Born on 7 January 1966 in a village in Rajasthan’s Tonk district, his father ran a Tyre business. At an early age, he had fallen for cricket and made successful strides in it after being selected for CK Nayudu Tournament. But, he couldn’t make it to the tournament due to lack of funds.
Later, while studying BA and inspired by Rajesh Khanna and Mithun Chakraborty, he earned the scholarship to join an acting course in National School of Drama in Delhi 1984. Post education, he moved to Mumbai and acted in several serials including Chanakya, Bharat Ek Khoj, Chandrakanta, Darr. In Darr, he was chief villain opposite Kay Kay Menon.
He was still doing theatre and television until Mira Nair offered him a cameo role in the film Salaam Bombay in 1988. Opposite Roopa Ganguly, he featured in Basu Chatterjee’s critically acclaimed film Kamla Ki Maut in 1989.
In 1990s his major films were Ek Doctor Ki Maut and Such A Long Journey (1998). His many films as an actor in the decade went unnoticed. The year 2001 was a turning point in his career when he bagged the lead role in Asif Kapadia’s The Warrior which was released internationally and made Irrfan a known face.
In 2003, he performed the role of a terrorist in The Road To Ladakh, which received international praise for the actor. But, it was his role in the film Maqbool in 2004 opposite Tabu which earned him a definite place in mainstream Indian Cinema. Maqbool was an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth in which Irrfan did the title role and earned himself the critical acclaim.
In 2004, he played a villain in the mainstream Bollywood film Haasil for which he won the Filmfare Best Villain Award. Then there was the film Rog, for which he received much praise from the critics that boosted his career. His pairing opposite Konkona Sen Sharma in multi-star movie Metro received him another Filmfare Award for Best Supporting role.
The English language drama The Namesake directed by Mira Nair starring Tabu and Irrfan was another masterpiece performance from him for which was nominated for the Best Actor in Supporting Role.
He played a Police Inspector in 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire for which the critics harped special praises on him. Film director Danny Boyle compared him to an athlete who can execute the same move perfectly over and over. 2009’s Billu Barber was another feather in his bucket. A lighthearted romantic film for which he was nominated for numerous awards.
Hollywood film Life of Pi is another staggering film in his cupboard in which he effortlessly played the adult Pi. Same year, he also featured alongside Tom Hanks in Inferno and was appreciated by the industry for taking Bollywood to the West. In 2011, the government of India conferred on him the fourth highest civilian award Padma Shri.
Paan Singh Tomar was his another gem in which he played the role of a dacoit and won him the National Film award as a Best Actor. Based on real life, Irrfan effortlessly nailed the character and garnered much appreciation from fans and critics. He raised the bar for himself in 2013’s epistolary romantic film Lunchbox which was extremely loved by everyone and won the Grand Rail d’Or at Cannes Film Festival and received a BAFTA nomination, and became his highest-grossing Hindi film up until then.
2014’s Haider had a shorter role for him, but the impact he created was unparallel. He acted alongside Deepika Padukone and Amitabh Bachchan in the film Piku in 2015. Piku was one among those special films which can never be forgotten and watched multiple times. Similarly, 2017’s Hindi Medium was his ultimate showpiece which further cemented its place in the hearts of audience like none. He won the Filmfare’s Best Actor award for his performance. It surpassed his previous box office achievements and became his highest grossing film till date.
The year 2018 had his performances in films like Blackmail, Karwaan which were critically acclaimed. His role in Blackmail received him immense appreciation from the major critics. 2018 was also the year he was diagnosed with Neuroendocrine tumour in his intestine. He went to London for the treatment and spent almost 18 months seeking the correction of this rare cancer. He had written a note to his fans saying “i trust, i have surrendered”.
He returned to India in late 2019 to complete shooting for his last film Angrezi Medium. Released just before lockdown in March 2020, he couldn’t even attend the promotional events for the film and his audio recording was played at all events. As an actor he was someone whose spoke more than his words. Even remaining silent he could express more than his contemporaries.
He has made us laugh and cry through his movies. He has made us love Cinema more than ever. While he could have given numerous impeccable performances in the time to come, his sudden death is a shock to the whole nation. The void he has left is permanent and unfillable. With wishes, wherever he is, may his soul rest in peace, we conclude this article with a heavy heart.