This Article is From Apr 30, 2020

Can I Bring My Wife, Irrfan Khan Asked Me. Typical.

He asked me "Can I bring my wife along?" It was 2015 and I had called Irrfan Khan to tell him that he was NDTV's "Actor of the Year" at "The Indian of the Year" annual event organized by the network. I was used to long lists of demands from actors including first-class flight tickets for large entourages and was pleasantly surprised at this innocent query. His blatant delight at the news at winning the award was very endearing. This was an actor at the top of his game in India and abroad; the world was applauding his mastery of the craft. Irrfan wore his success with ease, with the hardiness of a son of the soil, genuine, authentic and always himself.

My earliest memories of Irrfan are from the TV series Banegi Apni Baat in the early 90's. He played father to grown-up kids played by actors his own age or may be a little younger. Cable TV had just come to India and Zee TV was the only Hindi general entertainment channel. I had also seen him in some of the episodes of Bharat Ek Khoj on Doordarshan. The first film starring Irrfan Khan I remember watching is Drishti; it was showing at the International Film Festival in Delhi and I bunked college to watch it. The doyen of classical Hindustani music Kishori Amonkar had turned music director for the film and I was most curious about why Dimple Kapdia would have an extra marital affair with Irrfan when Shekhar Kapur was her husband! It was in 2003's Maqbool that I was hit by the thunder bolt of Irrfan's performance and those eyes that spoke far more than all the dialogues in the film. It remains till date my most-loved Irrfan film. I never watched Haasil though much was written about Irrfan's performance in that film. One of his sweetest roles was in Life In A Metro (2006); among the multiple love stories in that film, Irrfan and Konkana's was the most lovable. His comic timing in the film was a revelation.


Actor Irrfan Khan died in Mumbai yesterday, leaving a void in Indian cinema and millions of broken-hearted fans

Irrfan did melancholy like a master of the navrasas in Mira Nair's Namesake. He ages most beautifully in the story of Ashoke Ganguly, a portrayal that broke my heart. I really liked him in Billu Barber, a film much publicized since it was produced by Shah Rukh Khan and he starred in it as well. The film did poorly at the box office and Irrfan got a lot of flak from the trade for it. His unease with the Bollywood setting was never more pronounced.

Everyone fell in love with Irrfan Khan after watching Lunchbox in 2013. The unassuming Saajan Fernandes and his loneliness didn't leave me for many days after watching the film. That many more felt like me was obvious in the BO numbers of this small film, his career's second best. 2014 was a marquee year for Irrfan. He starred in the third and final instalment of Vishal Bhardwaj's Shakespearian trilogy Haider. Much before Priyanka Chopra, Irrfan Khan had drawn international attention to himself with his film Warrior and on and off worked with some of the biggest names abroad. But Irrfan expressed himself best in Hindi, his language of choice. His most popular film Hindi Medium however resonated across the country, breaking language barriers. 

The news of his sickness and the philosophical way in which he communicated it made it heartbreaking and personal for me. That his treatment took him away from his Madh Island home just as he was settling in is heartbreaking. As is the fact that he had so little time with his boys just as he was starting to enjoy parenthood. As we live homebound in this broken world, with our streaming site subscriptions watching so many Irrfans come to life, it's his eyes that tell us of his story, always.

(Sonal Joshi is a consultant with NDTV 24x7.)

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