After Irrfan Khan put out a tweet on his mysterious illness, writer-editor-filmmaker Apurva Asrani (Shahid, Aligarh, Simran) made a heartfelt Facebook post on his battle with Bell’s Palsy, a condition where part of the face is paralysed. Apurva has been fighting his condition for quite a while now and while the worst is over, it will be some time before he is completely healthy. In this exclusive chat, he reveals why he chose to make this fight with the disease, public.
Your revelation on your neurological condition has shocked everyone. What brought it on and how did you cope with it?
My condition is not so serious because it is reversible. But I went through a rough two months as not only it is hard to eat, drink and talk with a paralyzed face, but one eye wouldn’t shut and that was inconvenient. Plus the Palsy was accompanied by severe vertigo, so that made moving around tough for a period. But the worst part about this illness is that I had never heard about it. I knew no one who had it and I didn’t know what lay ahead. Timely treatment, a beautiful family and great friends have got me through the worst. Now my face is halfway normal and I am back on my feet.
That’s good to hear. How much has it affected your work?
It was tough to edit because the right eye would go red, and moving images worsened the vertigo. I have been editing this exciting series for Excel Entertainment and their entire team has been incredibly supportive. Also I have a good editing team in place, so we completed our duties in spite of this setback. To make life easier for me, the Excel folks installed a machine in my home so I could edit at my pace, taking rest every two hours. I am lucky to have employers who really care about their people.
Irrfan has also written about his illness. Do you think it is more prudent to reveal one's physical condition than hide it?
I’m glad he wrote about it. Shows great courage and my prayers are with Irrfan. We live in a superficial world, where everyone just wants to highlight their successes, their victories, their good times. This puts a lot of pressure on common people who wonder, ‘how come these people have such a great life, while I must suffer?’. Everyone suffers, everyone loses, and it’s important for celebrities who bask in the limelight of perfection to also share their weaknesses. This is why I have great respect for people like Deepika Padukone — who talked openly and bravely about depression, but we don’t have enough of such honesty. We must use our celebrity to raise awareness for more than just fairness creams, fashion brands and movie promotions.
How supportive has the industry been during these trying times?
Extremely supportive and very concerned. I called Anupam Kher because he had told me about his facial paralysis during the making of Om Jai Jagadish (which Anupam directed and I edited).Turns out, it was Bell’s Palsy and he gave me a great pep talk. He also referred me to his neurologist and he keeps checking on me. Like I mentioned, the good people at Excel have just babied me through this — Zoya Akhtar and Nitya Mehra have insisted that I put health first. Another production house that I’m writing for has been very patient with deadlines. All in all, I’m very grateful to be part of a humane and compassionate industry.
When do you hope to be fully recovered and what keeps you pushing towards that?
I’m back to writing the script I have been working on. I may have gained deeper insights and a slightly better understanding of human nature during this illness. By next month I should be ready to edit again too. But I no longer place so much importance on work. I’m not desperate to prove myself anymore. I have worked hard for the last 23 years. In the last 7 years itself I have edited 9 films, 3 of which I have also written. That’s a lot of work to do non-stop. Now the plan is to do select work and to do it well, without racing against an imaginary clock. There’s no race to win.