He has a dad who is more buddy than parent. “There are times when I call him Boman. Of course, he doesn’t like it, but I get away with it, like I do with most things,” laughs Kayoze Irani. “Shut up!” Boman Irani says to him, then spins to us and requests politely, “Please don’t listen to everything he says. This affable kid is completely crazy.”
The camaraderie between one of Bollywood’s finest actors Boman Irani and his younger son Kayoze Irani, who made his film debut last month with Student of the Year (SOTY), is palpable as the two poke cutlery placed on a table at a Bandra five-star coffee shop, into each other’s eyes when they disagree, and silently nod when they agree. The 24-year-old may not share his father’s opinion on most matters, but he does mirror his dry sense of humour, as the two tumble into their own little, private conversations right in the middle of the interview.
But things are different when the actors are at work. On the sets of Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu (EMAET), Kayoze was assisting director Shakun Batra, while Boman was playing Imran Khan’s father. “Back then, he was strictly ‘Boman sir’,” says Kayoze. “Only once the shoot was over, and we’d go out for dinner or a round of gambling, that we’d have a gala time. All my friends from Dharma Productions (producers of SOTY) are his friends too.”
In fact, it was on the sets of EMAET that producer Karan Johar spotted the young man and offered him the role of the competitive geek, Kaizad Sodabottleopenerwalla aka Pseudo. “I told Karan, I don’t know how to act, and he said, ‘Don’t worry, you have the genes’,” remembers Kayoze, whose performance received a thumbs up from audiences and critics. “My only concern was that Karan didn’t want him to lose weight. That frightened me,” says Boman. “Dad, he wanted me to stay the way I am — fit and fine,” Kayoze jumps in.
“I wanted Kayo to understand that acting is like any other job. Until recently, he was an assistant on a short film. He must continue to work as assistant director until he acts in yet another film. You mustn’t exit the grind; you can’t turn away other experiences just because you have turned into an actor,” says Boman, who has over a decade of experience in a career he took on at 44 after working as a professional photographer.
It was only natural that Kayoze would approach Boman for advice. The climax run of SOTY, where an inebriated Pseudo breaks down and fights with the dean (played by Rishi Kapoor) after the students fall out and the winner refuses to accept the coveted trophy, was a challenge, he admits. “I don’t know how that shoot would have gone had I not reached out to him,” he says. But Boman insists he wouldn’t tell his son, or any other actor, how to act. “That is the director’s job. All I told him was that he must learn his lines so well that they tumble out of his mouth irrespective of what is happening around him. And he should understand the where, why, when, what and how of his character and scene.”
The advice worked well. Boman, who was shooting a promotion for Ferrari ki Sawari in Film City at the time, received a text from Rishi Kapoor that read, “Time for you to retire”. “When I walked in, everyone congratulated me. It was a proud moment,” beams Boman. “He did that difficult scene in one take. Nothing outstanding can ‘just’ happen. It happens because you have your basics right.”
The film industry has brought the Iranis not just accolades but luxurious comforts. Kayoze admits life changed after his father bagged film after big film. “But as a father, he never changed. It was difficult to fathom his fan following post Munna Bhai…When I was little, dad was always famous, no matter what job he did. As I grew older and mature, I realised what ‘famous’ meant.”
“Did you just call yourself mature?” teases Boman. And suddenly they turn into buddies; pals who are on PlayStation (FIFA) every night, with his mother Zenobia playing ‘bookie’. “She’ll send me a text saying, ‘Dad is stressed, please let him win’,” laughs Kayoze, before throwing him a challenge.
“Say something genuinely bad about me.” Turning serious, Boman thinks aloud, “I worry about how much these boys spend. I come from a humble background. I think 10 times before making a purchase. These guys are constantly looking for new hardware and phones. Do they know how much an iPhone costs? I doubt.”
“I think four times,” quips Kayoze. “My brother Danesh got me the iPhone.” Boman says he has shared three principles with his kids — don’t be beimaan (fraudulent) with money, work and your personal life, be positive and loving. “You can get away with so much if you are genuinely affectionate. I guess that’s why Kayo gets away with mischief,” smiles the father.
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