The morning Irrfan Khan was declared dead after a two-year-long battle with a neuroendocrine tumor, life, and death were hauled up in the court of Time like two petty criminals -- Ali Peter John

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The morning Irrfan Khan was declared dead after a two-year-long battle with a neuroendocrine tumor, life, and death were hauled up in the court of Time like two petty criminals who had committed a crime and didn't know how to hide their faces and snatched away the masks of two other criminals who were wearing them because of the on-going pandemic to protect their faces. The charge against life was that it didn't give Irrfan Khan enough time to prove his talent to its full extent, and the charge against death was that it had played a nasty game with Irrfan Khan and was in unholy haste to take him away and had taken him away when he had almost won the battle. By evening, when Irrfan Khan was buried at the Versova Kabristan, the court of Time had found both life and death guilty and pronounced the verdict that they are hanged but left hanging and still alive till the end of time....
Some men (and women)are born to be a part of a crowd and vanish without their lives making any contribution to life. Some are born to be neither here nor there. Some others are born to be experts at fence-sitting which doesn't matter much and is even dangerous. Some are created to stand out and shine in all their splendor and sometimes even make their Creator wonder how he had created them or whether he had created them or some power greater than he had created them. Sahibzade Irrfan Khan certainly belonged to the last category and left his mark on the world, a mark I am sure generations to come will keep track of and remember whenever there is talk about great men especially great actors...
Irrfan was born in a middle-class family in Jaipur. He received a sound education, thanks to his mother, and decided to play cricket for India as a career to earn his livelihood. When he saw that he couldn't make any headway in cricket, he decided to be an actor and joined the National School of Drama, again with the encouragement and blessings of his mother, Saeeda Begum....
He had found his true calling and within months after joining the NSD, he was recognized as an actor with tremendous possibilities and potential. Like most young and talented actors, Irrfan too took the Rajdhani Express to the city of dreams. Like most other actors, it was also a season of grim struggle for him, but his talent assured him that he would make it in the city if he had faith in his talent and the courage and patience to fight his way to success.....
His talent was right. He soon found work in TV serials and within a matter of time, he was one of the most wanted actors on the small screen and was excelling in a wide variety of serials like "Chandrakanta", "Chanakya", "The Great Maratha", "Jai Hanuman", "Banegi apni baat" (it was during the making of this serial which was also directed by him that he married Sutapa Sikdar, who was the writer and they had two sons, Wabil and Aayan)and "Bharat Ek Khoj ".He made his debut in films in a miniscule role in Mira Nair's "Salaam Bombay "which brought him into the limelight and that was the real beginning of the birth of a volcano of talent. It was Irrfan Khan who was going to rule the waves in Hindi films and in films made in Hollywood in the years to come. And among the films he and his amazing talent made a big difference in were, "Haasil", "Maqbool ", "Life in a Metro ", "Paan Singh Tomar", "The Lunchbox ", Billu Barber", "Piku", "Talvar", "Hindi Medium" and "Angrezi Medium", which turned out to be his last hurrah and was also the highest grossing film of his career, despite the pandemic and the lockdown (the film was a flop because of the Corono Virus and was a hit when released on the net during the early stages of the lockdown ). And among the Hollywood films he excelled in were, "Slumdog Millionaire",
"Spider-Man", "Life of Pi ", "Jurassic World ", "Inferno " and"No Bed of Roses".Among the major directors who loved to work with him were Tappan Sinha, Shyam Benegal, Mira Nair, and Danny Boyle. He has now won a National Award, several other major awards, and the Padmashri in 2011.
He had the uncanny knack of getting into the skin of any role and breathe life into it. He could peak up a character like a barber, a taxi driver, or a slumlord, and even a character from mythology and make it look believable. He could stand supreme or even stand as an equal when sharing screen space with actors like Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Naseeruddin Shah, Anil Kapoor, and Deepika Padukone. He still had ambitions and dreams and plans and projects in his worked- mind, but like I said in the beginning, the two "criminals", life and death had hatched some kind of a conspiracy against him which they put into practice with some kind of a sinister hurry and their conspiracy succeeded...In one of his last talks, Irrfan had said, "I was on some kind of a fast train with all my ambitions, plans and dreams when I saw a man tapping me on my shoulder. It was the TC. He said my journey was over and that I would have to get off the train at the next station ".Little did people who read this statement know that Irrfan was indirectly making a reference to his hectic and successful life till then and how the tumor had put an abrupt halt to his journey...
If what happened to him between last year when he came back home after he was almost cured and what happened at the Kokilaben Ambani hospital on the fateful morning of April, 29, was not a conspiracy between life and death, tell me what was it!
I do not have any respect for what politicians say, but when politicians like Arvind Kejriwal, Prakash Jawadekar, Ashok Gehlot, Vasundhara Raje, Shivraj Singh Chauhan, and other politicians paid their tribute to Irrfan, I wanted to believe what they said...I have no scientific reason to believe in heaven, but when thousands of people who were admirers and lovers of Irrfan wished to see him in peace in heaven, I wanted to believe that there was a heaven, at least for Irrfan...
I am slowly losing faith in even some of my best friends in the industry, but when they praised Irrfan on the day of his death, I wanted to believe what they all said about Irrfan...
As they were burying Irrfan in the old Kabristan in Versova, near my house, I once again realized the hopelessness of the big struggle called life and how it all ended in just a few feet of dust or went up billows of fire and smoke, depending on the quality of wood used and the ghee poured into the logs of wood between which the bodies of the most mighty and powerful and the poorest and even the beggars are pushed into to be burnt fast or as soon as possible, so that the living can go back and gossip about the dead and start their business and other important and not-so-important activities all over again....
As they buried Irrfan in that Kabristan, I could hear the wind blowing and howling as if it was crying. It may sound like my imagination going wild, but I would love to believe that the wind was crying at the passing away of a giant of a talent like Sahibzade, Irrfan Khan...
A passing thought of my own...I had heard and believed stories about how close the bonds between a mother and her son could be. It was proved again in the story between Irrfan's mother and Irrfan. The ninety-two-year-old mother, Mrs.Saeeda Begum kept waiting for Irrfan to come back home to her in Jaipur and kept saying that her son would win the battle against his disease and return like a son returning from a war. But, that dream of a mother could not come true and she died a disappointed mother and Irrfan couldn't even bid his mother a fond goodbye. And less than a week later, the loving son left the whole world behind to join his mother.
It seemed like the whole world was crying with the wind over Irrfan and as I finished writing my tribute to Irrfan, my friend Zain from Dubai called and  adds  these lines with which I completed my tribute, the lines are,
The first time a cricketer of international reputation fell in love with a Hindi film actress was when Garfield Sobers, the Captain of the touring West Indies team was attracted by Anju Mahendru, but the affair fizzled out...
The handsome Indian Captain, Mansoor Ali Khan  Pataudi fell in love with Sharmila Tagore, married her and they had two children who are now Saif Ali Khan and Soha  Ali Khan, both actors...
Years later, another Captain of the West Indies team, Vivian Richards fell in love with the actress Neena Gupta and left her high and dry, but she preferred to be a single mother and brought up their daughter, Masaaba who is a leading designer today and is married(?)to the producer Madhu Mantenna. One of India's great all-rounders Salim Durrani made his debut as an actor with Parveen Babi in  B.R Ishara's "Charitraheen" and was not heard of again after the film flopped... The Little Master Sunil Gavaskar made his debut as the leading man of a Marathi film, "Premachi Saavli "and that was the end of his dream to be an actor.
Sandeep Patil who had broken all records when he hit six sixes in an over and became a hero in the world of cricket made his debut as a hero in a Hindi film called "Dimple "which was produced by Bhagyashree's father, Vijay Singh Patvardhan, who was the prince of Sangli in Maharashtra and was also the music director. Sandeeps acting career ended with "Dimple ".
Vinod  Kambli who could have been as great as his friend Sachin Tendulkar, But couldn't, ended up playing the villain in some bad Hindi and Marathi Films and that was the end of him as an actor. The off-spinner Harbhajan Singh made headlines when he played himself in a film and so did Yuvraj Singh. Harbhajan even married the actress Geeta Basra... Sachin and Mohammad Azharuddin and M.S . Dhoni even had biopics made on them which were huge successes. There is a biopic being made on Kapil Dev with Ranveer Singh playing Kapil  Dev. There is a biopic even being made on Mithali Raj, the captain of the Indian women's cricket team. publive-image
And there have been some other well-known names who couldn't make it in cricket and turned to films and made it very big in films. Vishal Bhardwaj was almost included in the Indian Team, but when he couldn't, he came to Bombay and worked as a composer on some serials made by Gulzar who gave him his first break as a composer for films in his film, "Maachis" and today, Vishal Bhardwaj is a trendsetter in modern Indian cinema. And this story about the bond between cricket and cinema in  India can not come to an end without mentioning the name of  Irrfan Khan. Irrfan wanted to be a cricketer and dreamt of playing for India and it was only when he realized that he couldn't make enough money in cricket that he changed his dream and dreamt of becoming an actor and what an institution of acting he grew into in less than thirty years !
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