RIP, Irrfan Khan!

A Potpourri of Vestiges Feature

By Murtaza Ali Khan

Irrfan Khan in Maqbool
Irrfan Khan in Maqbool
The world is deeply saddened by the tragic death of one of Hindi cinema's most original and versatile actors Irrfan Khan who has passed away at the age of 53. Only four days back he had lost his mother but he could not attend the funeral in Jaipur due to lockdown.
Long before anybody knew Irrfan Khan I had the pleasure of watching him in Doordarshan in a popular ZEE TV serial called Banegi Apni Baat. Interestingly, he played actor Ritu Raj's father despite being younger than him. In the television epic Chandrakanta, he played the iconic character of Badrinath (and his twin brother Somnath) alongside several other supremely talented actors in the country. He played a serial killer in yet another famous show from the 90s called Darr which also starred Kay Kay Menon. Gradually during the re-runs of Chanakya and Bharat Ek Khoj I used to get fascinated to see him make his presence felt. How cameos in Mira Nair's Salaam Bombay and Mani Kaul's short film Cloud Door are unmissable.

Amongst his generation of actors Irrfan was easily the only one who was equally prolific doing Hollywood projects as well as Bollywood ones. I mean playing pivotal characters in films such as Life of Pi and Jurassic World is no mean feat. Then there are films like Asif Kapadia's The Warrior, Mira Nair's Namesake. He also appearances in countless Hollywood projects such as A Mighty Heart, Inferno and Amazing Spider-Man. Not getting an Academy nomination for Life of Pi and Slumdog Millionaire was really a travesty. As an actor he was greatly inspired by Marlon Brando and it showed in his performances that he had set his mind of emulating his greatness in front of a motion picture camera.
Irrfan Khan in Paan Singh Tomar
Irrfan Khan in Paan Singh Tomar
Some other most important films of his life included Vishal Bhardwaj's Maqbool, Tigmanshu Dhulia's Haasil, Anurag Basu's Life in a Metro (remember watching it in a Noida theatre with college friends and some of them were really surprised to see Irrfan, a relatively unknown movie actor back then, effortlessly stealing the limelight from everyone else), Vishal Bhardwaj's 7 Khoon Maaf, Ritesh Batra's Lunchbox, Tigmanshu Dhulia's Paan Singh Tomar, Meghna Gulzar's Talvar, Sudhir Mishra's Yeh Saali Zindagi, Saket Chaudhary's Hindi Medium, and Anup Singh's Qissa, among others.
Few Indian actors have mastered the art of getting the characters' accents spot on like Irrfan Khan did whether playing an Urdu poet or a Punjabi-speaking Sikh or a Bundeli-speaking dacoit. He delivered such mature performances in his 40s... most actors struggle to do that even in their late 50s. Even at 53 he always felt like a breath of fresh air. His untimely death is an irreparable loss to the world of cinema. One can only imagine the kind of multidimensional characters he could have played as he aged further.
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