent interview, said that he “can work in any industry” provided he liked the script and the story. He cited the example of his recent work, Doob or No Bed of Roses, a Bangladeshi (Bengali) film. I watched that some weeks ago. Now, I have watched Irrfan in many other movies, but I did find a wee bit of difference in his acting in Doob. Obviously, he is not familiar with Bengali, although his wife speaks the language. I found something lacking in his performance. It did not display the same kind of feel which I have seen in works like The Lunch Box, Qissa, Paan Singh Tomar, Piku, Haider and so on. I can only put my finger here on his inability to comprehend the Bengali language.

In a similar vein, it merely follows that many of the heroines in Tamil films look dumb on screen because they do not understand the language of their cinema. How in the world can an Amy Jackson perform in a Tamil film? And when she goes about saying "she is a Tamil girl", it arguably sounds phoney. There are others like Kajal Aggarwal (a Punjabi) who has acted in films like Naan Mahaan Alla, Vivegam and now Mersal, to name a few, or Sonakshi Sinha — a Mumbai-bred Bihari in works like Boss, Lingaa, et al.

These actresses have always been found wanting, and it is possible that language was the barrier which prevented them from reaching that point of excellence or just about. I remember Nandita Das – who has been part of Tamil and Malayalam cinema – once telling me that language can be an impediment. If one is not familiar with the language of a movie, one could be struggling to convey emotions. Yes, despite the fact that one can use one's face and eyes to emote!

So, I would only hope that an actor par excellence like Irrfan Khan would pause and ponder before jumping into cinema whose language may seem distant to him!

At this juncture in his great career, he does not need to experiment with “foreign language cinema”. Let him to stick to Hindi or English, and continue to give us hours and hours of fantastic fare. Over to Irrfan.

Also read: Bollywood's Padmavati is history's nightmare. Delhi Sultan Alauddin Khilji was no barbarian


Gautaman Bhaskaran Gautaman Bhaskaran @gautamanb

The author is a writer, commentator and movie critic.

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