Irrfan Khan: A rare artiste departs

Something about Irrfan’s very being—from his films, from his interviews—seemed always to radiate a wisdom from beyond our world, a joy that surpassed the mundane. His bulbous eyes hinted always at a profundity that in eclipsing the limits of the material he worked with, somehow managed to improve it. Those eyes seemed to hold a thousand emotions that could rise and fall as he willed, sometimes within mere seconds, sometimes at once. He could play a dacoit (Paan Singh Tomar) and somehow, not evoke hate. He could play the madcap owner of a dinosaur theme park (Jurassic World), and somehow, make the job seem relatable. He could help murder someone (Maqbool), and somehow, evoke empathy. This was possible because in playing one of us in a film, he somehow managed to fill the character with every one of us.

Is it a surprise then that his passing away feels as personal—like a reminder of our own mortality? Actors, even if we think otherwise, are mortals too, and like us, are forced to leave this world. Their filmography is often intertwined with our lives, serving as milestones of change. Maqbool (2003), The Namesake (2007), Slumdog Millionaire (2008), The Lunch Box (2013), Qissa (2015), Piku (2015), Hindi Medium (2017)… Such films dotted our lives, tracing our highs and lows. While we mourn the death of most actors by sinking into nostalgia before swiftly moving on, Irrfan’s passing away doesn’t feel like a distant loss. This is because his value isn’t only in the excellence of his performances in many, many films like Life in a MetroMaqboolThe NamesakePaan Singh Tomar

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