When was the last time when a nation of fragmented opinions unanimously poured their emotions so genuine, so natural and so powerful. Well, it might strain your memory to reconcile until the demise of cinema’s greatest acumen Irrfan Khan moved an entire generation of cinephiles and more beyond. But, what made this man and his death not so trivial?

The world is a carnival of emotions and the celluloid is thus its biggest celebration. The silver screen has for long served as the recluse for all or most of our feelings, and its players inevitably become a part of our lives. The audience around the globe and our nation in particular adores its movie personalities, their influence caters to wider prospects and their presence ushers greater momentum. They feature on our walls and our device screens; our collective memories and pleasant dreams and cultivate our endeavors by endorsing them. But, dont these things cater to the conventional stars of visual grandeur-  those who feature in extravagant films with formulaic conventions, a stardom, a following and a fanbase of their own. While, it might be that we as a generation have evolved with our preferences and adjudication of cinema or perhaps, Irrfan superseded all of this to manifest a culture of a different kind, just as his roles, movies and nature.

On 29th April, the internet community rolled into sorrow as the social media feeds were flooded with feelings over the loss of our finest cinematic potential – Irrfan. Tributes, eulogies, nostalgia and prayers, he was all over, the 53 year old Irrfan was struggling with a neuroendocrine tumor, a rare cancer and hence left the world with his last performance in the March 2020 release ‘Angrezi Medium’. From juniors to contemporaries of film fraternities in Bollywood, Hollywood and Regional Films; composers to sports personalities and politicians, comedians to social media influencers; writers and scholars, everyone mourned the loss of this legendary persona. I found people who are generally technoverted and closeted in expression, remembering the man as if it was a personal loss, and hence it prompted me to discuss the various souls of this single shoulder, which embodied myriads of happiness, sorrow, catharsis, hope, belief, pain and reality as one.

The Pan India Icon

It isn’t surprising that a man who brought life to the character of Ashoke Ganguli in the Namesake as a first generation Bengali immigrant, uttered every word of Paan Singh in natural Chambali dialect. Umber Singh in Qissa cherishes every breath in Punjabi while Roohdaar haunts the streets of Kashmir with same vigour. Ranvijay Singh of Haasil resonates the North Indian political demography as Raj Batra of Hindi Medium does with regard to the typical Old Delhi shop-owner. Thomas in Mumbai Meri Jaan is the rare depiction of the South Indian vendor in the cinescape, and the same goes true for Saajan Fernandes who effortlessly anchors The Lunchbox as an about to retire widower in Mumbai. His last appearance as Keshav Bansal, a Marwari sweet shop-owner in Angrezi Medium marked the essence of his nativity in Rajasthan.

An Artist beyond Big Screen

Irrfan was more than a Bollywood actor, having done films like The Warrior, The Namesake, Inferno and Jurrasic World he is an established figure in Hollywood and has featured in Telugu and Bengali films as well and didn’t hesitate to involve in Short films like Road to Ladakh and The Bypass either. A trained dramatics student of National School of Drama, Irrfan was deeply involved in theatre and was a keen observer in theatre festivals even after gaining prominence. Irrfan started with television and went on to star in period dramas like Chandrakanta and Chanakya and hosted shows like Don and Mano Ya Na Mano. His iconic voice was more than enough to narrate films like Bajirao Mastani or dub over as Baloo in The Jungle Book.

Irrfan as an enthusiastic meme, which is popular with Indian Netizens.  Image Credits: Imageflip
Irrfan as an enthusiastic meme, which is popular with Indian Netizens.
Image Credits: Imageflip

Irrfan didn’t stop here, he went on to feature in television commercials like 7 UP, Hutch, Syska. His every Bollywood Party song or Podcast with AIB and collaborations with FilterCopy has negated stereotypes and was an enthusiastic volunteer for a perennially popular meme content.


A Literature Enthusiast

Irrfan Khan with Shamsur Rahman Faruqi Sahab Image Source: Thread Reader App
Irrfan Khan with Shamsur Rahman Faruqi Sahab
Image Source: Thread Reader App

I often wonder how many mainstream icons of such engagements engross with literature or other arts, while the quest goes on forever with disappointments, many a times I do come across someone like Irrfan, who reads Om Prakash Valmiki’s ‘Thakur Ka Kuan’ so enthusiastically, and passionately pens his feeling to great Urdu Writer Shamsur Rahman Farooqi, admiring his ‘Kai Chand the Sare Aasmaan’ and his eagerness on making a film on the same.

A Devout Human

Among many reasons that prompted so many people from various walks to respond to the demise of this great actor was probably the humanitarian nature that was typical of Irrfan apart from being a brilliant actor. Attaining the stature he was endowed with Irrfan was humble in his approach, his confidants and acquaintances reminisce him as a person of natural instict who respected his work and humans, nature and creatures alike. He was a dedicated family man, who loved his wife and children.

Apart from being a volunteer for social causes. In 2015, the actor had visited Badanavalu, a village near Nanjangud, to support theatre personality and social activist Prasanna, who launched a movement to promote sustainable living, the actor spent night with the people of the movement and has continually supported causes for sustainable development and climate change.

Irrfan with Activist Prasanna Image Credits: Deccan Herald
Irrfan with Social Activist Prasanna
Image Credits: Deccan Herald

There might be many stars with social campaigning, a perfect rags to riches story, brilliant executioners in their own fields but there was something specific about this human, the man who will be cherished by generations for what he was and what he has left as his works.

Featured Image Credits: India Today

Faizan Salik

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In a road accident that occurred on 4th November 2018, Prashant Yadav, a student of Delhi School of Journalism (DSJ) lost his life. On 6th November 2018, which happens to be his 20th birthday, a public condolence meeting was organised by the students DSJ at the Faculty of Arts at 4 p.m. The students paid tribute to Prashant Yadav, who was considered the backbone of the “Stand with DSJ” movement.

In an emotional ceremony, that was joined by the contingent of students who returned from his funeral, everybody recollected Prashant’s dedication towards the movement. He was unanimously declared the first President of the Delhi School of Journalism Students’ Union.

Despite the hell he gave to the college administration, during the course of DSJ protests his teachers remembered him fondly.  Manasvini M Yogi, Office on Special Duty of DSJ tearfully said, “I am in an utter state of shock. I am unable to actually process that Prashant will no longer be there in DSJ. He was a student with a strong personality and was very caring and kind for all his friends. DSJ corridors already miss him. The loss is huge. Whenever I close my eyes, I can only see Prashant’s face. I pray for him and his family. May God give strength to everyone to bear the loss.” Professor Albert Abraham added, “We remember Prashant Yadav as one of the brightest students of DSJ. His untimely death is absolutely unbelievable. He was full of energy and enthusiasm. His innate leadership skills, charisma, and boldness were enviously matchless. He deserves to be remembered forever,”

“It was a habit to hear, “Hanji Anoushka ji, Kaisi Hain Aap” every morning. The whole college misses him already. May his soul rest in peace and may God give his family strength to cope up with such a huge loss. Prashant Yadav was our leader and will remain our leader forever,” said Anoushka, a DSJ student and DU Beat correspondent. Mohd. Ali, another student of DSJ added, “Prashant was my first friend in here and a comrade in arms during the countless struggles we undertook against the DU administration for quality education. It was an honour to get suspended with him, sit on the hunger strike with him, and smile and shout in his company. I miss him deeply.” “We had differences of opinion on certain issues which sometimes became very heated. But the mutual respect and love for each other triumphed all of it. We were not brothers by blood but definitely by heart,” Prakash Ranjan, his classmate said ruefully.

Shweta Khurana, who taught Prashant Yadav in Class 11th and 12th said, “I am still in shock. I don’t have the words to express the grief. The fact that Prashant is no more is unbelievable. He had such a charismatic personality and was a bright and lively student. I have never seen him without a smile. I attribute a major chunk of my success to Prashant. I have never met anyone in my career who gave me so much respect and love.” She also mentioned that a workshop was organised in DSJ where Prashant came all the way from North Campus to Gurgaon to pick and drop her.

“Your voice made us fearless. We believed ‘Prashant haina, dekhlega’. It seems like yesterday when you came into our lives and taught us how to protest. Rest assured brother, we made sure we celebrated your twentieth birthday at your favourite place- the Jantar Mantar of DU- Arts Fac. We now know why DSJ is so special though it is without any resources. It is students like you who made it special for every one of us. Your UPite mannerisms and witty dialogues make it impossible to forget you. This close-knit family of DSJ has lost an important member. We hope, in death, you will #StandWithDSJ,” wrote Alishan and Maknoon, Prashant’s classmates, in a heartfelt obituary that they shared with DU Beat.

“As someone who has closely followed the events in DSJ, being in contact with Prashant was inevitable. He always had something meaningful to say and something effective to do. In the past few weeks we had vehement disagreements regarding an incident that occurred over a month ago, but even in this hostility there was a sense of respect. The worse thing I heard from him was when he chided DU Beat as “DU Cheat”, and I know that no one should not be applauded simply because of basic decency, but Prashant Yadav was the kind of enemy one would be glad to have. Due to his boldness (which sometimes borderlined on intimidation and wasn’t something that many people approved of)  it was easy to put him in the bracket of a typical DU-Politician-Goon, but he never made me or other correspondents who covered DSJ feel threatened. Rather, he made DSJ an easy territory to navigate. People like him change and disrupt the world, DU and DSJ needed him. Losing Prashant Ji (he will always be Prashant Ji, not just Prashant) was unfortunate, to forget him will be a real tragedy,” said Niharika Dabral, the Associate Editor of DU Beat.

When the “Prashant Lives.” graffiti fades and the emotions ebb slowly, perhaps we will look at the circumstances of his death more objectively. It’s important to acknowledge issues like road safety and lack of emergency medical response so that we become more cautious and diligent. We have to ask why Yamuna Expressway remains accident prone and what we can do to avoid future tragedies.

Feature Image Credits: DSJ Media Group