Remembering Irrfan Khan: An Era of Bollywood Cinema

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Critically acclaimed veteran actor, Irrfan Khan, died in Mumbai on 29th April at the age of 53. The actor had been battling with a neuroendocrine tumour, a rare form of cancer, since 2018. Reportedly the actor remembered his mother right before dying. “Amma has come to take me,” was reportedly his last words.

An official statement was released after his death :

I trust, I have surrendered”; These were the some of the many words that Irrfan expressed in a heart-felt note he wrote in 2018 opening up about his fight with cancer. And a man of few words and an actor of silent expressions with his deep eyes and his memorable actions on screen. It’s saddening that this day, we have to bring forward the news of him passing away. Irrfan was a strong soul, someone who fought till the very end and always inspired everyone who came close to him. After having been struck by lightning in 2018 with the news of a rare cancer, he took life soon after as it came and he fought the many battles that came with it. Surrounded by his love, his family for whom he most cared about, he left for heaven abode, leaving behind truly a legacy of his own. We all pray and hope that he is at peace. And to resonate and part with his words he had said, “As if I was tasting life for the first time, the magical side of it.”

The death of the beloved actor has left a void in the hearts of his family and friends and the cinema world and also in the hearts of millions of fans.

Amitabh Bachchan’s tweet
Hon. President of India, Ram Nath Kovind’s tweet.
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Let’s remember the veteran actor’s contribution and his huge canvas of films throughout the years.

Salaam Bombay! (1988)

Irrfan Khan started his career with the 1988 film Salaam Bombay. He featured as the letter writer in this film. It depicted the day-to-day life of children living in the slums of Bombay. Though initially cast as Salim, a street kid, his role was significantly cut down to a more minor character. This was done mainly because Mira Nair believed he didn’t fit the role of a malnourished street kid. In relation to this, Irrfan later said “I remember sobbing all night when Mira told me that my part was reduced to merely nothing. But it changed something within me. I was prepared for anything after that.” And this point gave us the iconic and loved Irrfan we all dearly miss today.

It was India’s second film submission to be nominated for the Academy Award for The Best Foreign Language Film. The film was among the list of “The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made” by The New York Times. It won the Audience Award at Cannes Film Festival, 1988.

Maqbool (2003)

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Considered as one of the best performances of Irrfan, Maqbool is a 2003 crime drama film based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Maqbool (Irrfan Khan) is the right-hand man of Jahangir Khan (aka Abba ji), a powerful don. However, things take an ugly turn when Maqbool falls in love with Abba Ji’s mistress Nimmi. Irrfan depicts the psychological impacts on Maqbool after he kills numerous people, especially Abba Ji.

His performance as Maqbool left the viewers in awe of him and there was no turning back after this.

Life In A… Metro (2007)

Life in a Metro - Irrfan Khan
Irrfan Khan and Konkona Sen Sharma
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Irrfan Khan had been a part of the Indian cinema for a long time. Therefore, he saw the industry transitioning and growing. In his 2007 film, Life In A… Metro, Irrfan plays Monty, a socially awkward guy. Khan shows his perfect comic timing backed with witty one-liners and his incomparable perfection in this Indian musical drama film.

Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

Dev Patel and Irrfan Khan

In this 2008 British crime drama film, Irrfan Khan played the role of a cop in Mumbai. While the movie mostly takes its viewers back to the past life of Jamal Malik (Dev Patel), Khan acts as the link between the past and the present. The command Khan holds on his character in the film is simply commendable. The worldwide release of this film brought both recognition and love for Khan and his proficiency.

7 Khoon Maaf (2011)

Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Irfaan Khan

“Ik baar to yun hoga, thoda sa sukoon hoga… na dil mein kasak hogi, na sar mein junoon hoga” – Wasiullah Khan

In this Indian black comedy film, Khan plays the role of a poet, Wasiullah Khan. Susanna’s third husband, who is a thoughtful and romantic poet in the morning and a sadomasochist at night. Therefore, he becomes the epitome of cruelty and pain for her. A different man altogether, the depiction of Wasiullah is done with ease and poise by Khan. It seems as if he is living in the character and proved once more that he is the ultimate character artist.

Paan Singh Tomar (2012)

Paan Singh Tomar - Irrfan Khan
Irrfan Khan in Paan Singh Tomar

In this 2012 biographical film, Khan plays the title role. It is the story of an army person turning into a dacoit. In one scene in the film, Irrfan’s Tomar expresses his frustration by saying, “Desh ke liye daude to kisi ne na pucha, ab baaghi ban gaye to sab ehi naam jap rahe Paan Singh Tomar.” The amazing gravity and rawness of Tomar’s character have been depicted with all justice by Khan.

While promoting the film, Khan had told Time magazine that he was drawn to the story because “it follows the hero once he has been forgotten”.

Life of Pie (2012)

Irrfan Khan as Piscine ‘Pi’ Patel

In the end, I suppose, the whole of life becomes an act of letting go, but what hurts the most is not taking a moment to say goodbye.”

This hard-hitting and beautiful line has been all over the web since Irrfan’s demise. Wonder where it comes from? In the 2012 Ang Lee adaption of a boy’s survival at sea, Khan plays the role of adult Pi (Piscine Patel). In a segment where Pi talks about life and death and his journey, these lines are said and now are to be remembered forever.

The Lunchbox (2013)

Irrfan Khan as Saajan Fernandes

A movie as perfect as it could have been. A love story with just epistolary. Romantic much? Meanwhile, when Saajan accidentally starts getting lunches with notes in them (which are not meant for him.) An affair starts to bud and begins to blossom. The simplicity of the characters and their portrayal is what makes this movie one of the best performances of Khan.

Saajan: “You are young. You can dream. And for some time you let me into your dreams. And I want to thank you for that.

Haider (2014)

“Darya bhi main, darakht bhi main… Jhelum bhi main, chinar bhi main… dair bhi hoon, haram bhi hoon… Shia bhi hoon, Sunni bhi hoon, main hoon pandit… main tha, main hoon aur main hi rahoonga.” – Roohdaar

In this adaptation of Hamlet, Khan plays the role of Roohdaar (the ghost of Haider’s father.) He intensifies Haider’s desire of seeking revenge for his father’s death. The adaptation was made to portray the political intrigue and history of Kashmir. Khan being an important part of this masterpiece makes it even more perfect.

Hindi Medium (2017)

Irfaan Khan as Raj Batra and Saba Qamar as Meetu

“Ek France banda, German banda speak wrong English… we no problem… ek Indian banda say wrong English… banda hi bekaar ho jaata hai ji” – Raj Batra.

The story revolves around Raj Batra played by Khan, who is a loving father and husband. For him, nothing matters more than his wife’s happiness and his daughter’s well-being. The beauty with which Khan brings on screen the desperation and love of a family man is commendable.

The whole canvas of Irrfan Khan’s films can never be truly captured and neither can words do the true justice to these artworks. He has always been a source of inspiration to the youth or to anyone who aspires to be something. The loss of this veteran actor seems so personal to everyone that it’s difficult to let go. We will miss you, legend.

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Tannavi Sharma
I love Dogs, Pizza, and Chai more than I like the entire mankind itself.

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