Irrfan Khan, The 'Rooh' Of Bollywood, Dies at 53

The actor, known for his roles in 'Piku', 'The Lunchbox' and 'Haider' among many other films, died in a Mumbai hospital on Wednesday.
A file photo of Irrfan Khan.
A file photo of Irrfan Khan.

Irrfan Khan, the Bolllywood actor famous for films such as Haider, Qissa, Paan Singh Tomar, The Namesake and Life of Pi passed away at Mumbai’s Kokilaben Hospital on Wednesday. The actor was 53. He’s survived by his wife, Sutapa Sikdar and two sons, Babil and Ayan.

Director Shoojit Sircar, who worked with Irrfan in Piku, tweeted condolences to Irrfan’s wife and children on Wednesday morning.

The actor’s mother had died in Jaipur, his birthplace, a few days ago. About a fortnight ago, Irrfan had been admitted into Mumbai’s Kokilaben Hospital for chemotherapy, as part of his regular treatment.

However, soon after the chemo, Irrfan’s health began deteriorating and doctors scrambled to locate the infection. After multiple attempts to contain the sudden infection, the doctors gave up, but Irrfan kept fighting, his wife by his side, said people familiar with the matter.

A representative for the actor’s family issued a statement, PTI reported: “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.”

In March 2018, Irrfan was diagnosed with a neuroendocrine tumour, a rare form of cancer for which he sought treatment at a specialty hospital in London. For nearly a year, he and his wife moved to the UK to an apartment close to the hospital.

Around a year later, he was back to work, shooting for Homi Adajania’s Angrezi Medium, a comedy drama that released in March this year. Reviewing the film, this reporter had written that it was “simply delightful” to see the talented actor back on screen.

Irrfan made his debut with a bit part as a letter writer in 1988 in Mira Nair’s Salaam Bombay!—his role had been chopped down from a much meatier part, a fact that made him weep. In his more than 30-year-long career, Irrfan has acted in over 143 films and TV shows, including roles in Hollywood, and even a Japanese TV show.

The people who worked with Irrfan always had the highest praise for his work ethic and acting abilities. Speaking to HuffPost India last year for the actor’s profile, director Vishal Bhardwaj, who worked with Irrfan in Maqbool and Haider, said, “There’s an effortlessness in his performance but let me tell you, he prepares a lot. He immerses himself in the character’s world. When he comes on set, he’s so casual, you’d be like, is he even ready? And once the camera rolls, god, it’s magic.”

It was a sentiment echoed by Ang Lee, the Oscar-winning Taiwanese filmmaker who directed Irrfan in Life of Pi. Lee told The New York Times: “I gave my direction and thought, ‘O.K., there he goes.’ It’s like there’s something floating in the air, and sometimes he catches it and sometimes not.”