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A look back at the extraordinary career of Irrfan Khan

  • Published at 03:42 pm April 29th, 2020
Irrfan Khan in The Lunchbox| IMDb

Irrfan Khan passed away on Wednesday

A son of a tyre seller, Irrfan Khan made his film debut in Salaam Bombay! in 1988 to little success. He lacked the conventional good looks of a Bollywood superstar and was only offered small roles in third-rate soap operas for the longest time. However, the actor slowly crawled his way to the top, rising above scorn and establishing himself as India’s one of the finest character actors over the course of an enduring career spanning over three decades.

In 2018, the veteran actor was diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumour. He had been fighting for his life ever since. Khan’s last film Angrezi Medium was released shortly before the nation-wide lockdown.

He encapsulated his battle with the fatal disease in an emotional note that read: “I had been in a different game, I was traveling on a speedy train ride, had dreams, plans, aspirations, goals, was fully engaged in them. And suddenly someone taps on my shoulder and I turn to see. It’s the TC: ‘Your destination is about to come. Please get down’!”

The actor added, “I am confused. ‘No, no. My destination hasn’t come.’ ‘No, this is it. This is how it is sometimes'.”

Sadly, he was right. This is how it is sometimes. Khan's cinematic journey might have been cut short, yet it has been no less than extraordinary.

Irrfan Khan passed away on Wednesday in Mumbai's Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital where he was admitted for colon infection. He is survived by his wife Sutapa and two sons.

Here is a list of some of his most celebrated films in no particular order:

The Lunchbox

A mistaken delivery in Mumbai's famously efficient lunchbox delivery system connects a young housewife to an older man in the dusk of his life as they build a fantasy world together through notes in the lunchbox.

Director: Ritesh Batra

Stars: Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and others

The Namesake

American-born Gogol, the son of Indian immigrants, wants to fit in among his fellow New Yorkers, despite his family's unwillingness to let go of their traditional ways.

Director: Mira Nair

Stars: Kal Penn, Irrfan Khan, Tabu


The intrigue of the Shakespearean tragedy 'Macbeth' is transposed to the Mumbai underworld.

Director: Vishal Bhardwaj

Stars: Irrfan Khan, Tabu, Pankaj Kapur


A young man returns to Kashmir after his father's disappearance to confront his uncle, whom he suspects of playing a role in his father's fate.

Director: Vishal Bhardwaj

Stars: Shahid Kapoor, Tabu, Irrfan Khan, Shraddha Kapoor

Life of Pi

A young man who survives a disaster at sea is hurtled into an epic journey of adventure and discovery. While cast away, he forms an unexpected connection with another survivor: a fearsome Bengal tiger.

Director: Ang Lee

Stars: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Adil Hussain

Slumdog Millionaire

A Mumbai teenager reflects on his life after being accused of cheating on the Indian version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?".

Directors: Danny Boyle, Loveleen Tandan (co-director)

Stars: Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Saurabh Shukla, Irrfan Khan

Paan Singh Tomar

The story of Paan Singh Tomar, an Indian athlete and seven-time national steeplechase champion who becomes one of the most feared dacoits in Chambal Valley after his retirement.

Director: Tigmanshu Dhulia

Stars: Irrfan Khan, Hemendra Dandotiya, Navneet Gairola

The Amazing Spider-Man

After Peter Parker is bitten by a genetically altered spider, he gains newfound, spider-like powers and ventures out to save the city from the machinations of a mysterious reptilian foe.

Director: Marc Webb

Stars: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Irrfan Khan

Life in a Metro

Six different stories, about nine people, each with different issues and problems, all occurring within one place: the METRO.

Director: Anurag Basu

Writers: Anurag Basu (story and screenplay), Sanjeev Dutta (dialogue)

Stars: Dharmendra, Irrfan Khan, Konkona Sen Sharma


A quirky comedy about the relationship between a daughter and her aging father, whose eccentricities drive everyone crazy.

Director: Shoojit Sircar

Stars: Deepika Padukone, Amitabh Bachchan, Irrfan Khan


An experienced investigator confronts several conflicting theories about the perpetrators of a violent double homicide.

Director: Meghna Gulzar

Stars: Irrfan Khan, Konkona Sen Sharma, Neeraj Kabi


Javed Hasan begins an affair with his daughter’s childhood friend, which later leads his family to shock and devastation.

Director: Mostofa Sarwar Farooki

Stars: Irrfan Khan, Nusrat Imrose Tisha

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