Irrfan Khan isn’t anybody’s idea of a romantic hero. Not mine, at any rate. He isn’t all that great to look at — it’s easier to imagine him in gloomy character roles. He has a sightly hurried, slightly slurred style of dialogue delivery. And yet, he manages to make it all work. I have no idea why.
Take Life in a… Metro, an ensemble drama about interlocking lives and loves in Mumbai. The cast includes Kay Kay, Sharman Joshi, Shiney Ahuja, Shilpa Shetty, Kangana Ranaut, Dharmendra and Nafisa Ali. And yet, the only story I really loved by the time the movie was over involved him and Konkona Sensharma.
I think a lot has to do with how he is presented. The movie presents him through Konkona’s eyes, and the way her opinion of him evolves over the course of the movie influences how we see him as well.
The first time they meet, his matter-of-fact sexist remarks turn her off completely. When she rejects him as a potential suitor, you can see why. When she runs into him later while applying for a job, he seems helpful, yet almost intrusively so. You share her awkwardness at having to accept help from him. And yet, slowly, you warm up to him as she does. When she is upset and he takes her to the top of the building to scream her heart out, you feel like she’s unloading not just her angst about what’s happening in her sister’s life, but also her previously held opinion of him. As their relationship grows, you can see why she warms up to this man. Right at the end, when she crashes his wedding procession to tell him that she loves him, you completely understand why.
And then he blindsides her with this response: “Lekin petticoat, blouse sab uske naap ka silvaaya hai!” (“But the wedding dress has been made to her (his bride-to-be’s) measurements!”)
He says it in such a straightforward fashion that you realize this is indeed the first thing that occured to him. The use of specifics (petticoat, blouse) is what really distinguishes it. It is so totally in character — while his response is unexpected, it isn’t really surprising.
If there was a contest for the best response to an earnest declaration of love, “You had me at hello” would win hands down. But I’d rank this one as a close second.