One of the most memorable roles played by Boman Irani till date would definitely be that of Professor Virus in 3 Idiots. Ask any Hindi movie buff to name Boman’s top three characters – Professor Virus will always feature in that list.
Boman recalls a funny incident that took place when he met Javed Akhtar at an awards ceremony. Akhtar, who also has a pronounced lisp, playfully asked Boman if the lisping Professor Virus was actually a parody of himself (Akhtar). Boman said “No” – and he was being 100 percent truthful.
So was Boman actually copying anyone when he created the persona of Professor Virus? The answer is yes – he was, in fact, copying himself… as a child. Not many people know that little Boman had a lisp which made him very shy and embarrassed. Believe it or not, as a kid he began speaking only when he reached Class VII at school!
Today, when you see Boman in so many glib-talking roles with so many different accents – Punjabi (Lucky Singh, Lage Raho Munna Bhai), Gujarati (Batook Patel, Housefull 3), Goan (Oscar, Honeymoon Travels), etc – it’s hard to believe that you’re watching a person who had a speech defect as a child.
But there’s more to Professor Virus than just a lisp. Remember that waddling walk of his? Boman says he “stole” that from the lovable doyen of advertising and theatre: Alyque Padamsee, whom he met when he did a short stint on the stage before moving to the big screen.
Right from the time he was a waiter at the Taj Hotel, and later while manning the sales counter at his family’s wafer shop Boman had always been a keen observer of human mannerisms and quirks. They became his stock-in-trade when he entered the acting profession. Even today, he often does a mix-and-match of real life people when he creates the numerous memorable characters he plays.
When Boman appeared in the television commercial for P Mark Mustard Oil (for which he is the brand ambassador), he had just finished shooting for Bhootnath Returns. He was still sporting the French beard. He seamlessly worked his new look into the brand message. Towards the end of the ad, the young housewife who he is interacting with suddenly recognizes him; she asks excitedly: “Aren’t you Boman Irani?” In reply, Boman points to his French beard, smiles and says: “New look”. He then goes on to relate his new look to the rebranded new pack that had just been launched at that time.
Boman Irani is a man of many talents… with many faces to match! That’s probably why, unlike many other character actors, he never gets stuck in stereotypes. After all, “Profethor Viruth” is anything but a stereotype!