‘It was Irrfan Khan’s strength that kept Sutapa and his sons going, she is equally courageous’: Vipin Sharma remembers the man behind the actor
Bollywood actor Irrfan Khan died on April 29, leaving his legions of fans shocked and distressed. While his friends were aware that his condition was deteriorating, the news of his death still came as a shock.
It has been days since actor Vipin Sharma, Irrfan’s friend since their National School of Drama days, got to know of the actor’s death but says he still feels he is around. “Irrfan’s death has hit me really hard. I have been constantly reading about him, social media and otherwise. Actually some of us knew when he was admitted to hospital and were praying for him. Still, the news came as a shock. He is just not leaving, I feel he is just around,” Vipin said.
“When I met him in London, Anup Singh (who directed Irrfan in Qissa), Sutapa (Irrfan’s wife) and a few friends were there. We chatted for long, we joked, the nurses also came and joined us; we had such fun. Then Irrfan said he was hungry, adding, ‘Mereko bahut bhook lag rahi hai, ye log soch rahe honge ye to bahut kha raha hai (I have been eating a lot, these people must have been wondering how much I eat)’. I was very happy that he was in a good shape. Not even for a moment we felt that he was dealing with something so big. Irrfan never allowed anyone to pity him, he was so dignified in accepting this. He accepted it gracefully,” Vipin said remembering the time he met Irrfan in London where he was getting treated after being diagnosed with cancer.
He added, “I met him in London when he had started his treatment. I always have dreams about it. He is the only friend I see in my dreams. He was like a twin brother, the way we felt for each other. I have been very emotional about him. When I told him I saw him in my dreams, he asked me to tell him each time I dreamt about him. He said, ‘Ha yaar bataya kar mujhe, accha lagta hai (Yes, keep telling me, my friend. It feels good)’. Lately, I would just drop him messages because I understood he was going through a lot.”
Vipin also said he could not go to the hospital after Irrfan’s death. “This is also a difficult time, I could not see him for the last time. I thought I should go to the hospital but then I decided against that. We will go to the place where he has been buried.”
Talking about how Irrfan accepted the diagnosis of neuroendocrine tumour, Vipin said, “He took it as a journey, he even gave the example that he was travelling and the TC informed that the stop is here. His positivity trickled down to the family. All this time, Sutapa did not leave him, she was part of the entire journey. They all have accepted as in how life moves on. Must be so hard but I think it was his strength that made Sutapa and his children to keep going for past two years.” He added that Sutapa is “equally courageous and she stood by him like a pillar of tremendous strength.”
Vipin also remembers the Amazon series he worked on that also featured Irrfan: “I was working on this Amazon series where I played the antagonist and he played the lead. I think they scrapped the project or shot it with a different set of actors... I was very happy during this time. It does not matter whether this is seen by people or not. I remember that time. He used to fly kites in free time during the shoot.” Irrfan and Vipin were to feature in Gormint but were replaced; Manav Kaul had been roped in to play Irrfan’s role.
Talking about Irrfan’s life philosophy, Vipin further said, “He was the kind of person who connected with everyone through his work, his behaviour. About two weeks ago, I had a dream in which he was there and we were all chatting and. He told me in one of my dreams, ‘It is not what people are talking to each other, it is what they are not saying - that is the relationship’.”
About the time they worked together in Tigmanshu Dhulia’s film, Vipin said, “I was supposed to play the zameendar Irrfan kills in Paan Singh Tomar but then I had to switch last minute. I am glad I played that character. There was a scene where I said to him ‘Humlog ab kabhi nahi milenge’ and he says ‘Humari khabrein milti rahengi’. I really felt that scene not just because of the character but as a person who really loves Irrfan. After the scene of my transfer in the film was shot, Tigmanshu said cut and Irrfan yelled ‘Did you catch that? He was in tears!’ Acting was not just acting for him, it was something real for me. He did not believe in delivering dialogues and acting. I think that is why he chose the kind of stories that he did, the stories that touched everyone.”
Talking about a younger Irrfan in his initial days, Vipin said, “I had known him since his NSD days. I was a senior and had graduated when he came. Of course, I kept coming back to NSD. Irrfan had opted for a single and private room. Mostly students lived in 2-3 seaters but I guess he had plans. I used to walk by the window and saw him smoking his beedi and sitting there, just thinking. He once told me, ‘You inspired me during NSD days’ and I told him that he inspired me to get back to films.”
Vipin added, “He was optimistic after Maqbool. With his choices, I felt courageous - the kind of films and characters he used to do. He was very unassuming, very normal, very down to earth. That is why his acting was real.”
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