The Life and Times of Irrfan Khan

Life and Times of Irrfan Khan, “Salman Khan doesn’t know how to act. Shah Rukh plays the same role in every movie. Ranveer is too flamboyant….” And the list of criticisms that Indians hurl at their heroes goes on and on. No one is safe. Except maybe one man, the man we were forced to bid a premature farewell to Irrfan Khan


Sahabzade Irrfan Ali Khan, known to the masses as Irrfan Khan, had a very simple reputation. He was the one you couldn’t help but like. Whether he be playing the ambitious upstart in Maqbool (the film that rocketed him to stardom), the small-townIrrfan Khan barber in Billu, the rebel runner in Paan Singh Tomar, the mysterious Pi Patel in Life of Pi, the jaded Saajan in The Lunchbox, the sarcastic tag-along in Piku or the Chandni Chowk prince in Hindi Medium, there was a certain je ne sais quoi about him that just made you root for him.


Maybe it was the amount of heart he put into his understated and subtle performances, the way he made you forget you were watching a movie and feel what his character was feeling and buy into the story. Or maybe it went beyond the silver screen. The careers of lesser men can be defined by awards. As a storyteller in the truest sense of the word, it is only fitting that Irrfan’s (who is one of the few who has a separate page on Wikipedia dedicated to his awards) success be measured by the stories people tell about him.


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There’s nothing we can say about Irrfan the actor that won’t be said more eloquently by those who understand the craft better than us. So we’d like to take a moment to remember Irrfan the person, as we knew him. When Maqbool himself agrees to a work meeting that you never dreamed would happen, intimidation is understandable. More so when you’re a group of twenty-somethings with none of the credibility or swag his usual collaborators have. But from minute one, Irrfan was courteous, receptive, warm, and involved. He took to our Party Song with a gusto that made us wonder if we’d even written something that deserved the sort of dignity he was giving it. But. That’s just the sort of guy Irrfan was. He walked off the set of Jurassic World, where they were probably serving him flavoured cappuccinos on velvet cushions, onto the shoestring budget Party Song shoot. It was the middle of May and the temperature and humidity were soaring. The air conditioner wasn’t working in the club we shot in. We had no special vanity van to give him when we shot the pool scenes. We tensed for a star tantrum. But Irrfan just grinned, stretched out on the floor in the corner of the room, and took a nap. That’s just the sort of guy Irrfan was. When ill health forced him to drop out of a project we were supposed to do together, we understood his situation immediately, and yet, he was the one who had tears in his eyes because he thought he was letting down some kids who were starting out. Because that’s just the sort of guy Irrfan was. He was being treated in London in July 2018, and we happened to be there. Not only did he insist on coming to the show, but also on taking us all to dinner after, where he regaled us with stories in his trademark drawl while also making sure everyone ate until they couldn’t move. Because that’s just the sort of guy Irrfan was. “Yaar cricket khelte hai!” he chirped, and even had a friend in London book us some nets. Sadly, on the day, his health took a turn for the worse and he had to drop out. He still called and said “I’m not cancelling the booking, tum log toh jaa kar khelo yaar!” Because that’s just the sort of guy Irrfan was.

A post shared by Rohan Joshi (@mojorojo) on Apr 29, 2020 at 2:51am PDT

In a world where everyone from Priyanka Chopra to Deepika Padukone seek to make their fortunes abroad, Irrfan Khan was arguably Bollywood’s finest ambassador. Well-respected in international circles, directors like Spielberg, Nolan, and Ridley Scott ran behind him, script in hand. Irrfan was the man who turned down Interstellar for The Lunchbox, The Martian for Piku. Because it was never about the money for him, he was truly in love with the art of film, and the skill that is acting.

His father once told him, “Beta Zindagi me koi na koi hunar zaroor seenkho. Jab kuch bhi kaam nahi aayega toh woh hunar hi tumhare kaam aayega.” (Son, you must learn some of the other skill in life. Even when nothing will seem to be working, you will have your skill.) A line that he clearly embodied by honing his craft over his short life, where others might have run behind money or fame. Irrfan Khan His strong sense of loyalty and professionalism made him some lifelong friends. The first one to tell the world of his passing was Director Shoojit Sircar, for whose passion project, Piku, Irrfan had turned down The Martian.


Even when his body failed him, he had his skill. He kept at it, and shot for Angrezi Medium in 2019, less than a year after his cancer diagnosis. He wasn’t a hero, or a superstar. He was what he always wanted to be, an actor. Irrfan Khan And I suppose that is the legacy that would please him the most.

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