The mind of an extra-ordinary actor

As fans lament the loss of Irrfan Khan, one wonders what was it about him that made an instant connect with all kinds of cinegoers

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Incidentally, the last film I watched in the theatres before the country went into lockdown, was Irrfan Khan’s last release in India ‘Angrezi Medium’. Apart from perfection of an actor’s craft, what will stay with you about the film is the character of the kind of father he portrayed. A father who is trying to be both mom and dad, a father who is as adamant as his teenage daughter but most importantly a father who is vulnerable!

Which brings us to the question, what is it that we fall in love with? Aura? The idea of an aura? Looks? Or vulnerability?

Every fan will tell you, his eyes spoke volumes. His characters were all vulnerable. He broke the norm of being the macho Bollywood hero. So what was that particular quality about this man who made millions go weak in the heart?

For me it was the sheer humility of a star, who came from a humble background and made it big on his own. On a creative level, he was never unsure of himself. Unlike most artistes, neither was he insecure that some youngster would replace him sooner or later. He knew how to work around what he did, because he was an original.

All his directors have said that he had built an individual style. He had created a different genre for himself altogether. A man who did not give in to mafia-like sugar daddies in Bombay, an actor who believed in his craft and figured out how to channelize that energy in the best ways possible. He built a legacy, never allowing himself to get trapped into another’s. Which is probably why he is such an inspirational figure for every kind of cinemagoer.

As condolences pour in from all over the world and across the country, let us not forget how the man had to work hard to earn his due respect. No one laid out the best choices before him. He did what he did on his own, as he set out with dreams from Jaipur as a youngster.

In one of his interviews Khan had said, “I took up acting because it was the only thing that would have kept me engaged…otherwise I would have been bored with myself…I have my anxieties, my anger, my fear…. I am always very scared of myself. Taking up acting was the best way to deal with the fear of myself.”

This seems like a very honest confession coming from a mind that is just as vulnerable as anyone else’s. A mind that knows where to go and how to go about it. A mind in touch with himself at most times. A mind that configured the right equation for genius. However, on the outside no one would have guessed he was ‘scared of himself’. The kind of demeanour he walked with, the sort of quiet resilience he had and the cheeky smile he disarmed you with!

Sadly, we were all just waking up to his brilliance….

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