Irrfan Khan, the embodiment of struggle, simplicity and success had an illustrious career of a thespian worldwide. Better known as Sahabzade Irrfan Ali Khan, the acclaimed actor was born in the Indian desert state of Rajasthan on January 7, 1967, Irrfan discovered an early passion for acting and studied at the elite National School of Drama.
An outsider to the Bollywood royalties, he struggled to make headway into the film industry. From playing a small role in Mira Nair’s 1988 movie, Salaam Bombay to managing regular work in low-grade TV soap operas–he played it all.
He had his first breakthrough role in a low budget samurai-esque tale, The Warrior in 2002. The movie ended up winning the Bafta award for best British film at the San Sebastián film festival. Irrfan subsequently broke into mainstream Indian films and then slowly onto the international platforms. By the late 2010s, Irrfan’s face was renowned through the corridors of the Hollywood boulevard with movies like Life of Pi, Jurassic World, Slumdog Millionaire, Inferno and last but not the least A Mighty Heart.
But his life took a tragic turn in 2018 when he was diagnosed with cancer. He recovered enough, due to his sabbatical in London, to make his last movie Angrezi Medium. However, shortly after completing the production of the movie, the actor fell sick and was not able to carry out the film promotion. Before drawing his last breath due to colon infection on April 29, he left his fans a recorded message with every bone of optimism in his voice, left his fans with hope. He bid adieu to the wholesome message by saying, “wait for me”. Never did any soul ever thought that Irrfan’s last words to his fans would become the closing lines of his life.
His subtle yet powerful expressions made his lines tenfold impactful thus captivating his audience. For example, his famous monologue from a not so famous movie Jazbaa, “Mohabbat hai is liye jaane diya… zidd hoti toh baahon mein hoti” (I truly love her and that’s why I am letting her go; if it was my ego, she would have been in my arms) has garnered a cult following and has left many of his fans to engrave those words in their hearts. Such prowess of an artist can only be considered rare amongst the sea of Ken Dolls. Due to his achievements and acting chops, the billion-dollar movie industry Bollywood was left with a gaping void and a little bit open-minded towards unconventional actors.
His craft, lifestyle and accolades only proved that perseverance and raw talent can get you to places beyond your wildest dreams. This actor who was the onscreen talent and off-screen down-to-earth personality stole millions of heart. He wasn’t from any Bollywood family, he didn’t have the face of a typical hero nor did he have a sculpted body. He was, by his own rights, Irrfan Khan the actor.