There aren’t too many people who touch your lives and make you their own in a very unique way. Irrfan Khan was one of them. I met him several times at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival and we have had our banter. When he declined an interview because it wasn’t a cover story, I walked off. Minutes later, he called me to apologize and in his endearing voice saying, “Arrey aap toh bura maan gayee. Mai doonga na aapko interview. Zaroor doonga.” When I went to interview him, his younger son (visibly bored cycling in the room at the Emirates Palace ) opened the door. I was joined by Sutapa his wife, who spoke to me at length about how they were turning producers with Madaari. Twenty minutes into the conversation, Irrfan arrived – casual, simple, disheveled and the first thing he tells me is. “Mera ego hurt ho gaya tha isiliye maine interview mana kiya.” I was flabbergasted! “Who does that.” People largely sugarcoat their defences or mask it with arrogance. Here was a man who had shredded the situation to its bare minimum. He was hurt, he had declined, it was that simple. But he quickly added, “Aur aapne emotional blackmail kar diya na phir ghussa hokar.” We laughed and he had a fan for life – not just because of his brilliance as an actor but for the courage to be vulnerable. It was that simple and that admirable. One of the most brilliant minds I have met in the fraternity. He spoke about the rich legacy of regional cinema and said Mohanlal is the best actor in India. He was very impressed with the writing of actor/writer/film-maker Sreenivasan who wrote Kadha Parayum Bol ( that was later remade as Billoo Barber).
To the man we all love and miss sorely, here are a few of his roles that have left an indelible mark on us all. There is an inimitable Irrfan in all of them that we are left finding today on his birth anniversary and forever in cinema..
Early in his career, Irrfan played a double role in this fantasty TV serial of twin brothers Badrinath and Somnath. One of them had dreadlocks and the other one was blonde. Irrfan asked the director, ‘From which angle do they look like brothers?’”
Banegi Apni Baat
Irrfan at 26 years of age played dad to Rituraj K Singh’s, who was older to him! Banegi Apni Baat’ became hugely popular because its content was young and fun. Irrfan not only acted in the TV show, but also directed a few episodes.
Mano Ya na Mano
The series wouldn’t have had its desired impact if it wasn’t hosted by Irrfan Khan. His hooded eyes added drama to the supernatural stories.
Mira Nair had thought of casting Irrfan as one of the street kids in Salaam Bombay but his height and build got in the way. Irrfan was ahead of his batch mates when Mira picked him from NSD. He was the only one who had bagged a feature film before passing out. Irrfan’s dreams, however, shattered when Mira had to un cast him just two days before the shoot and instead, gave him a small role in the film, which was practically nothing. This episode shattered him, but also prepared him for the worst. “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,” he says.
Initially, Vishal Bhardwaj offered Maqbool’s role to Kay Kay Menon, but he turned it down , Vishal even talked to Kamal Haasan for the role but decided to cast Irrfan Khan, having seen him perform in Haasil. Irrfan would be the youngest NSD graduate in the cast, including other alumni—Naseer, Om Puri, Pankaj Kapur and Piyush Mishra. In fact, towards the beginning of the film, there is a scene where all these actors are sitting in Abbaji’s living room. Irrfan was the junior most of all but he sat in the midst of all the senior actors with the confidence of a veteran.
Life in a Metro
His character of the obnoxious but sweet, confused Monty with an adorable sense of humour infused soul in the well-made Anurag Basu film. His scenes with Konkona are some of the most endearing and laugh-worthy scenes in Hindi cinema.
Irrfan shot to international fame with Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire. He played the detective interviewing Dev Patel’s TV quiz show winner. Danny Boyle ecounted how a Peter Rice of Fox Searchlight told him to “just get that guy” and how Mr Khan’s mere presence in the film may have helped shape Slumdog Millionaire‘s Oscar trajectory.
In an essentially adult film, Irrfan plays a newly-separated man Samit who is desperate for sexual adventure that he finds in his a instructor Kaya (Payal Rohatgi). His experimentation includes everything from wearing sports bra to g-strings. Irrfan in one of his funniest roles.
The film that fetched Irrfan the national award and spearheaded the tradition of biopics we see today is a treat to the senses. The real story of an athlete turned dacoit, Irrfan breathed life on to the role of the “beehad ka baaghi”, who started as an ernest Subedar in the army .