RIP Irrfan, the void you created will never be filled
"I suppose in the end, the whole of life becomes an act of letting go, but what always hurts the most is not taking a moment to say goodbye." These lines from Irrfan Khan's movie Life of Pi sums his demise. An actor par excellence, a doting husband, a loving father. The man who had so much to give, if only he had time.
Irrfan's craft was impeccable, from the word go. Born in Jaipur, the 53-year-old pumped life into every role he did, even banal ones. In Piku, a reluctant Rana won the hearts of everyone with his simplicity, in Maqbool, his raw romance with Nimmi made viewers uncomfortable, and in Paan Singh Tomar, the rebellious protagonist challenged the system, making us root for him.
With him on screen, it was impossible to look at anyone else. Irrfan's eyes talked even when his lips didn't move. He made acting look seamless, perfectly hiding the fact that he struggled for so long before catching Bollywood's attention. After spending years working for television in the 80s, Irrfan's big break happened with Asif Kapadia's The Warrior in 2001. The movie was celebrated.
Irrfan himself agreed that The Warrior changed his life, but it was still years before even the hardcore Bollywood fans noticed him. He worked in Tigmanshu Dhulia's Haasil, already had worked with Mira Nair in The Namesake, and played a memorable role in Slumdog Millionaire. It was only in the second half of 2000's first decade that he became a known name.
Once Irrfan started shining, there was no stopping him. In his characteristically quiet way, he became India's face in the West, working in some of the biggest movies. Life Of Pi shattered box-office records worldwide and won several Oscar awards. And 2013's Lunchbox, took Irrfan to international red carpets, more than ever. A star had arrived, and how.
Such was his love for his craft, that Irrfan made even the mediocre movies likable. There was nothing great about say the story of Billu, but Irrfan as the barber made it hard for viewers to skip the movie. Life In A Metro didn't have an extraordinary plot either, but as the annoying Monty who ogled at his date's breasts, Irrfan weaved magic there.
Irrfan could even make the simplest words memorable. "Mohabbat thi toh jaane diya, zidd hoti toh baahon me hoti" from Jazbaa wouldn't have been half as hard-hitting had Irrfan not mouthed it. "Inside I am emotional and outside I am happy," wouldn't have left audiences with a chuckle if Irrfan wasn't the one playing the dad in Angrezi Medium. Movies worked because Irrfan did.
When Irrfan's illness was revealed, believers knew he would defeat it. A few months after the diagnosis, he changed his Twitter picture, his smile reassuring that he would be fine. With Angrezi Medium, we realized how much we missed him on screen. But he left, creating a void that won't be filled. To quote your words from Haasil, Sir, Tumko yaad rakhenge guru hum.