Human Interest

Actor Irrfan Khan of ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, ‘Life of Pi’, is dead

By Iqbal Abhimanyu

New Delhi, Apr 29 (efe-epa).- Irrfan Khan, an internationally acclaimed Indian actor, known for his method acting and versatile roles, including in some Hollywood hits like “Slumdog Millionaire” and “Life of Pi”, died on Wednesday after losing a prolonged battle with a rare cancer.

Khan, 53, was admitted to the Kokilaben Ambani Hospital in Mumbai, home to India’s multi-billion dollar film industry, on Tuesday, his spokesperson said.

“Surrounded by his love, his family for whom he most cared about, he left for his heavenly abode, leaving behind truly a legacy of his own. We all pray and hope that he is at peace,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

Doctors diagnosed Khan in 2018 with a cancerous neuroendocrine tumor, a rare disease that affects the nervous system.

He received treatment in the United Kingdom for a year before returning to India in 2019 and shooting for his last film “Angrezi Medium”, which was released in March this year.

He had been unable to join the promotions of the film due to failing health. However, he released a touching audio message.

“There’s a saying, ‘when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade’, sounds good, but when you get a handful of lemons, it isn’t that easy to squeeze them. And yet we always have the choice to stay positive,” he said.

“My body has been gate-crashed by some unwanted guests, with whom I am negotiating.”

Born as Sahabzada Irfan Ali Khan on Jan. 7, 1967 in the western state of Rajasthan, the actor secured a scholarship to the prestigious National School of Drama in Delhi in 1984 to begin his career.

After moving to Mumbai, Khan acted in several TV series and theater but struggled to get into films.

He played small side roles – debuting with a cameo in Mira Nair’s acclaimed “Salaam Bombay” (1988) – for nearly a decade before finally being recognized for his potential around the turn of the century.

In an industry dominated by actors with urbane, rich backgrounds, Khan carved a niche with a rustic small-town image, unconventional looks, and by seamlessly blending into common-man roles.

After initial successes like “Haasil” and “Maqbool” (both in 2003), and getting lead roles in films like “Rog” (2005), he gained widespread local and international acclaim with another Mira Nair drama “The Namesake” (2006), playing a first-generation Indian immigrant in the United States whose family struggles to deal with their multiple identities and backgrounds.

This opened the doors for a slew of successful Bollywood films, including “Life in a Metro”, “Mumbai Meri Jaan”, “Paan Singh Tomar” – for which he won the National Award for Best Actor in 2012 – “Haider”, “Piku”, and “Hindi Medium”.

At the same time, his role in Oscar-winning “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008) turned him into a trusted character actor in international cinema, helping him land parts in blockbusters like “The Amazing Spider-man” (2012) and “Jurassic World” (2015).

He also appeared in the “The Lunchbox” (2013) and adventure fantasy “Life of Pi” (2012).

“An incredible talent .. a gracious colleague .. a prolific contributor to the World of Cinema .. left us too soon .. creating a huge vacuum,” tweeted veteran actor Amitabh Bachchan. EFE-EPA


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