Irrfan Khan passes away: Nimrat Kaur, Deepak Dobriyal on why they feel fortunate to have worked with the late actor
Irrfan Khan's collaborators from his last days, Deepak Dobriyal and Akarsh Khurama, and longtime co-star Jimmy Sheirgill detail accounts of working with him.
Irrfan Khan succumbing to his illness ushered a wave of sadness and gloom across the world. Considered as one of the most loved actors the Indian film industry has ever witnessed, most filmmakers and actors desired to work with him, and those who could, feel fortunate.
Homi Adajania, who directed Irrfan in his most recent release, Angrezi Medium, says, “I can’t really say much about Irrfan because nothing will do justice to explain how enriching my experience with him was. He was socially shy, but would act confident in social situations. He would never let the odds stack up against him, rather would laugh at them in the face. We shared a brutally honest relationship, and he’d often tell me, ‘You mad Parsi, do you ever think before you speak?’ Then he’d crack up and say, ‘That’s what I love my jaan!’ I feel the honesty between us is what made him very comfortable while we worked.”
Since Irrfan was still undergoing treatment during the Angrezi Medium shoot, the team knew how precarious the situation was. “And so he embraced the fragility of his situation with laughter rather than let the situation make him fragile. We went through more good days than bad owing to a rare resilience and spirit with which he carried himself. Ironically, the crew looked to him for strength rather than the other way around. You see, Irrfan never made his problem anyone else’s, Knowing Irrfan has shown me a lighter way of being, and I’ll cherish every memory I had the privilege of sharing with him,” adds the director.
Adds Irrfan’s co-star Deepak Dobriyal, “Irrfan was a fighter. He didn’t let the other person know his pain. After resting for few minutes post meal, he would be ready for shoot. During Hindi Medium, we would swim after shoot but things were different while filming Angrezi Medium. We would just sit and chat on a river bank. In all that pain, if he could complete the film, (it) shows his strength and commitment. Nothing would comfort us now. He’s gone. We are just left with his memories and films. But it is our good fortune that we got the opportunity to work with him in his last days, and that too with love and passion. He gave me lot of support and offered me two to three films more, like Qarib Qarib Singlle and Blackmail.”
While Nimrat Kaur, who starred alongside Irrfan in critically acclaimed film The Lunchbox, did not have any scene with the actor, she spent lot of time with him during promotions, and took his advice seriously. “I did not have any scene with him but I got to spend a lot of time with him during promotions, particularly when the film released at the Cannes Festival. I remember we were hit by an avalanche of love, and with so much appreciation coming our way, I was overwhelmed because it was my first film. For all of that to happen for the first time ever, it was a lot for me to process. At the end of all that, I sat with Irrfan and told him that I didn’t know how to deal with all this, and he simply said that make sure I celebrate all the good times because they don’t come that often. He told me these were the gifts we get for all our struggles and all the bad times we lived through because life is mostly a lot of suffering, and I should make sure that I make the most of all the good times and don’t feel shy of celebrating,” says Kaur.
“Irrfan was really rooted. He had his ear to the ground. He came from a very regular life, and he understood the nitty-gritties and depth of human nature so well. I really feel that the face of Indian cinema is not going to be the same again. Even if he had just a passing shot in a film, one would wait for that Irrfan Khan moment to happen. I have been blessed with starting my career in a film that had him as well. I am still trying to assimilate the fact that he is no longer around. I haven’t been able to wrap my head around the fact that he is not there," she adds.
Jimmy Sheirgill, Irrfan’s co-star from films like Haasil, Charas, Yun Hota Toh Kya Hota, Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster Returns and Madaari, is too shaken for words. “Though I knew about his illness, and that he was going through a lot of pain and that he was fighting, it came as a huge shock when I woke up yesterday. I thought things were under control, and then all of a sudden, you get this news. It’s shattering. It is so difficult to focus. We had known each other since 2000-2001. There was always this elder brother-younger brother bond that we shared. But he was a bit older to me so I was more respectful towards him, and didn't want to intrude into his space,” says Sheirgill.
He continues, “I have so many memories with Irrfan, and the best memory was doing Haasil together because it was for the first time that I was working with him. Casting was so beautiful. He played a dreaded gangster, and I am this young boy who is new to that world. We had such an amazing time. Every scene is still in front of my eyes. I will take few days to recover. My mind is numb. When you work with somebody so closely, the time spent with that person flashes in front of your eyes, and you feel, ‘Oh, we were just sitting together and chatting, promoting a film on a show, we were all laughing together'. And everything about Irrfan was so subtle, his performance, his sense of humour. It was only his laughter that was loud and infectious,” says Sheirgill.
“We had built a close bond from Haasil days, and we carried it on for all these years and did films at regular intervals. Last, we met for Madaari’s promotions, and then for a get together at Nishikant Kamat’s (director, Madaari) office. After that, I tried meeting him in London last year but he was busy with his treatment. I didn't want to disturb him. And now with coronavirus , one can’t even go to pay your last respect which is so heartbreaking," the actor adds.
Akarsh Khurana, who directed Irrfan in Karwaan, loved the disarming quality in the actor. “He was a very clever man, and he was kind of constantly testing you to see how you would hold up, and I realise that he was doing this because he was genuinely fond of you. He would constantly try to keep you on your toes but he would always disarm you with something that he would do. I had written this in an article on Irrfan's birthday. He was full of surprises, and that I haven’t seen in anyone else. Probably he could translate that on screen, which the audience loved,” says Khurana.
“I spoke to him over a year ago. Six months after Kaarwaan released, it was chosen for a film festival. I sent him an update. He was very encouraging, and he sent me a congratulatory note. I sent him a few messages after that but he didn’t reply, and I felt it was best to give space to him and his family. I worked with him very early in my direction career. Now, we can look back and think that we were some of the privileged ones who got to work with him in less troubled times,” adds Khurana.
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