On November 30, Irrfan Khan turned 48. Typically for him, there was no Bollywood style bash nor any front-page interviews. In fact, the day quietly slipped by before realisation even dawned that it was Irrfan’s birthday. Later, I wondered about gifts and hoped there was nothing filmi.
I remember him telling me once about one of his wife’s friends presenting him with a centre table for his living room. Its top was lined with posters from his films. Obviously, the lady believed that Irrfan would be flattered, but he admitted
privately that it was embarrassing having his face staring up at his guests.
There’s little of the star in Irrfan. He gets claustrophobic if cooped within four walls, more so if the room is air-
conditioned. He’d rather be near water and often dreams of a house by the sea.
He prefers monsoons to summers, any year. And can spend hours watching the clouds sail across the sky and the rain come pattering down. Even better, he enjoys going off on long drives or sitting in the open in his home in Jaipur.
Jaipur brings with it a waft of nostalgia and the savoury scents of ‘ma ka khana’ (food cooked by his mother). “My mother’s koftas, kebabs and kormas are to die for,” he told me once, sounding like the 10 year old he’d once been. Minutes later, however, the health-conscious actor was back in the saddle, insisting that ‘ghas-phus’ (veggies) was a better option. “And ‘ammi’ (mother) makes great stuffed brinjal too,” he smiled.
Haasil, Maqbool, The Namesake, Billu… Irrfan is known for his intense performances, but surprisingly, he doesn’t really like serious people who are out to change the world. He would much rather laugh away his cares, by going on a roller coaster ride or sky diving.
The ups and downs in life, he reasons, are pre-destined, and we’re powerless to change them. So why bother!
Live life with a smile and wait for death to come along. “I think of death everyday,” he once admitted, matter-of-
factly rather than morosely. Does it bring fear too, I prodded? “I try not to fear it. There is something magical and mystical about this process of living and dying,” he mused philosophically.
Irrfan has a repertoire most actors would die for. I have my favourites, he has his. He picks Lafcadia from The Warrior for his “search within himself” and Monty from Life In A Metro for his “unpredictability”. Ranvijay Singh of Haasil is memorable for his “flamboyance”, Maqbool for his “intensity” and Ashoke Ganguli of The Namesake for his “unobtrusiveness”. Irrfan also picks Paan Singh Tomar from his biopic for his “attractive resilience and emotional volatility”.
There’s nothing predictable about his answers. He’s a dreamer in a world of drama. A man with soulful eyes and a sunny smile who can slip into Ang Lee’s Life Of Pi, pass off as one of Priyanka Chopra’s ‘patis’ in Saat Khoon Maaf and give Spiderman a run for his heroism. A hero he may not want to be, but a super hero he certainly is!