A Meeting at the Threshold
Arts Illustrated|June - July 2020
The immortal actor exemplified all that is admirable about his profession, from his creative choices to his work philosophy, and his passing was a low blow. This is our tribute to the prince among stars – Irrfan
Rehana Munir

So what do you say about an actor who let us in on his fearsome health crisis with characteristic restraint? What do you say about an actor who will now forever be remembered as someone who contracted an illness as, in his words, rare as the roles he sought? How do you commemorate an actor who defied categories and trends to emerge a singular, unstoppable force?

We can begin with that simple descriptor – an actor. Even as India stayed home during the lockdown – the lucky ones who can lay claim to that privilege – huddled in fear and gloom, news came in of the passing of an actor who exemplified the human spirit. As we collectively confront our frailty and mortality, Irrfan’s passing is a low blow. But why all this grief over an actor?

Here’s where it gets heartbreaking. I will try to articulate the feeling through my private lens of grief.

It’s difficult to be surprised these days, especially when it comes to news about celebrities’ past lives. Everything seems to have been unearthed or confessed, from childhood fantasies to fitness regimens. And so it was a strange experience to discover Irrfan’s birth name only once he had passed on. Sahabzade Irfan Ali Khan. Now there’s a princely name if there ever was one. Although he had shrunk his name to Irrfan years ago, the splendour of the regal title seems like a fitting honorific. There is no dearth of Khans in the industry; we have them all, from the obnoxious to the immaculate. Although Irrfan’s reasons for abbreviating his elaborate name were perhaps numerology-based, it seemed right when he actually did it. A name that stood out tall, just like this anomaly in Bollywood.

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