Irrfan Khan: A loss that feels personal
“I suppose in the end, the whole life becomes an act of letting go, but what always hurts the most is not taking a moment to say goodbye.” – Irrfan Khan (Life of Pi, 2012)
One more flies over the cuckoo’s nest; though this time, it feels the nest wobbled down too with it. Words fall short in articulating the agony in the hearts of incalculable fan followings after the news of the maestro, Irrfan Khan’s untimely demise got published. This morning, we crossed our fingers, hoping against hope that maybe this time –we are right to hope for the best and refused to prepare for the worst.
He had been diagnosed in March 2018 with a neuroendocrine tumour, and had spent several months being treated in the United Kingdom. He returned to India in 2020, and was admitted to Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital in Mumbai for a colon infection earlier this week where he kicked the bucket at the age of 54 for his final journey till eternity.
Untimely death is always about possibilities lost and our helpless musings on “had he lived longer……”. Irrfan Khan moved my spirit in ways I had never anticipated was possible. The deep-rooted melancholia his ancient soul projected would seep right into me, like a father and a brother reaching into the ether was talking to me.
Hailing from a middle-class family in Tonk in Rajasthan, as Sahebzade Irrfan Ali Khan (1967-2020), he sought out to be an Actor and in a quandary marched ahead to hone his prowess in the field. He was apprehensive if a dark-skinned and earthy-looking actor could make it until he witnessed Mithun Chakraborty in Mrinal Sen’s Mrigayaa (1997) which invigorated his motifs.
“I’ve never looked to create an image where people fall in love with my face or style. It does cross my mind. But I’ve been trying to create a space for myself where I don’t depend on that” –Irrfan Khan re-explored the idea of being a quintessential actor who manifested that physical semblance can on no account curb one in creating a cavernous impact on the mind, heart and soul of the viewers.
One has to live and internalise the characters in-order to inculcate and sketch a naturalistic portrait of it on the blank screen.
Khan played with expressions, seldom reckoned on words and dialogues – his eyes enunciated contentment, wrath, yearning, agitation and etched every characters in our memories un-erased.
From Salaam Bombay to Angrezi Medium, he spoke to us all and we all felt his presence in our lives.
Just merely his name in the poster would raise expectations for a movie! His open smile alongside his intense eyes which perennially said something captivated us all.
Still can recall Irrfan’s entry at the end of the first half of the movie, Haider as the bass reverberated across the speakers –the entire theatre crowd jubilantly got up off their seats cheering and shouting appreciations as if the lead hero had made an entrance –such was his aura.
We are all in a relationship with at-least one of his characters. No matter what he was selling or saying, we watched him with just as much in awe –everything else around him, and everyone else, faded when he was around. For all we cared, he was the lead.
Khan’s career grew with us –from playing Badrinath with that snaky costumes in Chandrakanta, to his roles in Star Bestsellers, to Haasil, to Saajan Fernandes in Lunchbox, to Rana Chaudhury in Piku, to Champak in Angrezi Medium –we lived these characters through him. When he fixed the pump in Piku, we were him; when each time we come across an empty steel tiffin-box (lunchbox), we are reminded of him.
We’ve often heard that superheroes don’t always wear capes. Irrfan wore many though.
He was Maqbool. He was Billu. He was Monty. He was Saajan Fernandes. He was all these people and we believed in him every single time. He didn’t mean to be known by his last name.
He didn’t want to be known for his “religion, surname or lineage” but rather his work. Perhaps, he proved that success isn’t hereditary.
In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, the actor mentioned, “I’m playing the park owner, a very flamboyant person in the film. When the first Jurassic Park came out, I barely had the money to see it, and now I’m playing a part.” When the film released, Khan was also felicitated by the Mayor of Florence, who presented him with the keys to the city.
An excerpt from Irrfan’s last letter, “I had been in a different game, I was travelling on a speedy train ride, had dreams, plans, aspirations, goals, was fully dreams, plans, aspirations, goals, was fully engaged in them. And suddenly someone 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.”
“All things are subject to decay. And, when Fate summons, monarchs must obey” by Dryden, made me realise how we’re just a cork floating in the ocean with unforeseeable currents, while we’re desperately trying to control it. In a world where normalcy has been tossed out of the window, grief hits harder.
And while the loss feels massive, it just feels more personal today that it has been before. He reiterated time and again that talent with hard-work rises always and that destiny looks after those who’re meant to be. We’ve lived many lives with the many lives Irrfan lived. Hence, in the world full of ”heroes”, we lost the actor.
Stories are immortal. And we, remind ourselves that so is he.
As Dryden wrote, “All things are subject to decay. And, when Fate summons, monarchs must obey”, yet he went too gentle into that goodnight.
May he shine among the stars, may he touch the sun with one of sun’s rays, may he be eternally loved and may you rest in peace.
Mahabahu.com is an Online Magazine with collection of premium Assamese and English articles and posts with cultural base and modern thinking. You can send your articles to email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org ( For Assamese article, Unicode font is necessary)