Indian National Award-winning actor and cancer warrior Irrfan Khan, whose films are a masterclass in splendid seamless acting, died in Mumbai after battling a medical complication arising from colon infection.He was 53 and is survived by his wife Sutapa Sikdar and two sons Babil and Ayan.
The Indian National School Of Drama graduate was last seen in director Homi Adjania’s Angrezi Medium, a heart-warming father-daughter tale in March this year. But the film couldn’t enjoy an uninterrupted screening at the cinemas world-wide because of the corona virus outbreak that led the closure of cinemas. Even though his last film wasn’t allowed to blossom, Khan who has appeared in over 100 Hindi films has charted a fruitful career filled with cinematic gems.
The film is based on William Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’, with the Mumbai underworld as its backdrop. Maqbool (Irrfan Khan) is the right-hand man of Jahangir Khan (Pankaj Kapur), a powerful underworld don. This passionate film full of twists and turns is proof of the versatility and commitment Khan had to offer. The cast of Maqbool was embellished with heavily decorated actors (Pankaj Kapur, Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri). To play the lead in front of such stalwarts is by no standards a mean feat.
The character of Miyan Maqbool was a stony-hearted, fiercely loyal chieftain who gets swayed by Abbaji’s escort and in search for a better tomorrow; finds himself knocking on the doorway to hell. Irrfan played Maqbool with his characteristic blazing intensity and boorish charm and completely owned the critics at various film festivals all over. His performance retained its flair throughout and not for once got shrouded under the halo of other seasoned actors. And with Maqbool, came all the praises, accolades, appreciation and awards which had eluded Irrfan for so long.
Paan Singh Tomar
Pick Irrfan and throw him into any milieu in any part of India and you will be surprised with the degree to which he appears deep rooted in it. ‘Paan Singh Tomar’ is an example of such striking ability. This film, made on a meagre budget, remained under production for quite a long time and one thought that it will eventually be shelved. Even after getting rave reviews at festivals in 2010, it took 2 more years to release ‘Paan Singh Tomar’ in Indian theatres. And when it released, Irrfan’s performance left everybody stunned.
He played the eponymous role of an award winning steeplechase runner who resorts to arms to exact revenge from the corrupt system and its structures. It was a highly unconventional choice for Irrfan and there was a fair degree of skepticism regarding him pulling it off. But he did and did it with Irrfanesque swag. He went through a phased physical transformation, trained hard to fit the structure of an athlete and dissolved himself into the rural mould. He was not some actor playing a character from hinterland, he became Paan Singh in entirety. Not even a single note was off in his rendition.
Irrfan played Ashoke Ganguli who hails from West Bengal, joins MIT as a graduate student and later becomes a professor. It was a multilayered role with a different set of characteristics, sensibilities and leitmotifs. Irrfan submerged himself into the world of Ashoke and made it his own. He painted Ashoke’s mannerisms, relationships, fears and motivations with a touch of an accomplished artiste.
He, along with Tabu, created a credible Bengali couple (sans theatrics) who migrate to US for better opportunities and struggle to fit in as well as remain attached to their roots. And, when Ashoke dies, the emptiness hits you like a bolt of lightning and you realise the stark reality of existence and how easily it will be wiped off leaving behind a void.
You don’t have much at your disposal when for larger part of your screen time you are supposed to sit on a chair in a government office and marvel at your lunchbox, do you? Irrfan proved that you do. He played Saajan Fernandez, a middle-aged, loyal and efficient government official who falls in love over a series of delicious lunchboxes and accompanying letters.
He savours the dishes like a gourmet but never forgets to let the audience in on the aroma. Gradually, he creates an equation with us and before long we become pro at correctly guessing the contents of the letters as well as the lunchbox just by looking at his face. Stellar performance!
Champak, an unassuming mithai shop owner and single father, is set to fulfil his daughter’s dream to study in London. However, certain misadventures lead him and his family on a new quest, one which renews their relationships and bonds.
Recently released on Hotstar due to the pandemic, this is Khan’s last performance. A feel-good movie about the father-daughter relationship, it truly is a must-watch.