In a great loss to the Hindi film industry, Bollywood actor Irrfan Khan has passed away in Mumbai. He was 54. In many ways, the actor redefined stardom as he emerged as hero of the middle and lower class cine going audiences and that is why he was and will remain one of the most loved and cherished celebrities of his times.
An interesting recollection-- while shooting for his last movie Angrezi Medium in Udaipur in April 2019, the actor was surrounded by a slew of fans on the film sets one fine day. Irrfan posed for the cameras happily while being in the midst of the crowd, which was an overwhelming sight to behold since an actor of such fame is rarely seen without bodyguards and personal staff around.
But the reason why Irrfan was so loved and admired by the middle class audiences lied with the choice of his roles. A look at his glorious filmography, one can easily find relatable characters, and he did a lot of them. He dressed, spoke and became the common man on the big screen, an image stars don't easily subscribe to.
Going backwards in time, Angrezi Medium, Karwaan, Qarib Qarib Singlle, Talvar, Piku, Haider and many more are all movies in which he played characters that were with us always. No glossy heroics or romantic sing along songs, but still Irrfan's films had his charm and flavour that could be spun around by anyone, even you and me.
In that case he became the flagbearer of the middle class, much like what Amitabh Bachchan was for the lower class when he flamboyantly took up the image of the angry young man during his youth.
The earthy essence that Irrfan provided to his characters was also very unique but in many ways accessible. We thrive to emulate our stars in terms of style, looks and physique, but here was one actor unconsciously or consciously leaving his indelible impression on the youth with his smile, his dialogue delivery and his acting prowess. Rest all seemed secondary as the aam aadmi and his issues stayed in the spotlight.
Take two of his much acclaimed movies-- The Lunchbox and Paan Singh Tomar. In the former, he plays a single male nearing his 60s while in another one a rebel naxalite. He wore the skin of the two poles apart characters so effortlessly and in that Irrfan was not an actor playing those roles, he became the characters.
Such instances and films are many, but one thing that remained with Irrfan throughout his acting life was that he picked a middle class cause and spun endearing stories around it with finesse and affection.
He will be remembered for generations to come. An actor par excellence. A middle class, massy star, a designation which not many will boast of in their film career.
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