Irrfan’s talent wasn’t recognised in the beginning, it was the industry’s fault, loss: Sudhir Mishra
As the Indian film fraternity and fans mourn the loss of Irrfan, filmmaker Sudhir Mishra, who directed him in Yeh Saali Zindagi, says the acclaimed actor wanted to be “popular too, but on his own terms”.Updated: Apr 29, 2020 21:35 IST
Sudhir Mishra sounds emotional while talking about Irrfan, his dear friend. For, talking about a friend who he “won’t be able to meet again doesn’t sound real”. Irrfan, 53, passed away today (April 29) after being admitted to a Mumbai hospital for a colon infection on Tuesday.
Our Irrfan has gone ! Actor , ( for me a co-writer ) , humanist , secular and spiritual . A man in search of beauty , meaning and a connection with the universe . He was brutally honest , yet very kind . And that smile , how I’ll miss that smile !— Sudhir Mishra (@IAmSudhirMishra) April 29, 2020
Mishra and Irrfan may have collaborated as director-actor in Yeh Saali Zindagi (2011), but their association goes back to the actor’s National School of Drama days. “He was always eager. My wife (late Renu Saluja) had edited one of his earlier films, Purush (1994) and since then we wanted to collaborate… we even lived in the same building initially,” says Mishra. He pauses for a few seconds before saying, “What an extraordinary actor, a curious and equally stubborn individual” Irrfan was.
He continues, “Irrfan wasn’t your comfortable guy who would avoid taking risks. He had it in him to challenge the greats. He was humble, eager to work with everyone, be it someone senior and junior. He was very human, and would mix with people easily.”
The filmmaker feels that after Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri and Pankaj Kapoor, Irrfan and now Nawazuddin Siddiqui are among the NSD alumni who adapted to cinema so well.
“Irrfan was meant to be a film actor. He loved every aspect of filmmaking. He would only work in a film because he liked the story. He cared for the script more. Even at the peak of his career right now, he would only look for good narratives, more than his parts… I know actors who are inspired by him, writers who would write stories keeping him in mind, directors who visualised characters with him in mind,” says the 61-year-old.
Revealing another side of Irrfan, Mishra shares his friend’s love for all kinds of cinema and that he “never had any kind of disdain towards popular cinema”. He adds, “He was able to understand every kind of cinema… Irrfan too wanted to be popular, but on his own terms.”
Recounting the experience of working with him in Yeh Saali Zindagi (2011), Mishra says Irrfan would “amaze everyone with his expressions”. “He was very open to the script and understood its intent. He looked at the whole of it, not just his character. That’s what Irrfan was all about. He was a master storyteller,” he says.
Irrfan and Mishra were supposed to make another film, but they both got busy. The opportunity came with a web series Gormint in 2018. That is when Irrfan’s battle with cancer began and he had to leave for London for treatment.
“He was warm, something that would stay with us forever. He was committed to his work and impatient too. If he wasn’t convinced, he would ask questions, would never give anyone an easy ride. We are so proud of him... He is perhaps one of his generation who is so well-known internationally,” Mishra says, citing that the late actor was as good as in The Namesake (2006), Life of Pi (2012) and The Lunchbox (2013), as he was in Haasil (2003), Maqbool (2004), Paan Singh Tomar (2012), Haider (2014), Hindi Medium (2017) and his last film Angrezi Medium.
The director had also met Irrfan a few times after he was back from London, and adds that no one thought that “he would leave us so soon” and that he was “fascinated by his energy”.
In Mishra’s words, Irrfan always had it in him. “It’s just that nobody recognised his talent earlier and he had to do all sorts of work… of course once he started working, he understood cinema all the more. But Irrfan was always good at his work. That the industry didn’t recognise his talent in the beginning is our fault, our loss,” he ends.
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