January 2015: It’s the launch of a book about runaway children where Boman Irani, the chief guest, makes this emotional, yet startling revelation. “I was born posthumously. I never had a father to look after me. That’s why I feel so strongly for these children who leave their homes and look for a brighter future. There is no way I can recreate their special moments, but if I can encourage them, I think my task is done,” says Boman. With this, he hits an emotional chord with the audience, which has always seen him as the bumbling father, the strict dean or the scheming villain. Perceptions can be very deceptive and the audience realised that in a matter of a few seconds. Whatever role Boman portrays in reel life, the truth is that he is a real life hero beyond imagination.
February 2015: Almost a month later, we settle down for an interview and Boman continues from where he left off. He says that not having his father around during his childhood sensitised him to the pain of children – especially homeless kids. “They don’t have parents, and they are not necessarily orphans. Love is such an important component and it is very difficult to give them that sort of love. It feels good to see them dress up well and go to school to study,” says Boman, who is an active supporter of Shelter Don Bosco, an NGO for street children.
‘I was not mollycoddled’
The youngest of four children, with three sisters, and a mother single-handedly running the house, Boman’s early days were not without turbulence. “Childhood was a difficult time, but also a fantastic one for many reasons. It was difficult for me to come to terms with strangers, but I suppose that is for every child who has to deal with so many people claiming to be family. Of course, I was loved very much, but everyone was very careful to see that I was not mollycoddled. I was a very quiet child, very silent, till I got into the sixth or seventh standard when I became really mischievous,” he reminisces. “Did I miss having my father around? I am sure I did. If you ask me, do I miss him now, I think so. But I subconsciously try not to think about it. I don’t sit and analyse,” adds the versatile actor who shot to fame after a stunning role in the 2003 blockbuster, Munna Bhai MBBS.
The parenting purpose
Despite early challenges, Boman found life to be a meaningful journey at every step. He never gave up. Shortly after completing a diploma course, he joined the famous Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai as a waiter, ensuring the guests enjoyed the best room service. Post that, he ran his father’s Golden Wafers company. A few years later, his passion for the lens ensured he became a hobby photographer.
The 55-year-old actor, who won the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actor in 3 Idiots, has been a dad for the better part of his life – almost three decades now. Zenobia and Boman Irani have two sons – Danesh, 29, and Kayoze, 26. The actor was 25 when Danesh was placed in his arms. For Boman, the real purpose for parenting began the day Danesh was born. “The day my son was born, I realised that this third member of our family is going to have a bearing on everything we do. That gave me focus in life,” he says. Three years later, when Kayoze entered their lives, that urge to better himself only increased. Boman started enjoying his life a lot more and was keen to pursue a profession that was very close to his heart. He veered towards acting though his big screen debut happened only ten years later.
Boman and his boys
“We didn’t plan our children. Zenobia and I were both quite innocent and didn’t ever think if we will be able to handle the ‘burden’ of a baby – the way most couples think nowadays. There was fun in having children and raising them! Couplets and poems have been written about the first time you hold your child, but words really can’t express that life-defining moment. Simply put, it’s about two people beginning to think as three and about the third – only. You can no longer say, ‘I am going to do this’. And you better accept that as part of parenting,” adds the star actor who is set to enthrall his fans again with his next release, The Legend of Michael Mishra, which also features his son, Kayoze in an important role.
Even today, Boman shares a great bond with his children. So, what type of parenting style fits him best? “I could say that I am a very easy-going parent but then there is a dichotomy. I am a stickler for discipline and ill-mannered children get my goat. I like manners – it sets the platform for everything else in life, I believe. My children have been brought up in the same way. Yet, I share a rapport with them whereby they can come and tell me what they feel and be assured of a rational, yet warm reply,” he says.
The rational rules
Zenobia and Boman have certain rules of parenting, the foremost being maintaining discipline. “I believe that children should be brought up with an honest approach and that’s what they will learn in life. It comes from being well-mannered. This, by no means, suggests curbing their naughtiness. There is a thin line between being naughty and being disrespectful. Of course, none of this applies to children below eight because then they don’t do what you tell them to do, they do what you do. The sooner we realise this, the better,” he adds.
The second rule followed in the Iranis’ home, which still holds, is that of no favouritism. “It’s the most difficult rule to maintain because some relative or the other will certainly come and make his/her favourite, but I am a dictator in this aspect. Every relative of mine knows that this is not tolerated in my house else it will be the last day I meet that person. Favourtism is an instant way of instilling complexes in a child. Many parents unashamedly play favourites. My earnest request to them is not to do so. I also detest grandparents who come with the sole agenda of ‘spoiling’ their grandchildren. It appears to me that all the disciplining in their life was only for their children. This requires a serious rethink too. Indulge them for sure, but don’t over-pamper. It’s dangerous. I always feel that parenting is a multi-tasking job – you have to handle yourself, people around your children and your children.”
‘Your motivation is your own toy’
Even though his sons are leading their own lives (Danesh is married and Kayoze is an actor), they often come back to their parents for advice. “I am thankful and blessed that love resides in our home. I have never forced my children to excel at anything. I have encouraged without giving deadlines or targets, and only told them to give everything their best shot. Motivation is important but as I have often told them, your motivation is your own toy. Financial motivation is not for me. More important are the principles you live by. Career, relationships and everything else will shape up accordingly,” he says.
The better half
Having a life partner like Zenobia has helped him be a good father, insists Boman. “I am blessed that Zenobia and I shared similar views on raising our children. Two people may fall out of love, but as parents who desire the good of a child, you need to concur on all aspects. Zenobia and I didn’t ever play the good cop, bad cop game with our children with one of us shouting at the child and the other hugging him. We are dealing with a child, not a criminal! Only by making mistakes will someone chalk out his own path. I have made my life after making 20,000 mistakes. Then why not my children?”
It’s a question every parent needs to reflect on. And with that, it was time to say goodbye. As I walked back, I just realised I watched yet another Boman classic, for real this time around.
Boman's parenting tips
- Absolutely no favoritism. Especially important to avoid in the formative years of life. Love your children equally.
- Do not try to compensate your deficiencies by making your children do it vicariously for you. I couldn’t make it to the cricket nationals, my child must – should never be your philosophy.
- Children are not your property; they are simply children. You do not have bragging rights over them.
- Keep children happy and loved. Do not overschedule their lives