Actor Irrfan Khan has died at the age of 53, after being admitted to Mumbai’s Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital on Tuesday, where was under observation for colon infection. India’s most recognisable face in the west and an actor par excellence, Irrfan had left India shocked in 2018 when he had announced that he’d been diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumour.
“‘I trust, I have surrendered,’” were the words with which his family confirmed his death, while adding, “ These were the some of the many words that Irrfan expressed in a heart felt note he wrote in 2018 opening up about his fight with cancer. And a man of few words and an actor of silent expressions with his deep eyes and his memorable actions on screen. It’s saddening that this day, we have to bring forward the news of him passing away. Irrfan was a strong soul, someone who fought till the very end and always inspired everyone who came close to him. After having been struck by lightning in 2018 with the news of a rare cancer, he took life soon after as it came and he fought the many battles that came with it. Surrounded by his love, his family for whom he most cared about, he left for heaven abode, leaving behind truly a legacy of his own. We all pray and hope that he is at peace. And to resonate and part with his words he had said, ‘As if I was tasting life for the first time, the magical side of it’.”
The news of his death was shared on Twitter by filmmaker Shoojit Sircar. “My dear friend Irfaan. You fought and fought and fought. I will always be proud of you.. we shall meet again.. condolences to Sutapa and Babil.. you too fought, Sutapa you gave everything possible in this fight. Peace and Om shanti. Irfaan Khan salute,” he wrote.
My dear friend Irfaan. You fought and fought and fought. I will always be proud of you.. we shall meet again.. condolences to Sutapa and Babil.. you too fought, Sutapa you gave everything possible in this fight. Peace and Om shanti. Irfaan Khan salute.
— Shoojit Sircar (@ShoojitSircar) April 29, 2020
Born to Muslim parents in the village of Tonk near Jaipur, Irrfan’s mother had a royal lineage but his father was a self-made man. Eldest of three siblings, Irrfan joined National School of Drama after his father’s death. Ironically, his mother, Saeeda Begum, died a few days before his death.
Mira Nair was the first to spot his talent and cast him in Salaam Bombay in 1988; a part that was chopped at the editing table. The two went on to collaborate again in the critically acclaimed The Namesake in 2006 and for the director’s segment in New York, I Love You.
After doing television for years in the 80s, a period of his career that he described as ‘being stuck’, Irrfan found his big break in Aasif Kapadia’s The Warrior. His career steadily progressed – in India where he went on from playing character roles to headlining films, and then went on to become India’s most celebrated face in the West. He earned steady kudos at home and abroad as a steady actor whose performances were lifelike, dependable.
Danny Boyle called his Slumdog Millionaire performance “beautiful to watch”, while the celebrated critic Roger Ebert noted his ‘subtle, engrossing work’ in The Namesake. He went on to deliver memorable performances in films such as The Life of Pi, Slumdog Millionaire, The Mighty Heart and Jurassic World.
His last film was Angrezi Medium, ahead of which the actor had shared an empowering video message for his fans, stating that the only choice he had was to remain positive. “One doesn’t have any other choice but to remain positive. Whether you are able to make lemonade in such situations is entirely up to you. We’ve made this film with the same sort of positivity. I hope this film is able to make you laugh and cry in equal measure.”
In India, his most famous films include his debut, the Academy Award nominated Salaam Bombay!, Maqbool (2004), Paan Singh Tomar (2011), The Lunchbox (2013), Haider (2014), Gunday (2014), Piku (2015) and Talvar (2015) and Hindi Medium (2017).