Irrfan Khan: The Life and Legacy of the Actor Extraordinaire

by Apoorva Malhotra
irrfan khan

Irrfan Khan was not just an actor. He was a legend.

He has given us several domestic hits like Maqbool, Metro, Hindi Medium, D-Day, The Lunchbox, and Paan Singh Tomar that have entertained every person in this country. On the other hand, Irrfan Khan has been the face and pride of India in international productions like Life of Pi, Jurassic World, Slumdog Millionaire, and Inferno.

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The amazing versatile actor breathed his last on 29th April 2020 and succumbed to colon infection at the Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital in Mumbai. He was 53. Irrfan Khan had been battling neuroendocrine tumor, a rare form of cancer, since 2018.

Irrfan Khan: The Versatile Actor Who Donned Several Hats

Born to Begum Khan and Jagirdar Khan on 7th January 1967, in  Khajuriya village near Tonk in Rajasthan, Sahabzade Irfan Ali Khan was destined for greatness. In fact, before trying out his hand at acting, Irrfan Khan was recognized for his cricketing skills. He even made it to the CK Nayudu Tournament for Under-23, which was his ticket to first-class cricket. However, as fate would have it, Irrfan could not show up due to financial constraints.

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While pursuing his MA, he bagged a scholarship to study at New Delhi’s premier theatre training institute, National School of Drama, which fueled his passion for acting. It was at this institute that he met Sutapa Sikdar, who he married in February 1995.

Acting Career

Irrfan Khan moved to Mumbai and made several TV appearances through shows like Chanakya, Banegi Apni Baat, Bharat Ek Khoj, and more. Director Mira Nair spotted his talent and offered him a cameo role in the critically acclaimed hit Salaam Bombay! The two collaborated once again for The Namesake.

In the meantime, Irrfan delivered stellar performances in films like Thee Warrior, Maqbool, Haasil, and Rog, which got him noticed. On the side, he continued his tryst with TV appearances by hosting shows like Mano Ya Na Mao and Kyaa Kahein.

Soon enough, Irrfan Khan had emerged as a household name. His characters were relatable, and his on-screen presence reeled everyone in. He was well-known for his comedic timing, in-depth character portrayal, and emoting through body language. 

He received the highly-coveted Padma Shri award in 2011. His illustrious career spanned over nearly 30 years, during which he has given us some memorable gems. Irrfan had recently wrapped up the filming of Angrezi Medium, which was due for release before the Coronavirus lockdown that disrupted the film release plans.

Bollywood Mourns as the News of Irrfan Khan’s Passing Breaks

Several Bollywood A-listers took to Twitter to express their sorrow.

Director Shoojit Sircar, who worked with Irrfan Khan on Piku paid tribute to his fighting spirit:

Film director Onir termed his passing as a ‘huge loss for the industry.’

PM Modi and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal had this to say:

Actor and Parlimentarian Shatrughan Sinha called him a ‘self-made, brilliant, versatile actor par excellence.’ 

Actor Anil Kapoor took the time to share personal memories of how Irrfan Khan helped his daughter Sonam Kapoor:

In his eulogy, actor Amitabh Bachchan who co-starred with him in Piku called him a ‘prolific contributor to the world of Cinema’

Actor Taapsee Pannu reiterated our thoughts and emotions by admitting that she will continue to be in denial of such a great loss by watching all his works over and over again.

Relive his Art and Legacy Through These Films

The death of Irrfan Khan has left millions of fans in shock. However, he has truly been immortalized through his works, which will continue to live on for ages. Here is a list of some of his best films that you can rewatch and celebrate his life:

Haasil (2003)

Haasil is like the stepping stone into the Irrfan Khan fandom. You can watch him seamlessly transition from a friend, philosopher, guide to abductor, murderer, student leader, and a ticking time bomb.

Maqbool (2003)

If you can make people hate you by playing a villain’s role, then you are a master actor. Irrfan Khan stands true to this though his performance in Maqbool, where he takes on the role of Miyan Maqbool.

Paan Singh Tomar (2012)

Nobody can play the role of a frustrated common man better than Irrfan Khan! In this film, we watch him go from a promising athlete to a ruthless dacoit who has been let down by the system. His acting in this film will move you.

The Lunchbox (2013)

The Lunchbox is your typical feel-good movie that witnesses the blossoming of an unlikely friendship due to serendipitous mix-up. Watch Irrfan Khan portray our desperate need for having genuine human connections.

Haider (2014)

Haider, the crime drama film directed by Vishal Bhardwaj, was loosely based on Hamlet by William Shakespeare. Irrfan Khan played the role of Roohdaar, a crucial character who kindled the flames of revenge in the lead, Shahid’s heart.

Piku (2015)

In Piku, Irrfan brought to life the character of Rana Chaudhary, a resourceful yet impatient businessman. Despite acting amongst stalwarts like Amitabh Bachchan and Deepika Padukone, Irrfan continued to be the highlight of the light-hearted drama.

Hindi Medium (2017)

Irrfan Khan exalted the role of a highly relatable common middle-class man in Hindi Medium, who is eager to get his daughter in a leading school in Delhi. The balance of acting, emotions, and comedy made this film an all-time watch.

Angrezi Medium (2020)

Little did we know that Angrezi Medium would be the last film that stars Irrfan Khan. Catch up as he takes on the role of a doting father who would go to any lengths to make his daughter’s wishes come true.

With a heavy heart, we have had to say goodbye to one of the best artists of our times. Irrfan Khan will continue to live amongst us through his art. 

His passing has been a second loss to the Khan family as Irrfan recently lost his mother a couple of days ago. Unfortunately, he could not attend her last rites in Jaipur due to the lockdown. He is survived by his wife and three sons. We wish for strength to his family in these trying times and pray that our star forever rests in peace.

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