Irrfan Khan, the star of Slumdog Millionaire, Jurassic World, and Life of Pi, has died at age 53, after a years-long battle with neuroendocrine cancer.
Irrfan achieved commercial success in 2001 with a role in The Warrior, a critically acclaimed adventure-drama directed by Asif Kapadia. Since then, he has appeared in hit movies like The Darjeeling Limited, The Song of Scorpions, and New York, I Love You.
Irrfan Khan's family is of royal descent but he didn't want to capitalize on that.
Born in 1967 to a family with royal heritage on the maternal side and a blossoming tire business on the paternal side, Irrfan was struggling to come to terms with his background for a long time.
He dropped "Sahabzada," a name that has unmistakable aristocratic connotations, as soon as he launched his career in acting. According to the BBC, he also changed his first name from "Irfan" to "Irrfan," not so much to distance himself from his family, but because it sounded better.
After graduating from Delhi's National School of Drama in 1987, Irrfan went on to take up dozens of roles in Indian television shows like Bharat Ek Khoj, Sara Jahan Hamara, and Hum Bambai Nahi Jayenge. He became a household name, but the success didn't come without sacrifices.
As he remarked in a previous interview with The Guardian, he took up an interest in acting because he wanted to feature in movies that left a lasting impact on viewers. For the first decade of his career, however, he kept landing roles in soap operas.
"Once, they didn't even pay me because they thought my acting was so bad," he remarked.
Longing for artistic satisfaction, the actor became more and more disillusioned with his chosen trade. By the early 2000s, he was on the cusp of quitting for good. However, this all changed when British filmmaker Asif Kapadia reached out to him to talk about a role in his forthcoming drama, The Warrior.
The movie brought about enormous success, and with it, a great deal of recognition. The actor finally earned his much-deserved place in the fenced-off world of auteur cinema — working in close collaboration with directors like Mira Nair, Ang Lee, and Wes Anderson.
In the past few years, Irrfan landed roles in movies like Tokyo Trial, a 2017 drama exploring the professional and personal life of B.V.A Röling, one of the judges present at the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal, and No Bed of Roses, a drama about a not-so-ordinary man named Javed Hasan.
Irrfan lost his life on April 29, 2020, after a years-long battle with cancer.
The actor was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer, neuroendocrine tumors, in 2018. He sought treatment in a London hospital, and for a while, his condition was stable.
He was admitted to the Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani hospital in Mumbai on Wednesday, April 29, and he lost his life on the same day. He is survived by his wife, television writer and producer Sutapa Sikdar, and two sons, Babil and Ayan.