Mumbai: Oscar-nominated and National Award-winning filmmaker Ashvin Kumar worked with Irrfan in his 48-minute short film “Road To Ladakh” in 2004, and he says the experience changed his outlook towards professionalism and filmmaking. An emotional Ashvin says he feels “cheated” on Irrfan’s sudden demise, on April 29.
Drop out of London Film School, Ashvin recalls he had no budget to pay the actor. He requested Irrfan if he could come forward to support the film.
“I wrote ‘Road To Ladakh’ keeping Irrfan bhai in mind. I needed his support and he did that quite willingly. I remember when we were in Delhi before leaving for Ladakh, that evening bhai had met with an accident. He injured his wrist. He had all the medical reason to back out as I was not paying him and he was voluntarily supporting the film. But he said, ‘I promised you, I will keep my words’. The more I got to know him, my respect for him as an individual amplified. He did not know back then that he had high altitude sickness, and we discovered that once we went to Ladakh. He was sick, with an injured wrist and living under extreme weather condition inside a tent like all of us. But he did not give up. He constantly supported us ,” recalled Ashvin, speaking to IANS.
The story of the film revolves around a strange relationship between a terrorist and coke-snorting fashion model on a chance road trip they end up sharing in Ladakh. The last leg of the film involves a bed scene that was quite aesthetically shot, and which unveils the truth of the male protagonist.
Being a debutant, how was it to direct an actor like Irrfan in such a scene in such a vital stage of the story?
Ashvin recalled: “That was a crucial scene and I had to justify the scene with certain aesthetics and projection of raw emotions. I remember Koel was a little reluctant. Although Irrfan made her comfortable, there was a certain inhibition. So, I said to Irrfan if he could remove his clothes to justify the moment. He did, and finally, it came across very beautifully. You see, in the film, Sharon (Koel Puri) was the safety blanket of Shafiq (Irrfan). Once he came out of that, he was killed.”
How does the filmmaker wish to remember the actor? “Irrfan bhai had a tremendous sense of destiny and way ahead of his time. That is why perhaps he struggled much more than many, despite being so talented, in his short-lived career. I so wanted to collaborate with him once again because every time I had word with him — especially when he visited London — I just realised he had so much to offer. He changed the scene in ‘alternative cinema’ and I wanted to make more film with him. In a way, emotionally, I feel cheated! Irrfan bhai left too soon,” Ashvin signed off.