Kapoor and Khan

Updated: May 03, 2020, 07:01 IST | Rahul da Cunha | Mumbai

But, when one thinks of international cinema, or that other term, crossover films, Irrfan is/was the last man standing.

Illustration/Uday Mohite
Illustration/Uday Mohite

Rahul da CunhaAny thoughts of Irrfan Khan in my head, have always extended to include Naseeruddin Shah and the late Om Puri. Perhaps it's about skill, maybe stature. Nawazuddin Siddiqui, is may be as good, but somehow lacks the folklore to join this trio.

But, when one thinks of international cinema, or that other term, crossover films, Irrfan is/was the last man standing.

He had something in his DNA or destiny, that Naseer never had and Om had perhaps in a film or two like East is East.

Whether it's about right place-right time, Irrfan seemed suited for the West, in an unprecedented way, from The Warrior onwards.

So, when Tom Hanks said to Irrfan on the sets of Inferno, "Irrfan Khan, I'm going to steal from you everything I possibly can, I'm going to start speaking very quietly in films, I will draw out the last sound of every sentence that I say. And by doing that I will be doing a very pale imitation of the coolest guy in the room," you kind of had a sense of Irrfan's potential.

Irrfan was ready for international stardom, not in the apologetic Asian blink-and-miss way, as often happens with us in foreign films, but in his own right. Big banners, big parts. This was a man, and an actor who was very, very comfy in his own skin, and that exuded itself on screen, and in person anywhere in the world.

Irrfan's death is sadder because, he was poised for a great international career.

I wondered about Irrfan, though in the early films—they were all a variation of Haasil and Maqbool—he didn't seem to do much with his face, the dialogue delivery had a sameness to it. Was this man a two-expression artiste? Always outside of a role looking in, unable to becoming a character, to fully don the garb.
But, in time I realised, how much of the 'less is more' artisan he was.

For the great film actors, the camera is a few inches or a couple of feet away, so you hold back.

Interesting that the great film actors have all had those early stage beginnings. Om, Naseer, Irrfan, knew how to bang it out to the last row of a theatre, and had crafted the performances to reel it in.

Then there's the effervescent Chintu Kapoor.

The chameleon-like nature allowed him, a chapter two in his glittering filmography.

It's Rishi Kapoor's later career that interests me, a reinvention of a unique kind.

Mr Bachchan has basically gone from an angry young man to an angry old man, except perhaps in Piku where he was a cranky old man.

Zoya Akhtar's Luck by Chance 'talent ka volcano' performance, started off a run for Rishi, that ended with Anubhav Sinha's Mulk that gave us a taste of this man's innate talent. This was an unexpected depth that went way beyond the 'masti' of Amar Akbar Anthony. And you wonder, was this intensity always there, but Bollywood just never bothered to tap into it, or did the gravitas come with age and experience? Either way, both these men, Rishi and Irrfan, were versatile enough for most of today's younger brigade of directors, to want to cast them.

Alas, no more.

Rahul daCunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at rahul.dacunha@mid-day.com

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