The Indian silver screen is a place where a new face is seen every other day. Some of them even go on to become superstars, with millions of fans following them. But, there are very few Indian film stars who remain unforgettable even after their death the way their followers remember actors like Dilip Kumar and Balraj Sahni. Irrfan Khan is one such memorable celebrity who made a mark not only in the Indian film industry but also in foreign movies. He died three years ago in 2020 at the age of 53. But people still remember Irrfan for the roles he played in Hindi as well as international movies.
The Paan Singh Tomar actor made his debut in Bollywood with a small role in Salaam Bombay! (1988) has left behind a treasure of memorable movies that are just as unforgettable as him.These movies include Haasil (2003), Maqbool (2004), and The Lunchbox (2013). Irrfan did not play romantic leads like Shahrukh, and Salman Khan in Hindi movies. But, he played epic roles like Paan Singh Tomar the 2012 biopic, which was directed by Tigmanshu Dhulia. The movie was based on the life of a multiple gold medal-winning athlete, and soldier in the Indian Army, Paan Singh Tomar, who later became a dacoit. Irrfan's final film appearance was in AngreziMedium (2020). The movie was the sequel to his highest-grossing Hindi movie release that came with the comedy-drama Hindi Medium (2017).
April 29, 2020, marked Irrfan's third death anniversary and many people still remember him for not only for his unmatched acting skills but also the kind of relationships he shared with them. One such person is Jay Patel, a noted filmmaker who has described Irrfan Khan as a friend every human desires to have.
While paying tribute to Irrfan on his third death anniversary, Jay Patel said, “From pay checks to passion, from fancy restaurants to boutique bookstores, from costing conversations to casting roles, from planned trips to random strolls, I feel blessed that I was introduced to the life of an Artist through the most humble eyes of yours Irrfan.”
Jay Patel continued, "Irrfan I still remember how poles apart our lives and world were when Tishu (Tigmanshu Dhulia) introduced us! You belonged to the world of arts while I came from the world of business and yet, we shared this beautiful bond of friendship that made me realize that we were more alike than different. While the bond that you and Tishu shared was unparalleled, I enjoyed being the third wheel and our friendship, our conversations and our minds brought to life. Some life long memories that I would take to my grave. Through daily visits at small cafes; the boutique bookstores; the quirky art stores, and the unique specialty stores, I got to explore New York from the perspective of an artistic explorer. It made me realizethat you craved for the unseen and you always took the unexplored path instead of exploring the tried and tested fancy clubs and lounges, fine dining and winning that the city had to offer."
Jay Patel further says he still remembers how Irrfan picked up a random book, opened the book to the middle, and then read a page out loud. After reading the book Irrfan asked if Jay could create the start and end of the story in the book. Jay says he marveled at how Irrfan's mind functioned. Even today when Jay thinks of art, he says he remembers Irrfan's definition which said that “Art is all about picking a random start and allowing your imagination to run wild and free and create our own stories.”
Jay Patel also says Irrfan made him believe that life lies in small moments. He says, "You (Irrfan) showed me through your perspective; how the whole world is just a big theatrical event and the 8 billion people of this world are all Artists in their own individual way. That we have to play our roles according to our skills, our labels, and our upbringing. You made me realize that the performers and the watchers in a circus are all part of the same circus. You showed me the beauty of imagination. You and Tishu made me realize my passion for Arts, Music, and culture, and for this, I will always be thankful to you. I sit under the open skies, every time I sip from a cup of your hot favorite Turkish tea and every time I take a walk in NYC restaurants, the BMW, (Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg bridges)and our bookstore at Soho!, photographs taken from you. I would resemble you in every artist I see and I will miss you every time I meet Tishu!" one of the lesser-known facts about Irrfan was his love for sports. The two friends always planned trips to watch FIFA together. Jay Patel also says Irrfan chose art over brands.
He concludes, "We share our vulnerability of hating confined areas and loving open skies. Irrfan I wish, I could once again hear you say, “I never act; I am that character! And as soon as I am out of character, I step into my world of Art.” Oh Irrfan, how I wish I could meet you once again, ‘a man of few words but whose eyes spoke volumes."
That was Irrfan Khan an unparalleled actor who could express words through his eyes that lips can never speak. It is indeed sad that an actor of such a stature did not get to play a romantic hero in Bollywood films. But what set him after from other Hindi film actors was that he wasn’t just admired as an actor in India but also internationally.
From Oscar winners to blockbusters, Irrfan was part of a vast range of foreign films, including his international debut movie, The Warrior (2001), Life of Pi (2012), and The Puzzle, (2018) an American drama film where he played the romantic lead. Irrfan could have played many more big roles in Western movies if his exceptionally brilliant career wouldn't have ended with his death due to a colon infection at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital and Medical Research Institute, in Mumbai.