I have always thought that male actors cannot, in any respect, match up to female actors. It’s a lot to do with how women express, how they understand the nuance of every emotion, and go out of their way to express, to be. Remember Veer Zaara? In the film, Kirron Kher’s Mariam Hayat Khan tells Preity Zinta’s Zaara that there is a difference in how deeply a man and woman love each other; that men do not have the power to love as women do. It’s the same phenomena, the same belief I hold for expressing. How true is my assumption, my belief, I don’t know, but of what I’ve seen on screen, it is what it is. Except when it came to Irrfan Khan, rather just Irrfan—that’s how he liked it. No bounds of religion, of where one came from.
This morning, my father and I were sitting opposite each other at a table. He was on his phone. I was thinking about something, my phone kept aside. And then he told me what he read, probably in a WhatsApp forward. I didn’t believe it, till I saw a post on our Instagram, put by one of the team members. I still wanted to confirm it and then I saw Shoojit Sircar’s (director, Piku) tweet confirming what had happened.
Over the years, we’ve seen Irrfan light up the screen as no one does. He was never the romantic hero into whose arms leading ladies would go running (not that he couldn’t do that). He was never the bad guy kidnapping the leading lady to get the hero’s attention. But he was always an absolute winner, even in small, understated roles. Romantic films produced by big banners were always beyond him. Mira Nair’s The Namesake and her Migration were his kinda romances—subtle, always. There wasn’t a genre, or role he couldn’t do. He was always like water—fierce, mouldable, silent at times, but always running. All good actors perform with passion, but in case of Irrfan, whenever he came on screen, you could see other actors (his co-stars) eat off from his passion (overflowing, in most cases). And the best thing about him was that when he felt a lack, he never shied away from asking. “Unlike most Indian actors, Irrfan really works hard. If he needs any help, any crutches he can see, he grabs it, then he distils it and takes it to another level,” says Mira Nair.
When it comes to Irrfan, one possibly cannot pick a favourite performance. You might be able to pick a favourite film, but performance is a little tricky to pick. My favourite film has to be Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox, co-starring the lovely Nimrat Kaur and Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Sajan Fernandez will forever be a character etched in my memory, even though his Ashoke Ganguli (The Namesake) and Rana (Piku) hit closer home. Not that any of his other characters won’t be remembered, they’re all far from being easily forgotten, but Mr. Fernandez was a very different, matured portrayal. That his performance was backed by excellent writing, but when has mediocre writing (otherwise) pulled him down? Take Homi Adajania’s Angrezi Medium for example. The film’s writing is not of Irrfan’s calibre, but his performance in it is as refreshing, as brilliant.
Not being able to see Irrfan on screen again (in a new role), brings me to ask myself, how does one mourn the loss of an artist? Especially one that went away too soon, and without a goodbye?
I suppose in the end, the whole of life becomes an act of letting go, but what always hurts the most is not taking a moment to say goodbye.
-Pi Patel (Life of Pi)
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