He is the unconventional Khan. A man whose versatility knows no bounds. The intensity and realism he brings to each of his characters is remarkable, and Irrfan is the Khan who has been on top of his game.
“I get bored and am unable to repeat things, so acting is my way of exploring things”, says the actor, when asked how he had managed to escape being typecast.
Irrfan may have, in the early years, been synonymous with what was best described as parallel cinema, but he managed with utmost ease, to make his way into mainstream. His inimitable talent – not restricted by genres from thrillers to rom-coms and slice of life stories – won him not only critical acclaim, but were a box-office draw.
His Piku co-star, Deepika Padukone, admits that she was a bit anxious when she began shooting for Piku with him, “People kept telling me he is ‘intense’. An intense man, who plays intense characters and does intense films, and when I met him he was the bang opposite, his sense of humour and comic timing are outstanding”.
An actor whose brilliance is not restricted to just Indian screens, Irrfan became a crossover success story as well. Actor and filmmaker Andy Serkis says Irrfan is his favourite talent from India, a chant echoed by many.
So lets take a look at some of Irrfan’s brilliant performances – from the rebellious Pan Singh Tomar, to the funny but intense Rana in Piku, or the investigator on a mission in Talvar.
Playing The Warrior in the 2001 British film set in feudal Rajasthan, Irrfan still has the black kurta in which he auditioned. “The film taught me the art of simplicity”, says the actor. His long-haired, dust-caked face as he played a warrior who yearns to give up his sword, won rave reviews.
His versatility was evident in the same year, as he took on the role of friend, philosopher, guide to that of a murderer in Haasil. The film gave him recognition in mainstream cinema.
In 2003, he hit bulls eye yet again with his performance as Maqbol in Vishal Bhardwaj’s Maqbool – the right hand man of a mafia don, who also is the love interest of the don’s mistress. Irrfan showcased his gravitas as he portrayed a man caught between love and loyalty.
In 2006, he gave a heart-warming performance as Ashok Ganguli in Mira Nair’s Namesake – portraying the dilemma of an immigrant, who along with his family, makes a new home in the United States. The actor admits it was one of his toughest roles till date, but the best was yet to come.
The following year, he surprised everyone as the desperately seeking wannabe groom in search of a bride in Life In A Metro. As he went trough matrimonial sites and connections, he endeared and exhibited his flair for comedy.
He gave one of his career’s best as the athlete turned dacoit in Paan Singh Tomar, bringing to life the pathos struggle of Pan Singh with his sheer brilliance. Irrfan bagged the National Award for Best Actor (Male) for the same.
An actor who does not care about the screen-time allowed to him, as long as the role has substance, Irrfan impressed in Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, as adult Pi.
An elderly widower starts a clandestine conversation with a woman after he receives a lunch box and an accompanying note. Irrfan as Saajan Fernandes was a scene-stealer in the film as played much older man with sensitivity.
Then came Piku, in which he was Rana – the impatient owner of a taxi-service in the film, who ferries Piku and her eccentric father Bhaskor from Delhi to Kolkata. Irrfan’s display of his flair for comedy and his one-liners and banter with the father and daughter – was one of the USP’s of the film.
An investigative officer, who wants to get to the bottom of the case which had gripped national headlines, Irrfan was at the top of his game in the crime drama Talvar – that was inspired by the Arushi Talwar murder case.
Irrfan rewrote the rules of a film industry obsessed with stars – with his unmatched talent, gritty performances and determination to succeed; and we wish him a speedy recovery!