You can’t miss Boman Irani in a crowd. This actor who portrayed the unforgettable ‘Dean Asthana’ in Munnabhai M.B.B.S. has an imposing presence. When I meet him, this cigar-smoking, tall and towering person sporting a light yellow shirt and a pair of jeans turns out to be a gentleman to a T. He agrees for an interview immediately and speaks in well-constructed, measured sentences in impeccable English. Time and again, he has to interrupt the conversation to oblige his teen-age fans eager to be photographed with him. Surely it is a sign of his new-found popularity and he seems to handle it without much fuss.
I start off the conversation by asking him how he became an actor and he says, "I became actor by chance. I am originally a professional photographer and have always been in contact with models and actors. My knack for expressive story-telling made me a popular party-person in that circle and finally I started getting offers to act in films.’’
About his famous Munnabhai role of a crazy dean of a medical college, Boman says, "I did a good role in a small film- Let’s Talk that made a big noise in the right circles. Impressed by that, director Rajkumar Hirani had already decided that I would play the dean, even before the finalization of script. I accepted the role gleefully but then I started getting cold feet. It was the second-most important role in the film and I wasn’t confident about carrying it off. But then, I took it up as a challenge and started preparing for it."
Analyzing his character- preparation, Boman says, "This dean is a strange mix of crazy and serious. Not only is he knowledgeable about medicine but he has this ‘I own this place’ kind of an attitude. To look authentic, I talked with some doctors and observed their manners. I even attended a medical college lecture. More than bringing the dean’s medical persona, I concentrated more on exuding authority." The best compliment he received for this role was from a fellow who asked him- "How come a dean like you acted in that film?"
He says he was not good at Hindi and had to work hard to improve his Hindi for this role but feels that these preparations are part and parcel of his profession. In one of his slated films, he is playing a Pakistani politician where he even had to learn Urdu!
He is grateful to director Rajkumar Hirani for providing this wonderful role and says that an actor and a director, both, have to have a collaborative attitude to come up with a good performance. He admires Nasseruddin Shah and Paresh Raval as his role model actors and says, "I would love to get that sarcastic punch of Paresh. He does it so well on screen."
Asked about his future, he says, "Getting a role like Dean Asthana again is going to be difficult. But I am positive about my career. I don’t want to pressurize myself about success and failure."
As a final question I ask him, "Coming into filmdom from a different profession and that too at a late age, did you feel odd or out of place?" He surprises me with his answer and says, "As a person who grew up watching and admiring Hindi films like Do Bigha Zameen and Mother India, I always felt I was a part of them. No, I never really felt out of place!"