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Irrfan Khan: The Magnificent Confluence Of Cinema, Literature and Art

“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.”

If only the nation knew! Today, as we awoke, Irrfan Khan, actor par excellence reached the end of his battle with colon infection. Having been diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumour in March 2018, we know he is finally at peace without pain or suffering, where he is resting.

A man who emoted with his eyes, he was an actor for the thinking masses. Bringing a unique something to each role he portrayed, he composed his performances with restrained unravelling. His meaningful silences and nuanced gestures were a result of his complete immersion in his craft, which only got finer with age.

A man truly gone too soon, he left behind a deep void full of stories we never got to listen, play, and be enthralled by. The global film industry might never fully reel back from the damaging loss of an actor so irreplaceable.

Rog, 2005 was one of the first Bolly mainstream movies to be offered to him. While the movie itself was loosely made, Khan’s performance as the insomniac and depressed police officer investigating the death of a mesmerising and sensual model, was remarkable. We knew then, that an actor was born.

What followed was a filmography that was truly a treat to watch unfold!

Maqbool, 2003

The first of Vishal Bhardwaj’s Shakespeare trilogy, Irrfan Khan played the titular character of Maqbool. Adapted from Macbeth, and set against the backdrop of Mumbai underground, Irrfan Khan made Maqbool, simply put, immortal. His portrayal of his broken loyalty for harbouring love for Nimmi, to his ambition that made no bones about it, Khan was extraordinary. A must watch to delve into the cinema that eventually made him into what he became.

Watch on

The Namesake, 2006

In yet another movie based on a book, Irrfan Khan dipped from the reel crime world to play a first generation Bengali immigrant based in New York. Ranging from his first years in the USA, along with wife (played by Tabu), to understanding the conflict between tradition and modernity, his character is almost like a living, breathing being you know; a complex man with thoughts and feelings wider than what he makes known. Irrfan Khan was known exactly for this, turning all his characters into institutions of art.

Pan Singh Tomar, 2012

A movie that cleanly swept the critics off their feat, Pan Singh Tomar was Irrfan Khan’s love letter to the rebels born from the system. The serial corruption and injustice that plagues our administration, and the way it trickles down to the common man, and the way it takes away the lustre of many is a good lesson to learn. Irrfan Khan brings it to life with his deliveries, screen presence and love for finesse.

The Lunchbox, 2013

The Lunchbox was a movie, where the silences bustled with unsaid emotions and unchartered territories. Yet another masterpiece that proved only Khan was the man for it, The Lunchbox was set in the heart of Mumbai. As a middle aged widower falling in love with a woman he hadn’t met yet, he couldn’t have been better tuned with the character. There is a modern-day bravery to Irrfan Khan’s characters and this piece of cinema is no different.

Karwaan, 2018

A film that got appreciated and critiqued in equal measures, Irrfan Khan’s Shaukat was quite a challenging role to play. While the three characters depicted in the movie belonged to different age groups and came from radically different schools of thought, Irrfan Khan’s screen presence and deliveries were enough to bind them all, thematically. A must watch for Khan’s fans, Karwaan is yet another example of a movie made ahead of its time.

While such was the filmography of the versatile Irrfan Khan, his tiny yet pivotal roles in Haider and Talvar deserve special mention too.

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