I was only 13, barely a teen, when I first saw Irrfan Khan in action. It wasn’t in a movie or even a TV film but in the song Maine Dil Se Kaha from his movie Rog as it played on MTV. It is a brilliant song, but to date, I can not forget Irrfan’s expressions from the song.
That, in my humble opinion, sums up Irrfan Khan’s gift to Indian cinema – an unforgettable screen presence.
In a career spanning three decades, Irrfan Khan gave us some truly memorable roles. His performances earned him four Filmfare Awards, a National Film Award, and the Padma Shri.
But to a fan of his work, he was more than the awards conferred to him. He was the roles that defined him, and the characters that he made iconic.
He was the romantic who could make even a cynic fall in love. He was the villain who could make even a knight shiver in his armor.
He was the common man who even left an indelible impact on the rich and privileged. He was the comedian who always left a smile on your face.
He was, to put it simply, every character he played. And played so convincingly, that even in a brief role, he left a monumental impact.
His diverse filmography is a fitting example of his range as an actor. You would be hard-pressed to find a single commonality in all his roles – except perhaps the conviction with which he played each character.
If Maqbool’s power-hungry, guilty stricken protagonist left us sympathizing with a murderer, then Monty’s idea of romance in Life in a… Metro had us once again rooting for love’s innocent follies.
Musafir’s cruel brand of love left us disgusted in 7 Khoon Maaf but Paan Singh Tomar’s rebellious sprint in the biopic had our hearts beating a little faster.
This was the genius of Irrfan Khan – an ability to evoke emotions in the audience, with every character he played, no matter how far removed from the audience’s life.
Jut like how, even when he played two polar opposite father figures on-screen–the rule-abiding, succinct, restrained father in The Namesake and the loud, verbose, over-the-top father in Hindi Medium–our reaction was the same, to call our parents.
Perhaps this is the mark of a true actor. He not just lives the character, but also imparts its essence to the moviegoers.
This is why every time we would see Irrfan on-screen, no matter how fabulous or unimpressive the movie was, he would manage to make a place in our hearts and minds.
It is often said, that artists give us a glimpse into their souls with their creations. It was certainly true for an actor like Irrfan.
His soulful gaze always left your heart a little constricted because he appeared to directly address you. At the same time, his unabashed smile always felt like a warm embrace in the middle of winter.
Irrfan’s comedy sketches, interviews, and essentially, his life off-screen was no less inspiring. And even when his battle with neuroendocrine tumor began, his words became an inspiration for millions of his fans. I was just one among those million.
As we embark on the journey to release #AngreziMedium, here’s a small note for you allhttps://t.co/Sr0Pp1x3dv #AngreziMedium trailer out tomorrow!— Irrfan (@irrfank) February 12, 2020
As a fan who looked forward to his every new role, his absence from the world of movies feels like a personal loss.
But, his visceral intensity, his unparalleled talent, his magnificent screen presence, and his innate wholesomeness will live enshrined in his movies forever, waiting for us to revisit them.
As I revisit his immortal characters in my head and feel a smile creep up on my face, I also feel a pang that his filmography would remain as it is, with no new addition. And the words from the same song where I first focused my attention on Irrfan Khan, once again come to mind,
Maine dil se kaha, dhund laana khushiNa samajh laya gham, toh yeh gham hi sahi…
Thank you for the memories.