“He was not a masculine man, but rather a gentle person, conscious of etiquette. When he had neuroendocrine cancer that affected his intestines, he used to pass fart a lot,” she said.

This unexpected outcome of Khan’s treatment also became the ‘funny part’ of his medical journey – once something ’embarrassing’, it slowly became a part of their lives as they dealt with his illness, said Sikdar at the launch of ‘Irfan: A Life in Movies’, a book to The Indian Express film critic Shubhra Gupta (published by Pan Macmillan India; Rs. 899) at The Quorum in Mumbai’s Lower Parel on Saturday.

When Gupta first approached her while writing the book, which features more than 30 film personalities sharing their views on Khan during in-depth conversations with the film critic, Sikdar was initially hesitant. But what interested her was the author’s keenness to focus on “the professional side of Irfan’s life.”

Through conversations featured in the book, Gupta sheds light on Khan’s art, craft, life, and legacy.

Speaking during the book’s launch, Gupta said that although she was initially skeptical about writing the book, what intrigued her was that it was meant to be written “from a film critic’s perspective”. She said, “The idea was to look at his journey as an actor from the beginning of his career and the milestones. He was pushing the envelope as well as the line between films that are supposed to be exciting and popular.”

Sikdar said that one cannot separate the gratitude of the actor from the person he was. “He never changed himself from his essence to become an actor. It was what he performed on screen – the middle-class parent in Indian Medium (2017) or Yogi from Qarib Qarib Single (2017),” said Sikdar.

“Chabra talks about Khan pushing the envelope, but the truth is, when you come to Mumbai (Indian film industry), the envelope gets heavy — it’s not easy to push him. The strength of his character lies in the fact that he pushed the envelope.”

Sikdar noted that by the time Irrfan was headlining Asif Kapadia’s directorial The Warrior (2001) he was about to give up acting due to a lack of interesting offers. Sikdar said that he was more careful about the intentions of his films than his character, and believed that the film should be “entertaining rather than preachy”.

“He, of course, looked at his role but was particular about how the whole movie was going to be…. He couldn’t do the work he didn’t believe in. He probably read his script hundreds of times,” she said. “He had a strong intention to do a good job.”

Babel Bin Khan, who made his acting debut in Qala (2022), read excerpts from the book as director Anoop Singh recalls his encounter with the script of Qissa (2013) and what happened between them.

During the ensuing discussion, writer-producer Shilga Kejriwal, Creative Director of Special Projects, Zee Entertainment Enterprises, spoke about working with Khan on various TV projects for about a decade, how it was clear from the start that he was special, and his impact on those around him and viewers.

The discussion was moderated by actor Danish Hussain.

Besides a long introduction to Khan’s craft and legacy, Gupta, through her conversations with members of the film fraternity who knew the actor, worked with him, or watched him closely–Sikdar, Kejriwal, Shyam Benegal, Tegmanshu Doula, Vishal Bhardwaj, Naseeruddin Shah, Mira Nair, Konkona Sen Sharma, Tilottama Shomi, Karan Johar, Anurag Kashyap, among others – explore how his work has changed Indian cinema.

The book also talks about Khan’s National School of Drama days to nearly a decade in television, and then on to films. It celebrates “the journey of a stranger who shattered the star actor’s dichotomy and changed Bollywood forever”.

This is Gupta’s second book after 50 Films That Changed Bollywood, 1995-2015, published in 2016.


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