Irrfan Khan: The “Different-Khan” of Bollywood Can Never Die

“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,” says Irrfan Khan while playing his character in Life of Pi. No other quote seems more appropriate as the actor has sent the entire country into mourning with his death.

Irrfan Khan, an icon of Indian Cinema, whose three decade career included Oscar winning film, Slumdog Millionaire, died on Wednesday at Mumbai’s Kokilaben Hospital.

The 53-year old was admitted on Tuesday with a complaint of colon infection and on Wednesday morning a statement was released confirming his death.

“It’s saddening that this day, we have to bring forward the news of him passing away,” read the statement. “Irrfan was a strong soul, someone who fought till the very end and always inspired everyone who came close to him.”

He was known in the west for his performance in Slumdog Millionaire, in which he played the role of a police officer. The movie won eight Oscars. He played a reliable character in The Amazing Spider-Man in 2012 and businessmen in Jurassic World in 2015. No one can forget his role lead character in Ang Lee’s Life of Pi.

Khan first attained widespread acclaim in early 2000s, with ‘The Warrior’ directed by British Filmmaker Asif Kapadia. The movie was selected for the prestigious San Sebastián film festival and won the Bafta award for best British film. He hasn’t looked back since.

He got an appreciation for his role in a lead role in Vishal Bhardwaj’s ‘Maqbool’ in 2004, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. “Irrfan’s eyes speak louder than his words and every time he is in the frame, be it talking to his buddy Manish or arguing with Suhel, he shows his capability as an actor,” wrote a critic after his acting in ‘Rog’, released in 2005.

Meanwhile, he worked in Hollywood films such as A Mighty Heart and The Darjeeling Limited. He played the lead role in Paan Singh Tomar, a movie based on a real-life athlete turned dacoit and was widely appreciated. 

He broke into box-office success with The Lunchbox. The film was significantly praised by critics and won several awards worldwide. He also worked alongside Amitabh Bachchan in Piku and Hollywood actor, Tom Hanks in Inferno.

His other movies include Qarib Qarib Single, Haider, Haasil, Madaari. Salaam Bombay, Ye Saali Zindagi, Blackmail and many more.

He was born as Saahabzaade Irfan Ali Khan in Jaipur in 1967. His father ran a tyre business and mother was a housewife. After trying his hand at cricket, he got a scholarship to study at National School of Drama, New Delhi in 1984 while he was pursuing his masters.

He landed himself a role as a Letter writer in Mira Nair’s Salaam Bombay in 1998 after doing small jobs in Bombay. For some time he could only manage to find regular work in TV soaps before he was offered ‘The Warrior’. He worked in various television series–  Chanakya, Chandrakanta as so one. Irrfan acted as the main villain in ‘Darr’ series which aired on Star Plus.

In 2018, Khan disclosed that he was diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumour. He underwent extensive treatment and came back to shoot Angrezi Medium, his last movie.

Twitter has been flooded by tributes from his co-actors and politicians.  “My friend…inspiration & the greatest actor of our times. Allah bless your soul Irrfan bhai… will miss you as much as cherish the fact that you were part of our lives,” Actor Shahrukh khan tweeted.

Priyanka Chopra his co-star in 7 Khoon Maaf and Gunday wrote, “The charisma you brought to everything you did was pure magic. Your talent forged the way for so many in so many avenues. You inspired so many of us. #IrrfanKhan you will truly be missed.”

Khan is survived by his wife, Sutapa Sikdar, and sons Babil and Ayan.


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