Tag Archives: Irrfan Khan

Irrfan, Because He Liked the Sound of the Extra R

Sahabzade Irfan Ali Khan was studying for his MA degree when he won a scholarship to study at the National School of Drama (NSD) in New Delhi in 1984. The young man from Tonk, Rajasthan had a single R in his name. He was Irfan.

In 2012, he changed the spelling of his name and became Irrfan Khan. Khan had recently received the Padma Shri, India’s fourth-highest civilian honor for his contribution to the field of arts. He had garnered the National Film Award for Best Actor in the 60th National Film Awards 2012.

He said he liked the sound of the extra “r” in his name.

His first offer out of drama school seemed a plump one. He was a final year student at NSD in 1988 when Mira Nair chose him for a role in Salaam Bombay. We never saw him in Salaam Bombay because his role was edited out in the final film.

Slowly Irrfan unfurled across our screens, an unlikely hero. He did not seem to have sex appeal. He spoke casually on screen, as if he was seated beside you and was not a celluloid dream weaver, whispering comments into your ear as a fellow audience member. As he caught one’s attention more and more, the audience hungered to go to the movies with him.

About him, Danny Boyle said, “he has an instinctive way of finding the “moral center” of any character, so that in Slumdog, we believe the policeman might actually conclude that Jamal is innocent. Boyle compares him to an athlete who can execute the same move perfectly over and over. “It’s beautiful to watch.”

His stride into Hollywood did not make a splash like Priyanka Chopra’s. He casually sauntered across the continents and when we saw him in Life of Pi we were not surprised at all.

“Why do Hollywood filmmakers always pick Irrfan Khan for their movies? Why don’t they pick SRK, Salman Khan, or Amir Khan even, being the biggest of Bollywood?” asked Dipesh Doshi an avid moviegoer.

He just remains terribly interesting.

His appeal as a fellow audience member may explain the respect with which the media has honored his request to give him privacy while he sorts out his medical issue. He commands their respect sure but the real deal is that they love him as a brother.

His wife reassured his fellow travelers on the celluloid journey.

“My best friend and my partner is a ‘warrior’ he is fighting every obstacle with tremendous grace and beauty. I apologize for not answering calls msgs, but I want all of you to know I am truly humbled indebted forever for the wishes prayers and concern from all over the world. I am grateful to God and my partner for making me a warrior too. I am at present focused on the strategies of the battlefield which I have to conquer.

 

It wasn’t and isn’t and is not going to be easy but the hope ignited by the magnitude of family, friends, and fans of Irrfan has made me only optimistic and almost sure of the victory.

 

I know curiosity germinates from concern but let’s turn our curiosity from what it is to what it should be. Let’s change the leaf.

 

Let’s not waste our precious energies to only know what it is and just pray to make it what it should be.

 

My humble request to all of you is to concentrate on the song of life, to dance of life to victory.

 

My family will soon join in this dance of life.

 

Thank you all from the bottom of our heart.

 

Sutapa irrfan babil ayaan.”

The return of Irrfan with the two RRs was awaited. You never came back. We waited. The last farewell in Angrezi Medium still hurts. Irfan Khan passed away on April 29, 2020, after being admitted to the ICU for a colon infection.

Ritu Marwah is a 2020 California reporting and engagement fellow at USC Annenberg’s Center for Health Journalism.


This article was originally published on March 12, 2018.

Puzzled by Gossip

Is there anyone left in the world who has not yet heard that Priyanka Chopra is engaged to Nick Jonas? As we gladly fritter away our precious time and attention on these manufactured stars in distant constellations, searching for new tidbits of information written by entertainment journalists trading in gossip, the nature of celebrity, gossip and fandom is in question once more. And for anyone bemoaning the state of journalism in today’s world, a reminder that we get the media we deserve.

Yes, media is an industry. And some of these industrious gossip columnists remain etched in our memory. In the bohemian 70s of Bollywood, Stardust magazine and Neeta’s Natter exemplified chatpata film gossip. Neeta’s Natter, “honed by the raillery of Mohan Bawa but presented by a bejewelled black feline, was mostly about catfights and who was sleeping with who” mentions Roshni Nair in a recent article. Neeta and her gossippy natter was a creation of free-lancer Mohan Bawa and Stardust’s very own Nari Hira and Shobha De.

So, what is the nature of fandom and how have gossip columnists learned to give us what we clamor for? How is it that we actually care about these celebrities and their lives? In Sorry to Bother You (2018) we see how telemarketers literally land with a thud in our living rooms, interrupting the flow of our day. How did Irrfan Khan’s sad news land in my heart? Why did I care that Irrfan Khan has got cancer, the Emperor of All Maladies? It is a puzzle.

Which brings me to Puzzle (2018), the latest film with Irrfan Khan. Irrfan with an extra r. There is sheer intelligence behind Irrfan’s laconic delivery of the sardonic dialogue. In Piku (2015), he delighted with his barbs to the beautifully stressed out Deepika Padukone. But it was in Lunch Box (2014) that his curmudgeonly Saajan Fernandez tugged at our heartstrings.

Is Puzzle (2018) the Hollywood version of Bollywood’s The Lunchbox? Both are about desperate housewives trapped in unfulfilling domestic roles. Both could be seen as an “under-appreciated housewife’s private escapist dream.”

It seems that marital infidelity is on the menu again.

Direct journalistic descendants of Neeta’s Natter might discuss films on stepping out of the shaadi ka pavitra bandhan (holy matrimony) so:

“Meowww… Marital infidelity is like, so cool lately, yaar. Lunchbox (2014) won best film award at the Filmfare awards, though — get this — they never meet! But this wife is like, ready to run off with this old dude and go live in Bhutan or whatever. Like, they must get advance copies of the Kinsey report or something. There’s Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna (2006). And there’s this antebellum lust triangle in Twelve Years A Slave (2013), and the villainous white master dude has the hots for this black slavegirl, and his wife is just wearing her frilly dress and looking on and pursing her lips and totally hating on her enslaved rival, right? And she’s not in the most enviable position, right? So, she’s not much better than a slave, right? (Gathering steam) In a way, right? And she’s the white mistress and everything, but, like, she’s not that much better off, right? And in Puzzle (2018), Kelly MacDonald is like, “I’m not your servant” when her husband is looking for his warm dinner and she’s been AWOL. So it’s these institutions(!) slavery and marriage  — so confining, yaar.

So marriage is like, such a hapless institution, like total umar-qaid, (life imprisonment) right? But if you find yourself crying while dying the easter eggs, as Kelly MacDonald does in Puzzle, a closer look at the state of your marriage seems merited. And in Shaadi ke Side Effects (2014), like, no one has an actual affair affair, but Farhan Akhtar is apparently having an affair with a younger, single version of himself. Which is obviously confusing and everything, but, whatever. And his wife, Vidya Balan, is like, you’re never around, and she’s digging on the neighbor, right? But nothing happens! Right? So everyone’s been true to their wedding pheras or whatever… from one cat to another, meeowww till next month”

Marriage therapist Esther Perel could tell us a thing or two about marital infidelity in her book Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic (2006). Wouldn’t it be just like Catty Neeta to suggest that very book as a wedding present to Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas, who are jumping into matrimony just as so many of the filmic characters are trying to jump out.

Catty Neeta and the gossip industry might find a jolt of recognition in Rita Skeeter of the Harry Potter franchise, or the Aunties who are speculating about the state of Swara Bhaskar’s marriage in Veere di Wedding (2018). The aunties collectively end the gossip session with a wholehearted Saanu ki! (None of our business!)

But gossip is, in fact, big business. What can we learn from the trade of gossip? In our interpersonal relationships, we learn about the importance of safeguarding confidences, of treating information that is handed to us with care. It is precisely the breaking of this trust, of trading in the embarrassing details of people’s lives which is the currency of the gossip columnist. Because they are disseminating information that belongs to someone else. And that brings us to today’s dilemma, of social media networks taking our information and peddling it carelessly, selling it to others without our knowledge, which accounts for our outrage at this betrayal. So perhaps Facebook is now the biggest gossip of all.

I wish Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas many happy years of togetherness (please nobody tell him about Saat Khoon Maaf (2011), where femme fatale Priyanka disposes off husband after husband, including an endearing Irrfan Khan). A small reminder that trust is a fragile thing. Puzzle was about marriage partners losing trust in each other. Facebook reminds me that there are other betrayals.

 

WIll they? Won’t they? Marital infidelity is on the menu in Puzzle.

 

Geetika Pathania Jain is Culture and Media Editor at India Currents. She wrote a gossipy article about Priyanka Chopra in 2016 that got an award.