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Irrfan: The actor amongst the Heroes

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The adage “Actors never die, neither fade away holds so true for the iconic actor Irrfan Khan. It would be condescending to explain this colossal Indian star in few words. Irrfan’s appeal lay in precisely what he could not be, an actor who could do anything, become anyone. His demise has left an irreplaceable void in India’s cinematic landscape, it won’t be the same again.

The Pan Singh Tomar of Bollywood who has made every dialogue so real that it always felt personal, “Beehad mein baghi hotey hai, dakait hote hai parliament mein”. Does any of you remember this dialogue and the movie? What a silly question! Of course, you do. His screen presence and his sheer brilliance of dialogue delivery with absolute ease invariably added to the audience’s cinematic experience.

His death feels so personal to everyone. He contributed his good 30 years to the cinema. He was a man with no fancy body, six-pack abs, and ladies in arms, but just holistically dynamic talent with a deep-sea in his eyes that always spoke louder than words. He was a man of few words an actor of silent expressions, occasionally allowing the character’s suppressed emotion to peek out from behind his quiet, standoffish demeanour. Irrfan once said,” Wanting Fame is a disease and one day I want to be free from this disease. From this desire, where fame doesn’t matter, just experiencing life and being ok with it is enough!”

Irrfan Khan worked today that not just in more than 50 movies. No actor had any ill will for him. And that can be seen in the whole nation but the whole world is mourning his demise.  An actor who could transcend nationalities and boundaries and appeal to a global audience. Khan had a reputation for modesty and integrity and news of his death sent India into mourning, prompting actors, fans, and politicians from across the world to express their sadness at his death.

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Irrfan Khan was born with a huge name as Sahabzade Irfan Ali Khan on 7 January 1967 in Rajasthan to a Muslim family belonging to Pathan ancestry. His father Yaseen Ali Khan ran a Tire business in Khajuriya village near the Tonk district of Rajasthan. His mother Saeeda Begum Khan always wanted him to be a lecturer. She passed away 4 days ago at the age of 95 maybe because his mother didn’t want him to go in front of her eyes. So, she asked the god to take her away before him. Irrfan was very close to his mother though he could not attend her last riots due to the nationwide lockdown, that again strained him deeper in his heart. Maybe that is why his last words were, Amma has come to take me! And maybe that’s how the son who felt strapped gets united to his mother.

His younger brother Imran Khan in an interview with TOI said, “It appears that while Bhaijaan was unable to make it to the burial of our mother, he has gone up there to meet her” Irrfan was very frequent in visiting Jaipur especially to fly kites during Makar Sakranti. “He used to tell us in December to buy bunches of kites and Manjhas.

A former teammate remembers Irrfan Khan ” the good all-rounder who left cricket for acting. He was exceptionally good at cricket and was selected to play for the CK Naidu Trophy under -23 category. Irrfan did his schooling from St. Paul school in Jaipur. During his school life, he was very shy in telling his name to his teachers and now see the irony that the whole world knows his name.

He completed his MA from his native state Rajasthan later on, he got the scholarship to join the very famous National School of Drama (NSD) of Delhi. Irfan was well connected to his childhood friends even after being busy in the acting career. One of his childhood friends, Haider Ali Zaidi, who is now Superintendent of police, Bharatpur is in deep grief over the demise of his dear friend. Zaidi describing the days of his schooling said “While he got selected for NSD he did not tell the family. All that he told was that he got selected as a teacher and going to Delhi. My father motivated him to pursue his dreams,” Zaidi said.

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Zaidi further told that when Irrfan was in London for his cancer treatment, he went there to meet him and Irrfan took care of all the expenses there. “How can I forget he facilitated the stay while I had gone to London to meet him while he was undergoing treatment for cancer.”

Telling his NSD story to Anupam Kher in his show,” he said himself lucky that he got admission into NSD in the first attempt. When he was asked about his past 10 plays, he made up his own story as he could not afford to lose that opportunity, further reminiscing the memories he told that his father used to call him a “Brahman” born in Pathan’s house, as he was not very fond of eating meat and couldn’t resist the sacrifice of animals. While missing his father he added he had been an immense source of inspiration to him.

His father passed away right after he joined the NSD. Responsibilities towards his family brought him back to his home, later on, his younger brother supported his dreams.

When Irrfan left his home for trying his luck in acting, he told his mother that he is going Delhi to join some institute for a course and then he would come back to Jaipur and join some college as a lecturer. Irrfan has made an apple pie from scratch that now the whole world is gazing at.

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When Meera first promised to cast him as the protagonist but later on assigned him a secondary role because of his looks, he took that too positively because he believed, to be a new actor if you are even getting a role that is more like icing on the top. he convinced himself with immense passion and after completion of two months’ workshop with the co-actors, he got to know he was no more working in the project as he didn’t fit well for the role. The actor said after this incident he was ready for anything in his life.

In 1995 he got married to his NSD fellow and his long-time girlfriend and writer Sutapa Sikdar. Sutapa Sikdar belonged to a Brahman family. Irrfan and Sutapa have two sons Babil and Ayaan.

Irfan added an extra ‘r ‘ in his name in the year 2012 and turned as “Irrfan” and dropped Khan after some time from his name as he always wanted to be recognized and defined for his work, not for his lineage.

In March 2018, Irrfan was diagnosed with a rare neuroendocrine tumour. He went to the United Kingdom for his treatment and lived there for one year after getting back to India he had been admitted at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital. He underwent treatment for colon infection and died on 29th April 2020 and his death was confirmed by his family. You were as rare as your disease Irrfan.

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In his heartfelt note that he had written in the 2018 opening about his fight with cancer and his suffering, he said, “I trust, I have surrendered”.

In his article to a newspaper he wrote,” I had been in a different game. I was travelling on a speedy train ride, had dreams, plans, aspirations, goals, and was fully engaged in them. And then suddenly taps on my shoulder and I turn to see. It’s the TC: ” Your destination is about to come, please get down.” I am confused. “No, No My destination hasn’t come.” “No, this is it. This is how it is sometimes”.

As they say “Legends never die, they live amongst us forever with their work and words”.

Your loss can never be fulfilled, the void will remain hollow because there is only one Irrfan that was you and will be you.

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