Extreme Measures – It’s all part of being a Specialist

When it comes to creating highly memorable characters that stand apart, Boman Irani is a consummate specialist… and to this end, he has always been ready and willing to go to extremes to ensure that he gets his characters right. It may not always be good for him – but he does it anyway; after all, that’s what true specialists do.

During his stint in theatre, Boman was approached by Feroze Khan to act in a play called ‘Mahatma versus Gandhi’. Boman assumed that Khan wanted him to play the role of a sepoy in the British Army, a freedom fighter, or some such part. Imagine his surprise when he was told that he would be playing Gandhi! Given his distinctly bulky build, Boman was sure it was going to be a comedy spoof of Gandhi… but no – the script indicated that the role was a serious portrayal of the Father of the Nation.

So Boman began carefully cultivating the character of the Mahatma. And it began with getting the body image right. Across a period of two months prior to the opening of the play, he went on a near starvation diet… losing weight drastically till his ribcage was clearly visible. At the end of two months, he looked every bit the gaunt, frugal Gandhi that Indians are so accustomed to seeing. This extreme step caused Boman to land up in hospital – but he has never had any regrets about the rigours he undertook for the role; all that mattered was the fact that he got the persona of the Mahatma right. The play received enormous critical acclaim both in India and in South Africa.


This is what specialists do – they go to any extreme in their quest for perfection and excellence. P Mark Mustard Oil (for which Boman is the brand ambassador) prides itself on being ‘The Mustard Specialist’, and for more than eighty years, it has gone to extremes to deliver unwavering quality and unmatched purity to its customers.


It begins right from the procurement of the seeds which are painstakingly sourced from the best mustard growing regions of the country. In the process, often the cost of procurement goes up – but P Mark has never believed in cutting corners at the cost of quality. Next, these seeds are put through stringent quality tests using a set of 14 parameters to ensure that only the best seeds make it to the production line. Even during production, technologically advanced automated sorting machines ensure that seeds that are not up to the mark are eliminated from the process. A series of 52 in-process quality checks further underlines the brand’s obsession with quality. As far as the cold pressing of mustard seeds is concerned, this may certainly be interpreted as going to extremes. But as ‘The Mustard Specialist’, it’s what P Mark does – and has always done.


Being a specialist is a challenging responsibility. It is a never ending quest to excel on an ongoing basis. Often it involves setting formidable benchmarks for oneself that at times appear to be unattainable. Sometimes one has to even go to extremes to live up to these self-imposed standards. But as Boman’s Gandhi demonstrates, the joy of perfection is a very satisfying reward.

How Boman created the irascible ‘Profethor Viruth’


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.

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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.

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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!

Boman with Kayoze Irani who has shot the ad

Meet the Fit Foodie

P Mark Kachi Ghani Msuatrd OilBoman Irani readily admits to being a great foodie… he loves good food and he’s always been that way. A brief flashback to his childhood years reveals that he grew up in an area called Nagpada which had a reputation for delicious street food and was also home to some excellent traditional Irani restaurants. As he grew older, his foodie spirit grew more adventurous. He began exploring the many labyrinthine lanes and bye-lanes of Mumbai – discovering a mind-boggling array of culinary delights along the way. His childhood friends looked upon him as an expert on Mumbai street food. If ever these friends had any difficulty in deciding where to eat, they would always ask Boman – the expert foodie in their midst.

Meet the Fit Foodie

Many foodies tend to eat out because the food at home is unpalatable – you know, what with wives enforcing strict diets and evangelising the cause of various health foods and all that. Not so with Boman. As a child, home food was a treat because his grandmother was an excellent cook. And even today, home-cooked food continues to be just as delightful because his wife, Zenobia, has exceptional culinary skills. Not just a foodie… Boman admits that he’s always been a really lucky foodie!

However, in spite of his love for food, Boman knows the importance of balancing his epicurean indulgences with a sane mix of healthy eating and fitness. As a highly successful character actor, his lifestyle is characterised by long shifts, lots of travel in India and overseas, irregular meal timings and a significant amount of stress. Boman is fully aware that the only way to cope with all this is to eat right and stay fit.


One should not be deceived by Boman’s slightly rotund build. He’s as fit as a fiddle and hits the gym with a vengeance whenever the role requires a different body image. For his edgy, menacing role as Vardaan in Don 2, Boman worked with Shahrukh Khan’s personal trainer, Prashant Sawant, to lose the flab, tone his body up and add some muscles to his six-foot-three-inch frame. His daily workout included strenuous cardio, weights and circuit training. He switched to a high-protein low-carb diet – even skipping dinner and settling for protein shakes during his training period. Think back on that action scene in Don 2 – the one in the prison yard where Shahrukh Khan fights Boman, and you’ll realize how fit Boman looks in that scene.


The balance that Boman maintains between his love for good food and the need for fitness and healthy eating habits makes him an ideal brand ambassador for P Mark Mustard Oil. For thousands of years, mustard oil has represented the perfect blend of flavoursome cooking and healthy eating. The aspect of its health benefits was reiterated in a study conducted by the Harvard School of Medicine in collaboration with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi and St John’s Medical College, Bangalore, and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The study revealed that the regular use of mustard oil in one’s diet reduces the risk of Coronary Artery Disease by over 70 percent.


No other edible oil brand has placed as much trust and confidence in mustard oil as P Mark has. For more than eighty years, the brand has focussed single-mindedly on making the best mustard oil. While other edible oil manufacturers have dabbled in soya, rice bran, safflower, sunflower, palm and a mind-boggling array of other less healthy oils, P Mark has never wavered from its commitment to mustard oil. In fact, Puri Oil Mills Limited (the company that manufactures P Mark) has a vision to be acknowledged as “The last word in Mustard”.

For the Harvard School of Medicine, its discovery of the health benefits of mustard oil is a very recent one. However, for millions of Indians it is something they have known for several millennia – mustard oil has always been a part of their culinary habits, their age-old recipes and their Ayurvedic medicinal formulations. That’s why at P Mark, we’ve dedicated ourselves to mustard oil for more than eight long decades – with a deep sense of pride, unshakeable confidence and undying passion.

Passion makes all the Difference

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Boman Irani has had a dream run as a character actor with a difference, known for a dazzling variety of multifaceted roles – and a success graph that continues rising every year. Looking back on his early years, Boman has a vivid recollection of some simple words of advice given to him by his grandmother. She said: You don’t always have to be a big shot or a millionaire; it doesn’t matter if you are a roadside cobbler – just make sure that you are the best cobbler in the entire area.


Her words resonated deeply within the young Boman – and he soon discovered that the way to be the best is to go about one’s work with passion. At that time, Boman was working as a waiter at the Taj Hotel. He started right at the bottom – literally! He was in Room Service which was in the basement of the building. Paraphrasing his Grandma’s golden words, he told himself that it didn’t matter if he was a waiter – he would make sure he was the best waiter in the hotel. Eventually, his passion propelled him to the top – again literally. Soon he was working at Rendezvous, the elegant and exclusive rooftop French restaurant at the Taj.

But there was always a sense of restlessness stirring within Boman – his creative spirit. He wanted to be a professional photographer. So he saved up all the tips he got at the Taj and eventually bought a camera – and once again, he gave it his all. He worked as a photographer’s assistant in Chennai, learning the trade… getting hands-on exposure to the work that photography entailed. This culminated in a decade-long stint as a successful professional photographer.


The passion that drives Boman is clearly visible in the mind-boggling variety of personas that he brings to life on the screen. He says he never signs on for a role unless he is sure that he can give it his 100 percent. That’s why you’ll never see Boman in a lacklustre or disappointing performance – even in an awful movie; or in a tiny guest appearance for that matter. Honeymoon Travels wasn’t a great movie but Boman’s role as Oscar, a middle-aged Goan man remarrying late in life, leaves an indelible impression in the minds and hearts of the audience. Again, his blink-and-you’ll-miss-it guest appearance as a shipping magnate in a two-minute scene with Dimple Kapadia and Rishi Kapoor in Luck by Chance is amazingly believable – and memorable. In both these roles, it is Boman’s passion that is the defining factor.

In the case of P Mark Mustard Oil (for which Boman Irani is the brand ambassador), once again it is this selfsame passion for purity, quality and excellence that drives the brand to new heights. This passion translates into a vision to be “The last word in Mustard”. Driven by this passion, the brand’s in-house R&D facilities work tirelessly to develop value-added products and innovative variants. It is this passion that has enabled the brand to enjoy the loyal, unstinting support of millions of customers across three generations.


And it is this passion that creates an enduring bond between Boman Irani and Brand P Mark – both believe in giving their 100 percent to everything that they do; both have an overarching passion to be the best.

Flex Board - The Mustard Specialist

Boman Irani – He’s Different!

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All of us know and admire Boman Irani as a character actor par excellence. However a lesser known facet of Boman Irani’s life is that he spent a decade working as a professional photographer. He started out by specialising in sports photography. Reminiscing about that time, Boman fondly recalls one of his early assignments: photographing a boxing tournament. He was promised that if the photographs came out well, he would be made the Official Photographer for an international boxing championship event that was slated to take place in Mumbai. For Boman who was just starting out in his photography career, the stakes were high.

So what did Boman do? He avoided the beaten track. He made it a point not to follow the herd. In fact, he did the very opposite of what everyone else was doing. If all the press photographers were clustered in one corner of the boxing ring, Boman would be at the other end – alone, getting a completely different perspective on the fight. When the other photographers were crowded around the ring, Boman was up in the rafters getting unique top angle shots of the action. The outcome – Boman’s photographs were so good that he was made the Official Photographer of the World Cup of Boxing held in Mumbai in 1992.

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This experience was invaluable. It led Boman to formulate a tenet that would eventually become the main mantra for everything that he did in life: “Do not do what everybody else does. Do it differently.”

One can see this philosophy at work behind every role that Boman plays. He can play a father (Lucky Singh of Lage Raho Munna Bhai or Batook Patel of Housefull 3) without perpetuating the stereotypes set earlier by stalwarts like Ashok Kumar, Nasir Hussain and Om Prakash. He can play a villain (Vardaan of Don 2 or Khurana of Khosla Ka Ghosla) without replicating standard templates used by classic baddies like Prem Chopra, Madan Puri and K N Singh. Clearly, Boman has always chosen to do things differently and one can see it firsthand in the dazzling array of unique personalities that he has essayed over the years.

P Mark Mustard Oil (for which Boman Irani is the brand ambassador) has traversed a similar path, always staying away from the beaten trail. While the SME-mindsets of all other mustard oil brands made them shy away from mainstream advertising and marketing initiatives, P Mark embarked on ambitious Pan-India mass media advertising campaigns that dramatically expanded its distribution footprint and exponentially increased the salience of the brand. While other mustard oil brands continued plodding along with their timeworn packaging and brand imagery, P Mark activated a radical brand rejuvenation initiative aimed at making the packaging more user-friendly and contemporary, thus enhancing the brand’s appeal among a younger, more urban set of consumers. Across a journey of more than eighty years, P Mark has always done things differently.

Even in choosing its brand ambassador, P Mark adopted a courageously different stance. It avoided the pretty faces… those stereotypical female brand ambassadors that all other edible oil brands seem to go for. Instead, P Mark’s choice was Boman Irani. It represented an amazing meeting of minds since Boman too has always been someone who chooses to do things differently.


The Journey of the Specialist

A specialist’s journey from the early years to the heights of success always makes for an inspiring story. For instance, how did the renowned Dr Devi Shetty develop his remarkable heart surgery skills? How did Dr Abdul Kalam, a poor boy from a small fishing village, transform himself into a specialist in integrated guided missile development? How did a simple village boy like Srinivasa Ramanujan with no formal training in mathematics go on to specialize in advanced mathematical analysis, dazzling scholars at Cambridge with path-breaking concepts like the Ramanujan Prime and the Ramanujan Theta Function?


In today’s post, we follow in the footsteps of an amazing actor who has specialised extensively in character roles, redefining the very concept of what character acting is all about. In the early days of Hindi cinema, character acting roles were stereotypical – the hapless father of the heroine, the arrogant father of the hero, the friendly family doctor, the faithful friend of the hero and so on. Boman Irani has successfully shattered these stereotypes with incredibly differentiated roles like Dr Asthana (Munna Bhai MBBS), Professor Virus (3 Idiots) and Farokh Sethna (Being Cyrus).


Boman Irani began his working life as a young waiter at the Taj Hotel in Bombay, but this was just a brief stint. He left to join the family’s bakery business, manning the counter at their wafer shop in Byculla – a shop called ‘Golden Wafers’. Both these jobs gave Boman a unique opportunity to observe customers at close range. Boman says: “I observed every customer very minutely and picked up some quirk or the other”. Later he used his observations to add a variety of dimensions to the characters that he played. In fact, Naseeruddin Shah once pointed out to Boman that the wafer shop was probably the best acting school for him (Boman).

Flex Board - The Mustard Specialist

As Boman Irani’s own story indicates, the making of a Specialist usually begins with small steps. P Mark Mustard Oil (for which Boman Irani is the brand ambassador) too started out as a typical SME product with a distinctly rural slant. In the years that followed, the brand broke away from its “commodity” identity and emerged as a first mover in its segment. Going from strength to strength, the brand expanded its market presence, its distribution footprint and its portfolio. It went on to pioneer the advent of mustard oil in mainstream media – transforming its regional character by reaching out to Pan-India audiences through a series of television and print campaigns.

Over the years, P Mark never wavered from its single-minded focus on mustard oil. Its in-house R&D facilities worked tirelessly to develop value-added products and innovative variants. The brand’s stringent quality management initiatives received recognition both in India and abroad; it received the National Quality Award from the Government of India and the International Star for Quality Award from BID, Spain.


The relationship between Brand P Mark and its brand ambassador is a perfectly matched partnership between the ‘Acting Specialist’ and ‘The Mustard Specialist’. This is probably the reason why this relationship has endured – becoming stronger with each passing year.


A House Full of Comedy!

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When he appeared at the official launch event announcing the release of Housefull 3, Boman Irani had promised that it would offer three times the fun that the earlier movies had – and now it seems he was absolutely right. Talk to fans of the franchise and you will discover that they are thoroughly satisfied with the film, its plot, the performances, the jokes – and the trademark streak of craziness that runs through the entire film.

Those who avidly follow the Housefull series already know that the films have their own offbeat, quirky, politically incorrect sense of humour. It’s the kind of humour that one encounters every day in the social media space… on Facebook and WhatsApp – humour that may not have you in splits of laughter but it certainly evokes a smile; jokes that are downright silly but one still waits for more with a sense of eager anticipation.

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In Housefull 3, a lot of such silly humour lies in dialogue lines that constitute a convoluted mash-up of English and Hindi – mauling and massacring both languages in the process. Here are some of the lines that people are talking about…

Nimboo ki roshni se door raho” (Stay away from the limelight)

Thandi wali dawa le lo” (Take a chill pill)

Chalo latakte hain” (Come let’s hang out)

Saandh ki aankh maarna” (Hit the bull’s eye)

Ham bachche nahin bana rahe” (I’m not kidding)

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Not surprisingly, lines like these have the movie critics erupting in derision and bemoaning the plummeting standards of humour in Bollywood films – while the same lines have fans of the Housefull series delighted. Indeed, this is the brand of humour they have come to expect from the Sajid-Farhad writer-director duo. That’s why they are emerging from the movie theatres with big grins and a happy sense of “Paisa vasool” (value for money).

Boman Irani Housefull 3 - Snapshot from trailor5

While comedy may not be the mainstay for Akshay Kumar (better known for action roles) and Abhishek Bachchan, for Boman Irani it may be considered an area of core competence. He has pretty much done every type of comedy ranging from intelligent humour like the portrayal of Professor Virus in 3 Idiots to slapstick humour in movies like Santa Banta. Cast your mind back on the blustering Khurana in Khosla Ka Ghosla and the ‘slapping scene’ in Bhootnath Returns – and you are instantly amazed by the variety of comic roles that this versatile specialist can play. And now, Batook Patel of Housefull 3 joins this ever-growing list of delightfully funny characters played by Boman Irani.

As the brand ambassador for P Mark Mustard Oil, Boman brings several delightful little quirks into the television commercial – some classic expressions, rolling of the eyes and a variety of playful reactions. The comedy is subtle. It entertains – and yet it doesn’t dilute the brand messaging in any way. At the end of the ad, Boman emphatically explains why P Mark is ‘The Mustard Specialist’. This is a serious message and the comic elements of the ad do not detract from its seriousness.

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As an experienced specialist, Boman is able to handle this dichotomy with aplomb. With his amazing acting capabilities, he handles the key challenges on parallel tracks – he engages with the audience through the subtle interplay of comedy and quick-witted dialogue delivery, and at the same time, he delivers the brand message with such amazing panache that the audience can actually see how much he believes in the brand. To be honest, not many brand ambassadors can do that.