Versatile actor Boman Irani is known for breathing life into characters on screen and for debuting in Bollywood at the age of 41. A master of many trades, he has worked in five different industries. Such inspiring facts and many other stories of his life were revealed by the actor at the Signature Start-Up Masterclass series.
On a Sunday evening, Delhiites huddled together at Ministry of Beer, Gurugram to see Boman Irani, who has managed to awe Indian audience with his acting from the days of his debut in Munnabhai MBBS as Dr Asthana to date. Be it his quirky character as Viru Sahastrabuddhe aka Virus in 3 Idiots or the evil Kishen Khurana in Khosla ka Ghosla, Boman has always got deep into the skin of every character he has played so far.
But, on Sunday, the open lawn was packed with people who did not come to attend any promotion of Boman’s upcoming movies; they were excited to hear Boman speak about his awe-inspiring Passion to Paycheck story at the Signature Masterclass, a series that celebrates real-life success stories, encouraging other people to pursue their passion and convert it into a paycheck.
The evening kickstarted with Boman giving the audience a peek into his childhood. Hailing from a humble background, Boman was raised among women - four sisters, five aunts, his mother, and all their female friends. Since childhood, he had developed a strong bonding with cinema as he would often put off his homework to watch a movie.
However, he did not have it easy as a child, as the actor suffered from learning and speech disabilities. Due to dyslexia Boman remained a below-average student and almost everyone at school ridiculed his lisp, making him extremely self-conscious. He reveals that he was a timid boy who was scared of big and strong men around him because he had grown up only around women.
However, amidst the several hardships, his mother’s constant support and encouragement to pursue his dream made the journey less difficult.
Today, the optimistic actor sees his childhood struggles as learnings that have helped in his journey so far.
“The lisp that I had helped me while playing Virus in 3 Idiots. Since I had dealt with it in my childhood, making Virus sound real, the way he spoke (as if with a lisp), was easy for me,” recalls Boman.
Post-school, Boman’s first job was at the renowned Taj in Colaba, where he went straight to the manager’s office and asked for a job. He wanted to wait tables at the French restaurant, Rendezvous.
“I wanted to serve at the French restaurant. But the manager thought that my request was too haughty and he asked me to start with room service,” he adds.
For two years, Boman carried trays and accepted tips until he had to return to his family business due to his mother’s accident. For the next 14 years, Boman resumed his work and reshaped their bakery business. However, his inclination to do something creative was still strong and the fear of getting into a comfort zone was sinking in.
To answer his creative calling, Boman bought a camera from the money saved from his job at the Taj. During the little free time on Sundays, Boman went to schools and photographed sports events. His belief in his creativity soon started paying off and he started to get good photography assignments, particularly for sporting events. Later, he also opened a photography studio that can be deemed as a catalyst for his entry into Bollywood.
“A challenge for me even today is the time when I get comfortable. When I was a waiter and I started getting nice tips I got comfortable. You have to jump out of that comfort. Then I became a shopkeeper, photographer, I got comfortable and I jumped out of it. Always jump out of comfort, comfort is a very dangerous thing. You work for comfort but staying in a comfort zone is very bad,” Boman quips.
As a child who loved films, Boman’s love and passion for acting only grew stronger with time. He always wanted to pursue his passion but with the passing of time as he became overladen with responsibilities, the desire turned into a distant dream for him. However, the optimistic actor never lost hope. Considering his studio as his stage, Boman often entertained his clients at the studio with his great mimicking skills. Renowned choreographer Shiamak Dawar noticed his impeccable acting skills and assured Boman that one day he will become a great actor, encouraging him to try theatre.
Shiamak took Boman to Alyque Padamsee, a renowned theatre actor who later became his mentor. But Padamsee wasn’t convinced with Shiamak’s belief in Boman’s acting skills. In fact he rejected Boman during the audition. However, Padamsee offered a role to Boman in Roshini and the actor impressed the audience and critics with his first stellar performance. After Roshini, he acted in I Am Bajirao, which the actor recalls went on to became a huge hit and ran for 10 consecutive years.
After establishing a strong foothold in theatre, Bollywood no longer felt like a distant dream for Boman. The rise of the new talented artiste soon reached the industry and offers started to pour in. His first offer was from Vinod Chopra for Munnabhai MBBS, which he initially rejected as he thought the movie’s title was ridiculous. Later Boman met director Rajkumar Hirani, who convinced the actor that no one else can better portray Dr Asthana on screen. And from here started the Bollywood journey we are all familiar with.
While speaking to YourStory, Boman shared his thoughts on starting his entrepreneurial journey and of his inspiration. Below is an excerpt of the interview:
YourStory: Most actors are taking the entrepreneurial route. Do you have plans to start up?
Boman Irani: I am not a businessman by nature. I was a businessman, that too a shopkeeper. That doesn’t make me a businessman and my mental bent is towards creativity. So if there is any new business that I would want to do it has to be in the creative field. If people come out with a nice business idea wherein I don’t have to use my brain for it, I am okay.
YS: You are an inspiration to many. But who is Boman’s inspiration?
BI:I have read a lot of biographies and autobiographies and each one of them has inspired me in some way. One thing that I have learnt is if a great man can be so humble, then go out and kill it. I take that inspiration. I don’t model myself on a particular icon.
Today, Boman Irani is not only an inspiration to aspiring actors but to everyone who want to believe in their dreams. At 58, the actor teaches us that it’s never late to dream big and make it happen.