Irrfan Khan is not just a name. When we think of him, we think of sheer excellence, prowess and an energy that is completely grounded, positive and welcoming.
Irrfan Khan gave us some of the best movies and performances Bollywood has till date. His name will be remembered in the history of cinema for his revolutionary acting and performance.
It is with tremendous grief that we mourn his loss and the fact that Bollywood shall forever miss this pragmatic being for its lifetime.
It is our luck to be born in an era where we got to watch Irrfan Khan go from a struggling actor to one of the most celebrated artists around the globe, growing with each performance.
Here I have summarised his astonishing journey so that we can celebrate him and his contribution to the film industry.
1. Salaam Bombay (1988)
Salaam Bombay is a story about an 11 year old kid Krishna (Shafiq Syed). After breaking his brother’s motorbike, is asked by his mother to return only when he earns enough money for the repairs. Krishna, in this quest, winds up in one of the poorest slums in Bombay and has to make his way out.
Irrfan Khan was initially offered to play the role of Salim, one of the street kids in the Bombay slum. However, just two days before the commencement of the shoot, the writer and producer of the film, Mira Nair cut his role as Salim and gave him a much smaller role, which was the role of a letter writer. She thought he wasn’t fit to play the role of a malnourished street kid. As this movie was his debut film, this came has a shock to Irrfan Khan, who practically sobbed all night upon hearing the news.
2. The Warrior (2001)
Lafcadia (Irrfan Khan) is a warlord’s warrior who was commanded to slaughter a village for their failure to pay taxes. Upon reaching the village, the warrior has a confrontation with his own conscience and decides to drop his warlord’s commands and instead, goes to the Himalayas in search of inner peace. However, the unforgiving warlord strikes for revenge and sends his men to seek vengeance, hence forcing Lafcadia to face violence once again.
Irrfan Khan did several movies and television shows back and forth in between these periods which were not as critically acclaimed as his debut film.
He had contemplated ending his acting career as he was bored with the roles he was offered until he came across this particular offer to be cast as Lafcadia in the film The Warrior. Irrfan Khan has always strived to give performances above and beyond the expectations of the mainstream cinema.
3. Maqbool (2003)
When Maqbool (Irrfan Khan), who is the right hand of a powerful and feared don Jahangir Khan, is provoked by Jahangir’s mistress who is his love interest to kill Jahangir, he finds himself haunted by his actions and ultimately ends in a tragedy.
The movie is based on the great poet and playwright, William Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
Maqbool was also Irrfan’s first lead role in a Bollywood production as The Warrior was originally a British film produced in Hindi.
4. The Namesake (2006)
The Namesake was a shift of role for Irrfan Khan after playing quite a number of challenging serious roles in his previous films. This movie saw Irrfan Khan’s far more realistic side as he played the role of the father of Gogol who is in the quest of finding his true identity in a different world as they move to America.
The Namesake is based on an Indian author, Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel which goes with the same name.
5. Life In A… Metro (2007)
The story of Life In A… Metro revolves around the lives of nine people that live in the metropolitan city of Mumbai, which is known to be the heart of the country. Their lives take a turn and somehow render them entwined together.
Irrfan Khan plays the role of Monty, who is a simple, straightforward guy. Monty develops a liking towards Shruti (Konkana Sen Sharma), who is quite the opposite of Monty in every way. Things go downhill when Shruti goes on to seek her feelings towards her boss but is unaware of the outcome.
6. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
Slumdog Millionaire is one of the most critically acknowledged films that put a mark of India on international cinema.
The story starts when an 18 year old Jamal Malik (Dev Patel) from the slums of Mumbai, participates on a show called Kaun Banega Crorepati? (Indian version of Who wants to be a Millionaire?). He shockingly answers every question correctly as each question takes him back to related incidents from his past.
Irrfan Khan played the role of a police inspector who is wary of Jamal’s capability of answering each question right, given his background and takes him into custody and seeks an explanation.
Slumdog Millionaire won 8 Oscars including Best Picture at The New York Times.
7. Billu (2009)
The story is named after the protagonist, who is a poor barber living in a small village. He finds it difficult to financially meet ends and look after his family. In an unexpected turn of events, a friend from his childhood comes to play a major role in his life that will drastically change his life. Irrfan Khan plays the role of Billu and quite easily justifies every aspect of Billu’s character.
8. Paan Singh Tomar (2010)
This movie is a biopic of a former Indian athlete who consecutively won 7 gold medals in the National Games for India. The story follows as life makes him get into the wrong path when his mother is murdered. Irrfan once again does brings this history to life with his exceptional performance.
9. Life Of Pi (2012)
Life of Pi once again, set the benchmark on an international level. The story entails when Piscine ‘Pi’ Patel (Irrfan Khan) is approached by a writer who finds his story compelling and wishes to write a book about it.
Pi tell him his life story of how he winds up in a lifeboat along with a hyena and a tiger after a mishap and fights for his survival against all odds.
Life of Pi is based on Yann Martel’s novel of the same name.
10. Qissa (2013)
Qissa is an Indian-German film, based on the post partition period of Punjab. It is centred on a Sikh family where Umber Singh (Irrfan Khan), influenced by the societal norms that he ought to have a male child in order to carry on his family name, desperately desires to have a male child, after having three daughters. However, life changes for him as his wife conceives another daughter. Umber Singh decides to foster his fourth female child like a son.
11.The Lunchbox (2013)
With The Lunchbox, Irrfan Khan delivers yet another light hearted movie.
The Lunchbox is a tale of how the lives of Ila and Saajan get entwined with a petty mix-up of a mere lunchbox.
12. Haider (2014)
Haider is set in the time of insurgence in Jammu and Kashmir where Haider, returns home to seek answers for his father’s disappearance. He sets out on a mission to seek closure, however is overpowered by the state politics.
Irrfan Khan plays the role of Roohdar, a part of the separatist group, who helps Haider find answers for his father’s disappearance.
Haider is another one of director Vishal Bhardwaj’s Shakespeare adaptions. It is based on William Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’.
13. Talvar (2015)
On the night of 15th May, 2008, A 13 year old girl Aarushi Talwar and a 45 year old male servant who lived with them were found dead in their own house.
Irrfan Khan plays the role of Ashwin Kumar, Joint-Director of CDI who takes over the case and tries to find the perpetrator.
Talvar was released internationally as Guilty. The move Talvar is based on a true story of an unsolved double murder case which took place back in Noida, Uttar Pradesh.
14. Piku (2015)
Piku is a film based on the relationship of a father-daughter duo, Piku Banerjee and Bhashkor who have conflicting ideologies. However, an unexpected road trip to Kolkata brings them closer despite of their differences.
Irrfan Khan plays the role of Rana Chaudhary, a taxi driver whose regular client is Piku Baneerjee. He takes them on their trip to Kolkata and plays a crucial role in bringing them closer.
15. Angrezi Medium (2020)
Angrezi Medium, which translates to English Medium, is a story that follows the relationshiop between a single father and her daughter. Irrfan Khan plays the role of Champak Bansal who is a modest and simple person, owner of a Mithai Shop (Sweet Shop) residing in the city of Udaipur, Rajasthan with his only daughter.
Champak is determined to fulfil his daughter’s dream to go abroad for higher studies.
A series of unexpected adventures lead them to greater obstacles.
However, Champak shall fight against all odds to help his daughter accomplish her dreams.
Irrfan Khan was diagnosed with Neuroendocrine Cancer in early 2018. However, despite his health condition, he managed to complete the shooting of the film. Although, he could not be involved in the promotions of the film as he was undergoing treatment during that period.
With Angrezi Medium, the impeccable journey of Irran Khan’s ever growing performances came to an end. We shall forever be grateful for having a chance to witness the journey of this phenomenal, gem of a person. And with a heavy heart, as we say bid our goodbyes, we shall not forget to celebrate this man and his astounding journey. His contribution to the cinematic world will be evergreen.
“I’ve never looked to create an image where people fall in love with my face or style. It does cross my mind. But I’ve been trying to create a space for myself where I don’t depend on that.”Irrfan Khan