There are very few actors who leave an indelible mark on people. It’s true that we often associate actors with the glitz, the razzmatazz of the showbiz industry. But it usually doesn’t impact us that much, when we get to know of their demise. Irrfan was an aberration. In acting, he was equally an aberration, especially a star crazed country like ours. You would hardly think him of a star, when he walked across the screen, with his trademark dreamy eyes and smile that oscillated between wicked to humane, strictly based upon the demand of the script. But he was an actor, who could take the script to a different level, even if it was mediocre. Where others were merely acting, Irrfan was an actor par excellence.
Everything came late to Irrfan. Fame, fanfare, the laurels – everything. But he took everything in his stride. Rising from bits and pieces roles from television serials to some of the most remembered characters of the small screen, he had that charisma that separated him from other actors. Ask any nineties born, TV aficionado and they will tell you about the twin brothers – Badrinath and Somnath from ‘Chandrakanta’, the later he came back to play, after being killed off the show, per his own admission! Films happened to him organically. Initially, he started with what every NSD pass out student did, doing small roles in films. In films like ‘Salaam Bombay’ and ‘Ek Doctor Ki Maut’, he did his part, where all other stalwarts were there. Years of struggle followed and he kept waiting for his time to come. The 21st century was kind to him, as he exploded into the silver screen.
The stubborn student leader Ranvijay from ‘Haasil’ carved the way for the best to come. ‘Maqbool’ gave another meaning to Macbeth. The uber crazy Monty from ‘Life In A Metro’ taught us about life – Yeh Sheher Jitna Deta Hai, Usse Kayi Zyada Waaps Le Jaata Hai! Ashoke Ganguly from ‘The Namesake’, with a small tilt of his head, took us on the journey of life, as he and his son Gogol made the trip to end of nowhere. As Paan Singh Tomar, he showed us who were the rebels and who were the real dacoits. As Umber Singh from ‘Qissa’, a man who in the hope of a son, forces his daughter to grow up as a man, he was terrific. As CBI officer Arun Kumar, he laughed off at the idiocy of fellow officers, as they went on different tangents describing the ‘Dharam-Pracharak’ position, but then again, you feel his helplessness at not getting justice for the little girl, as he broke down in front of his estranged wife. Saajan Fernandez was one of us, who pondered about life and love, which surprised him in the form of a lunchbox. Rana from ‘Piku’ and Shaukat from ‘Kaarwan’ were our fellow journeymen, from the trip that became the journey of life. He did a successful crossover to Hollywood with films like ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, ‘Jurrasic World’, ‘The Amazing Spiderman’, ‘Inferno’ and many more. His swan song, his finale was ‘Angrezi Medium’ where he played a harrowed father to a young woman, determined to study in London. Even if he was not acting, he was there in different forms. His stint with the All India Bakchod for a satirical video about item songs (See Here) and a caricature of meme materials (Here) was noteworthy, as he laughed off about his own industry.
Today, when he is no more with us, his dreamy eyes are haunting us, reminding us of his parting dialogue from ‘Life Of Pi’ that in our lives which mostly is about letting go, what hurts the most is not getting a moment to say goodbye. I guess some people do affect us in such a way, that we miss them dearly, even if we never met them in real life. It becomes a personal loss for all of us. Well, Irrfan, it’s not a goodbye. If you’re looking from heaven, you’ll see millions of fans, co-actors are already missing you. We will remember you as the man loved, cherished and idolised by all. We will always remember you, walking on the snow, coming slowly into the screen, flicking the shawl over your shoulder and wiping the sunglasses with an unparalleled swagger, as the background score rises up like a crescendo to the tunes of –
Are Aao Na…Ke Jaan Gayi…Jahan Gaya…So Jao!
Rest in peace, Roohdar! The world mourns you.