Beloved Bollywood actor Irrfan Khan died on Wednesday, April 29th after being admitted to Mumbai’s Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital the day before with a colon infection. His passing triggered an outpouring of tributes from India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to well-known actress and Miss World 2000 winner Priyanka Chopra. The 53 year old actor was as popular with Bollywood fans as pokies are with those who love to win, and he will be sorely missed.
Khan revealed that he had been diagnosed with a rare neuroendocrine tumour in 2018, and received extensive treatment, including chemotherapy, in the United Kingdom. The therapies that the actor underwent, as well as the type of cancer he suffered, may both have contributed to the development of his fatal infection.
Khan’s Public Relations (PR) agency, Hardly Anonymous Communications, released a statement of his death on Wednesday morning. Representatives said they were saddened at having to deliver the news, describing Khan as a strong soul who inspired all who knew him and continued to fight for his health.
Multiple Sad Passings
Just a few days before Khan was buried at Versova Graveyard on April 30th he lost his 95-year-old mother Saeeda Begum, but couldn’t attend her last rites due to lockdown. In addition, a day after Khan’s passing the Bollywood film industry and its legions of fans suffered another blow when celebrated star Rishi Kapoor died at the age of 67. Kapoor also had cancer, in his case leukaemia, and finally succumbed to the disease after a courageous two-year battle.
Khan is survived by his wife Sutapa Sikdar, and two sons named Ayaan and Babil. In a rare communication with the public, they released an official statement urging well-wishers and fans to look on the actor’s passing as a blessing rather than a loss. The lessons that he demonstrated, Sikdar added, could now be fully implemented.
Bollywood Star and Hollywood Darling
Born Saahabzaade Irfan Ali Khan, Khan spent his early years in Tonk and then Jaipur. He took up acting after failing as a cricket player, attending New Delhi’s National School of Drama and began his career shortly thereafter.
Initially he struggled to break into the film industry, finding regular work in television soap operas only, in spite of his small role as a letter write in Mira Nair’s acclaimed hit Salaam Bombay! In 1988. Khan’s breakthrough role was in The Warrior, then-unknown British director Asif Kapadia’s feature debut.
The low-budget, samurai-esque tale, released in 2002, was shot in India and scooped the Best British Film Bafta among other awards. Following his turn in The Warrior, Khan had much greater success in mainstream Indian cinema with starring roles in Maqbool (based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth and set in the underworld of Mumbai) and the slice-of-life-musical Life in a … Metro.
Hollywood soon beckoned, and he was lauded for his portrayal of a police inspector in Slumdog Millionaire, the adult Pi in Life of Pi, Rajit Ratha in The Amazing Spider-Man and Simon Masrani in Jurassic World. While maintaining a strong presence in Hollywood blockbusters, as well as mainstream and arthouse Indian films, Khan remained one of the brightest stars on the Bollywood scene.
Significant roles included his appearances in Piku and Hindi Medium, a comedy-drama written and directed by Saket Chaudery. Khan reprised his Hindi Medium character Raj Batra in a 2020 sequel called Angrezi Medium. This marked his return to acting following his cancer treatment and would ultimately be the last role of his life.
Beloved by All
Among the Tinsel Town A-listers who paid homage to Khan were his Jurassic World co-star Bryce Dallas Howard and his Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle, while fellow Bollywood legends Shoojit Sircar and Amitabh Bachchan tweeted their regrets over his death. Indian Home Minister and Devendra Fadnavis, former Maharashtra Chief Minister, also shared their condolences via online platforms. The actor was clearly able to influence multiple audiences across different platforms, and his passing has touched them all.