'The thinking woman’s sex-icon': Remembering Irrfan Khan on his birthday

Farhana Farook
·5-min read

Irrfan Khan’s subtle sensuality earned him the title of the ‘thinking woman’s sex-icon’.

Here’s celebrating the late actor on his 54th birth anniversary by replaying his candid quotes on love, romance and sex…

  • The gangster who surrendered to love in Maqbool (2003)…

  • The gentle husband who expelled raging passion in bed in The Namesake (2006)…

  • The lover boy embarrassed by his obsession with a woman’s anatomy in Life In A… Metro (2007)…

  • The sexy royal in Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster Returns (2013)…

  • The widower who finds his ‘summer of 42’ in The Lunchbox (2013)...

  • The cab driver, who charms with his wry sarcasm in Piku (2015)...

  • The impudent cop in Jazbaa (2015), who tells ‘the world’s most beautiful woman’, “Mohabbat hai is liye jaane diya... zidd hoti toh baahon mein hoti!”

… In the dominion of vanity-possessed heroes, Irrfan Khan’s sex-appeal lay in his authenticity, in his quirky physicality, in his rich emotional frequency. Primal and passionate. Real and off-the-cuff… the seemingly staid Irrfan lent poetry to the prose of his characters.

“Irrfan’s got a great sex-appeal and he triggers the sensitive side of women in an intellectual way. He’s not for frivolous women but for those with substance. Any woman who has some intellect will find Irrfan really attractive,” said director Tigmanshu Dhulia in an interview underling his offbeat vibe.

While filmmaker Mira Nair endorsed his overseas magnetism speaking to The New York Times, “[For Americans] he’s in the realm of Jean-Paul Belmondo or Marcello Mastroianni or Omar Sharif… clearly from some other culture but having great appeal to be seen as anything from an Everyman type to a very quiet and intelligent sort of sex-appeal.”

Here’s culling out a few quotes from Irrfan Khan’s interviews through the years that reveal his maverick views on women, love and longing…


“I can’t approach a woman and express my desire. As a teen, I did try that but I got such a nasty look. I don’t have the skills to be easy with a woman. And if you happen to like the girl, you tend to get even more conscious.”


“When I was younger, I only used to daydream about sex… But now, unless some kind of union happens, some kind of communication, sex has no meaning.”


“I am a romantic. I believe in an ‘ideal love’, which makes it possible to become one with your beloved. Romance is a search; it’s something I long for. I am dying to do romantic roles.”


“I am flattered to be called the ‘thinking woman’s sex icon’. I love it though I don’t know whether I am one. I was deeply influenced by film romance. It is engraved in my soul. That’s why I became an actor. But as you grow up, you realise that love doesn’t happen the way it’s shown in films. But that conception has remained like a beautiful flower in my heart. So whenever I get a chance to live it through my films, I do it.”


“Sometimes things get tricky, I get messages from women like ‘Will you be late? When are you coming? Will we be seeing a film tomorrow?’ They seem to come from the same person and sound very familiar.”


“It (invitation) has come from both, males and females. It becomes slightly weird because when people you know and respect a lot, give you such offers, you feel that the dynamics of the relationship will change. That’s the sad part. But I have the power to accept or refuse them.”

Life In A... Metro
Life In A... Metro


Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster Returns
Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster Returns

“I like a co-star who takes her work seriously and yet is not serious. She should be driven and yet chilled out… I appreciate a woman, who’s not panic-driven, has a silence about her and doesn’t take herself too seriously… A high-strung woman pushes me into another orbit.


“It’s not easy for me to drift away emotionally from my wife. Though she thinks I am not a good husband, I don’t agree. I give myself 6/10… I don’t create an unhealthy atmosphere at home by making it argumentative. I try to keep the mood light. If Sutapa is passionate about something I let her pursue it. We both love nature and try to travel together as much as we can. I don’t expect her to be at home and take care of the kids (Babil and Ayan) all the time.

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