This is not the article I’ve always wanted to write about Irfan Khan. Not so fast. When I received a message last night from his PR officer that he had been admitted to the intensive care unit of the Kokilaben Hospital for colitis, I said a silent prayer and didn’t think about it. I was sure he’d be back soon. Just as I was sure he would return sooner than two years ago, on July 16. In March 2018, social media confirmed that he had been diagnosed with a rare neuroendocrine tumour. He ended this message on Twitter with the words: I hope to come back and tell more stories.
And I was very much in favour of Irfan having the rare opportunity to hear many of his stories on one of our covers. This wasn’t an ordinary interview. I had a movie date with Irrafan!
A film marathon with Irfan Khan in his house in Oshivar, Mumbai
The idea was to see his films quickly and follow his ten-year journey through Hollywood. That day, for about five hours, we watched excerpts from almost ten of his international films, interspersed with cigarette butts in which he carefully rolled up a cigarette and then left it hanging on his fingers, rarely dragging it, and to stories in which he recorded his view of Mira Nair before she gave him The Namesake (2006), as Wes Anderson wrote the role in The Darjeeling Limited (2007) especially for him, the embarrassing headlines with Angelina Jolie during the Indian promotions of The Mighty Heart (2007), when Methodology’s attempt almost made him lose his head, the way he re-recorded a very complex scene in Pi’s Life (2012) because he was unhappy with the look of his vest, and of course, among other things, a date with a cow in New York.
My film Warrior (2001) has just been released, and it was my first trip to London. There I lived in a very small hotel where you had to carry your suitcase up the narrow stairs. In the middle of the night I suddenly saw a huge cow standing next to my bed. I was confused… …how could the cow get up those narrow stairs? Of course I was dreaming! But now that I think about it, it’s funny that I haven’t thought about how cows can’t roam the streets of New York, but I’m thinking about how she went up the stairs!
Interestingly, Irfan – one of the actors, whose first protagonist in his career was not in Bollywood, and in the film Asif Capadia Warrior. And we started our film marathon with the same film with which Irfan Khan began his journey. The movies I made for koi tabs look at the hi nahin card, which… is a koi teenager’s most important dream when he’s playing car-loon.
And it was listening to Tigmanshu Dhulia (who was the casting director of the film) that changed everything for Irfan. But as soon as we start the film, Irfan pauses on the screen, and extends his eyes to the opening credits he reads: Irfan Khan, in and as a warrior. He looks hypnotized when he sees his name on the big screen. This is not what one would expect from an internationally acclaimed, nationally acclaimed actor who was waiting for the release of Ron Howard Inferno (2016), in which he shared a screen space with Tom Hanks. Look how he gave me such a good chance! It was like a Clint Eastwood movie! He made a joke like a little kid, I clearly remember the excitement that came out of his eyes.
When I first saw a movie on the big screen, I realized I could have a big presence. I wasn’t sure I could do it. The way he introduced me was huge. He printed something I didn’t know. In many ways he gave birth to the Irfan Khan you now know, he says with a modesty that disarms him.
And his sense of humour was always visible. During the interview, I asked him he had something the other khans in Bollywood don’t have… I expected a long answer, but he summed it up in one word: And a six-footed actor started laughing at his own reaction.
Almost a year after this interview, the actor came to the HT office to promote his film Caribbean Single (2017), and I almost ran into him at the editorial office. Pull! We still have a film marathon to do! He was joking, and absolutely! This time, with your Bollywood movies! I already told you when I praised his bohemian wardrobe.
I didn’t think this would be our last meeting. In fact, it looked like the actor was finally back. Despite the fact that he apologized for his physical presence during the promotions of his new film Angresi Media (2020), the worst seemed to be over. But, as the actor himself said in one of his last recordings: They say if life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Par jab zindegi aapke hate my nimbu thhamati hai na, to shikanji banana bahut mushkil ho jata hai
The warriors of the RIP.
Read it: On a film date with Irfan Khan.
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From 29. April 2020