BABIL KHAN has followed in the giant footsteps of his late great actor father Irrfan Khan.
The 26-year-old made a winning acting debut with the critically acclaimed film Qala (2022), which garnered immense love and appreciation for his performance. Those who saw the film agreed that Babil had inherited his father’s sharp looks and natural performance ability.
The exciting newcomer is currently delighting audiences with his recently released Netflix film Friday Night Plan and looking forward to taking on more projects in diverse genres.
Eastern Eye recently spoke to the young talent about his new film, the pressure of being an iconic actor’s son, auditioning, why he doesn’t think nepotism applies to him and the lowliness of living in London. He also revealed the favourite films of his famous father and future hopes.
You must be happy with the response to your new Netflix film Friday Night Plan…
Frankly speaking, I disappeared after the release of the film. When I came back, my mother said that the response was good.
Where did you disappear?
I either go to Igatpuri or to my room. I lock it and switch off my phone.
What about messages praising your performance, including from established industry names?
I didn’t open my Instagram because of all the fear. But to be honest, (actor) Jaideep Ahlawat and (cinematographer and film director) Avinash Arun came to watch the screening – the feedback that they shared was very valuable to me. I am overwhelmed by gratitude right now, because I as a person, am very emotional. I just wear my heart on my sleeves. So, to receive love has always been extremely impor – tant to me and so has been giving it back. So right now, I am happy.
There were social media posts where people wrote that they don’t mind nepotism if it gives talent like Babil Khan to the industry. What would you say about that?
See, I don’t indulge myself in too many conversations about nepotism because honestly, I have not faced the wrath or benefits of nepotism. Like, I am in a very grey area of nepotism where I am not a star kid. I am Irrfan Khan and Sutapa Sikdar’s son. I still have to give auditions and do all of that. I am not saying it as if I have done something great. The thing is that it is very important to me to arrive on set knowing that I have earned the part.
Tell us more about that?
If I don’t feel like I have earned the part, I would not have the confidence to deliver. So, I am very happy with the way things are. The other day I was going to a meeting and suddenly when I reached there, I realised that it was an audition. If I had so many restrictions in my own head about going through rejections and earning my part, I wouldn’t have been able to give that audition. You feel freer as an actor when you are used to failing. I think it’s so important to fail as an actor.
So you don’t feel like nepotism applies to you…
I think nepotism just doesn’t apply to me because I am not given such kind of roles. I am not in those inner circles. I don’t just call up people nor does my mother. We have a very different journey. That’s our individual journey and a different one altogether. I am just trying to fulfil that with utmost sincerity.
Do you remember your first audition?
I think it was for an ad or something. I don’t clearly remember because I was in that stint where baba had just passed away and I was auditioning for everything that came my way.
How did it go?
It was obviously not good. I might have felt that I had done some good work back then but now when I think about it, I am like no it is not good.
Are there any memorable auditions you remember?
I remember the first emotional audition I gave. Usually, in an audition room, they don’t tell what you will audition for. You have a scene and do it. Because I was going through so much in my personal life, the emotional scene was pretty good. That day I realised that when you are happy and must cry for a scene, then how will you do it? You have to approach those things with the knowledge or an understanding of how to get there. The emotional scene went well that day just by sheer dumb luck.
You share screen space with Juhi Chawla in Friday Night Plan, and other established names in forthcoming projects. How was it working with them?
You see her experience. You see the experience that Kay Kay sir and R Madhavan sir come with. Then you realise at that moment as an actor, that no matter how hard you work, two years’ experience cannot match someone with 40-50 years of experience. As an actor, you cannot be as good at 26 as you can be at 40. Because experience and acting are so essential.
Do you ever feel the pressure of filling in your late father’s shoes?
I feel the pressure all the time of being from the family I am. But I don’t feel the pressure of filling in his shoes because I am not trying to do that, as I have my own shoes to fill. If I try to fill in his shoes, I would be betraying my own identity.
What kind of influence did your father have on you?
It was a human influence, not that of an actor. It was about how you live life with an intention to evolve and approach situations through your own art. The understanding about art, the way people perceive art. It’s not tangible. Art is your experience and journey. Somebody who is not an artiste, in the profession of expressing their art, still experiences art. Art is what you experience in this life. Art is the journey that nature puts you through experience.
People are always going to compare you with your father. Will that make it extra challenging for you as an actor to kind of jump out of this shadow?
See, the thing is people are bound to compare. If I spend my energy thinking about that then I am not thinking about my work. There is no time or energy to think about that. I have to think about my work and how I can excel and evolve in my own ways. I don’t think about jumping out of his shadow or continuing the legacy. The only way to be honest to your legacy and the family I am from, is to be honest to my work and not to think about the lineage.
Which are your five favourite films of your father?
Paan Singh Tomar, Lunchbox, Madari, Piku, and Maqbool.
If you were given a chance to star in the remake of any of his films, which would it be?
No chance. Why would I try to recreate something that has been perfected?
Your father made a name for himself internationally. Do you have any Hollywood aspirations?
I don’t have Hollywood aspirations; I have cinema aspirations. I want to work in Hollywood, European, and global cinema. I want to work in the different approaches of cinema. It’s not about Hollywood or Bollywood. It’s about cinema, how it will affect me as a human being, what it can bring to me and what I can bring to it.
Tell me about your time in London as you spent a few years studying there?
When I was going to London, I used to be very excited about leaving India and having the idea that they are more advanced and progressive.
But the reality was different. India is all about emotions and very united in their hearts. When you walk on the roads in India and greet people, they won’t make you feel like you have invaded their space. In the UK, I felt really isolated and disconnected from people. There is this isolation. They fear expressing their emotions and that used to play on my mind a lot. I was very lonely in London.
You said you want to explore global cinema, but is there any particular genre or character you want to explore?
I want to play everything. It’s not a particular genre. I’m not too much into intense thrillers. My favourite is comedy. But to reach a place in your own self as an actor where you can execute comedy is very difficult. You have to become very comfortable with yourself and any insecurities to pull it off. So, my goal is to do comedy successfully. Doing comedy in life and then doing it on screen, is entirely different. That being said, I want to explore everything and all genres.
Apart from acting, is there any arena of filmmaking that you want to explore?
Of course. I want to write, direct and sing. Music composition is not something I want to explore as that’s a very difficult craft, but I would like to sing in films for sure.
Tell us something about your upcoming projects?
The Railway Men, which is a web series, is going to come next. I don’t know when, but it will be out soon. It’s by Yash Raj Films. I am working alongside Kay Kay Menon sir and R Madhavan sir.