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.
News of his death was confirmed by Khan’s publicist.
“‘I trust, i have surrendered'”; these were the some of the many words that Irrfan expressed in a heartfelt note he wrote in 2018 opening up about his fight with cancer. And a man of few words and an actor of silent expressions with his deep eyes and his memorable actions on screen,” Khan’s spokesperson stated.
“It’s saddening that this day, we have to bring forward the news of him passing away. Irrfan was a strong soul, someone who fought till the very end and always inspired everyone who came close to him. After having been struck by lightning in 2018 with the news of a rare cancer, he took life soon after as it came and he fought the many battles that came with it.
Surrounded by his love, his family for whom he most cared about, he left for heaven abode, leaving behind truly a legacy of his own. We all pray and hope that he is at peace. And to resonate and part with his words he had said, ‘As if I was tasting life for the first time, the magical side of it’,” the spokesperson added.
New of Khan’s death was also confirmed by director and close friend of Khan’s Shoojit Sircar.
“My dear friend Irfaan. You fought and fought and fought. i will always be proud of you. We shall meet again,” said Sircar, saluting Khan on social media.
They both worked together in the Bollywood blockbuster ‘Piku’. He also mentioned that his wife Suthapa Sikdar found alongside her husband.
Khan, who spent most of 2018 and 2019 battling high-grade neuroendocrine tumour in London, is one of India’s finest actors who understood the syntax and grammar of Hollywood films.
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 coronavirus 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.
Be it his turn as the erudite, immigrant father in director Mira Nair’s ‘The Namesake’ or playing the ruthless rebel in gangster epic ‘Paan Singh Tomar’ or the ageing widower in the sumptuous romance ‘The Lunchbox’, Khan had the power to inject grace and gravitas into any role that he took on.
Khan, who has brought his cracking films to the Dubai International Film Festival and Abu Dhabi Film Film Festival in the past, was an actor that shattered the conventional rules of Bollywood and created his own benchmarks of excellence. The actor, who was honoured with the highest civilian honour Padma Shri in 2011, wasn’t handsome like Hrithik Roshan nor could he romance women with the smoothness of a suave Shah Rukh Khan.
Truth be told, he didn’t have the swagger and cool quotient of Salman Khan either, but what worked for in Irrfan Khan’s favour was his incredible and magnetic screen presence. His acting in films like ‘Piku’ with Amitabh Bachchan and Deepika Padukone and his ethereal turn in thriller ‘Haider’ was a succinct crash course on subtlety. A genius on the silver screen, Khan believed in the economy of emotions.
In a dazzling entertainment industry like Bollywood in which melodrama and hamming are condoned, Khan was cut from a different cloth. He walked to a different tune. He wasn’t willing to limit his acting and art to Hindi films alone. He has worked in Hollywood films including ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ in which he played a cop and ‘Spiderman’, ‘Jurrassic Park’ and director Ang Lee’s celebrated film ‘Life Of Pi’.
Long before Priyanka Chopra Jonas courted and won over the West with ‘Quantico’ and her infectious charm, it was Khan who was India’s biggest cultural exports and he paved the way for other stars to tread similar paths.
Born in Jaipur in a Muslim family, Khan didn’t hail from an influential acting dynasty. His fame and fortune were derived from his immaculate command over his craft. A scholarship student of National School Of Drama, Khan began his career in the entertainment industry with hit television serials including ‘Banegi Apni Baat’.
What made Khan invincible on screen was his ability to portray characters with conviction. From playing an ageing bachelor in road trip film ‘Piku’ to playing a cold-blooded villain in ‘Haasil’, Khan is that proverbial chameleon on the big screen. He takes on the colours of his on-screen characters and had the ability to leave a lasting impression.
It wasn’t just his on-screen personality that was crackling. His press interactions and interviews are insightful and interesting.
In one of his last interviews of his career with this journalist, Khan spoke about how his tryst with cancer had caught him by surprise. But he didn’t let the disease define him.
In his latest film ‘Angrezi Medium’, Khan did all the heavy lifting without breaking into a sweat. He proved that he is still got it. When asked about his grim period of battling cancer, Khan told Gulf News that an iconic Hindi song kept playing in his head:
“I tell life: ‘Lag Jaa Gale Ki Phir Yeh Haseen Shaam Ho Naa Ho, Shayad Is Janam Mein Mulaqaat Ho Na Ho’ [Embrace and hug me life, for your never know if we will ever have this magical evening like this or not, Perhaps we may meet or never meet again in my lifetime].” While life may have shrugged him off, his fans and cinephiles aren’t likely to let go of this fine actor and his marvellous roles any time soon.