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Exclusive! Boman Irani: Actors cannot take OTT for granted and have to perform to prove themselves as actors

Boman Irani is making his OTT debut with Disney+Hotstar series Masoom.

  • Shaheen Irani

Last Updated: 04.41 PM, Jun 15, 2022

Exclusive! Boman Irani: Actors cannot take OTT for granted and have to perform to prove themselves as actors
Boman Irani (Instagram).

Boman Irani is all set to make his OTT debut with Disney+Hoststar’s upcoming series Masoom. The actor spoke about this switch from movies to OTT, what the series offers and more. Excerpts…

From playing Virus in 3 Idiots that had Aamir Khan as the lead face to leading a show, Masoom, would you say times have changed for the good thanks to OTT?

Always. Even if it becomes worse, eventually it becomes better. So, in my opinion, why should I say it became better when it was always good? I was happy playing the characters I played in cinema and on OTT. For me, at the end of of the day, it's another character and acting job. When you act, the unit and other actors don't look any different. We only can't imagine where it would end up - small screen, medium screen, large screen or 70 mm screen. At that point of performance, it should not matter. We're acting and creating characters. The craft remains the same.

You have been a part of some iconic films and played iconic roles - like I mentioned Virus, Dr. Asthana in Munnabhai MBBS, Batuk Patel in Housefull at the likes. Always, cinema was about the stars. You never made it to even the poster, - maybe in one or two in one side but that's all there was to it. Not that you have played lead in movies too but comparatively, the films featuring stars became memorable when with cinema. With OTT, on the other hand, there is no one star but content that works because every year you have something that works really well. Last year it was Tabbar, before that it was Scam 1992 and before that, The Family Man. So, there's no star power here. Would you agree with that?

Are you telling me that these iconic films you are mentioning did not have content?

It did have content but it reached more people because of star power, right?

Sorry but I disagree with you. Many films have star power but they don't work on that basis. The movie works when there is good content. Star power works when you have to sell seats. However, if you tell me that 3 Idiots worked because of star power, then that is wrong, right? Even when there is star power, the seats get sold on day one but the film only moves ahead because of content.

If you tell me that OTT has content, yes, definitely it has. Every project should have some content. Would you tell me that every OTT project which says it has content, it's the mark? The piece and whole package should be good. With an actor like Pratik doing Scam, the piece was good. Pratik being a star and doing what he's doing, you can also call him a star, right? Eventually, only movies with good content work.

Even if someone on OTT promises the story is unique, there's no guarantee that people will watch it, right? It became a hit because it had good content. I am a big believer of a good story, performance and screenplay.

Take a film like Sholay, that had such a huge cast that you will only like to watch it on the big screen. There was such good content, themes and action in the film.

Would you also agree that OTT has given actors, who were usually either sidelined or didn't get an opportunity in cinema, a new lease of life?

Yeah, you are absolutely right there. Of course it's a new lease of life but sometimes, they also have to deliver. They cannot take the platform for granted and have to perform.

The producers also have to be very careful who they hire to write. That is very important. Even if these actors have a new lease of life, it is dependent on writing.

I'm very happy not just for actors but also directors who may come up with subjects which aren't commercially viable to go on the big screen. They can choose and make the subject for OTT platform, which is great. Just because it has a good subject, doesn't make it a surefire hit. You don't get to know what is hit or flop on OTT, right? Eventually, the writing has to work. I'm very happy and thrilled that everybody is busy, especially after the pandemic. This was very important.

Now, even OTT has a way of calculating the business. There are announcements about how many million views a show gathers. What would you say about the trend?

I have no idea what the yardstick of a movie is. A yardstick of a piece or work is when someone recommends it to others. If you watch it even after 10 years, that is a yardstick. I don't know how to count the million views and put pressure on people unnecessarily. For me, it is about the recall value. You spoke about Scam. I'll talk to you about The Family Man, Mirzapur and Delhi Crime. These shows will stick with you because it's good work. I don't know how many views The Family Man had but I know it's good and that's all that matters. Public opinion matters. Numbers don't necessarily matter.

Would you say you received your due as an actor?

(Laughs) Should I expect to get a bonus on Diwali every year? Will someone give me a shawl? Due is doing your job, not doing anybody a favour and being loved by the public. I don't know what does industry due mean. I know that people remember my roles and send me lots of love. I'm still working, so I don't know what is due to me and neither do I want to know because I have gotten more than I ever imagined. I think I recieved my due. It's up to me to push the envelope and do better work. Then, I get a little more from the public. I get what I deserve and so does everybody.

What is the best part about Masoom, according to you?

Masoom is a multi-layered piece of work. The trailer itself is intriguing. The story is very clear but in a sense, it's confusing in a good way. The mystery keeps you engaged but the great strength about Masoom is that it isn't about who did what but what will actually keep you engaged is the human behaviour. The characters and what they are going through will engage you. It's about human beings - how I see myself and what would I be going through if I were in that situation. You'll want to watch Masoom because of its emotions. Apart from that, it's entertaining because it's intriguing. There's human failing, kindness, spirit, mistakes, greed and so many themes and emotions that you will watch. It's also about the twist - kaun masoom hai ya nahi. Uske alaava it moves very well, the performances are very good and the storytelling narrative is excellent. I cannot speak with conviction but I wouldn't speak thumping my chest about something if I don't believe in it.

Tell me about the title - because it is also the name of a very iconic film.

It was a lovely film by Shekhar Kapur. This is subtext to the word masoom. Kisi ki masoomiyat chali gayi toh koi aaj bhi masoom hai. Masoom means innocence. The blood streaks on your own mean something else. It is used very well as a title and for you to understand what the real meaning of masoom is. Innocent or guilty? Innocent or child-like? Innocent or not guilty? So many things, which is so lovely about the title.

That smile towards the end of the trailer - who's idea was that and how did it transpire?

The editor worked his magic. It makes you wonder if he is evil or innocent. That's the magic of the trailer - it takes you in the journey or the ride. I did not realize I look so evil till I saw the trailer.

Upcoming projects?

After Masoom, I did a film during the pandemic. It is a murder mystery which will be very interesting. In the Diwali time, we will release Oonchai. It has Mr. Bachchan, Anupam Kher, Danny Saab, Sarika ji, Neena Gupta (she plays my wife) and Parineeti Chopra. I have just two days of work left on Dunki - Rajkumar Hirani's film with Shah Rukh Khan. I'm also writing my own production. I'll be making my debut as a writer-director through the film.