When you wake up to tweets deeply mourning the loss of actor Irrfan, you understand the impact of a real artist whose death feels like a personal loss. In his ordinariness, he became an emotion. That's why even while enjoying Hollywood flicks such as The Amazing Spider-Man, Jurassic World, you secretly only wait for his appearance.
By a happy accident, I had the chance to meet Irrfan for the promotions of his Hollywood film Inferno, in 2016. The event was expected to take place inside the premises of South Delhi's Select Citywalk, inside a cinema theatre. Since I had been a resident of Delhi's Saket, I was quickly assigned to attend the event and take his interview. Fresh into the field of journalism (back then), I was quite unaware of various procedures. Usually, at any press events, media designates are restrained from sitting in the first row, which is reserved for assigned photographers and members from the production team. Unaware of this rule, I seated myself in the front row. A few minutes later Irrfan arrived...
He casually seated himself in the front row, one seat away from me. Being a newbie journalist, a different kind of rush happened when I watched a celebrity walk in front of me and seat himself nearby. A part of me wanted to click a quick selfie, another part did not want him to give the wrong impression. While the host made his brief about Inferno, the film, the book, the author, the movie, and Irrfan, I started my small talk with the actor, addressed him as Mr Khan and introduced myself but instead of mentioning my name, I told him the media house I work for.
"Arey please mujhe Irrfan boliye...also aapka naam to 'media house' nahin hain na (Oh please call me Irrfan, also I'm sure your name is not 'media house')," he laughed.
A few candid conversations later I realised, Irrfan is not a serious man which his films have made him out to be. He was calm yet vibrant. He had a packed schedule for the day. Post the event, he had to catch a plane to Florence. Yet the immediacy never showed in him. After a short session of ice-breaking, he managed to end the conversation on a good note, leaving me with a real memory about a conversation with him, (which I never wanted to use as an obituary).
By the time he walked on stage, there were still lesser people in the audience, but that did not bother him. He had been the classic underdog of the Hindi film industry whose reach had extended to the ace directors of Hollywood, so the joke was actually on the Indian media, who failed to show up at the event. (It's as if he secretly knew that and chuckled.)
The team had organised a press conference in Delhi to talk about the growing potential of the Indian market, due to which the Hollywood producers had decided to release Inferno two weeks ahead of the US date of release.
"I think it is growing very rapidly and Indian films are being affected by it. In other countries too Hollywood has captured a good market. In a way it is a challenge for the Indian film industry, we have to pull our socks up and it is becoming bigger and bigger every week," Irrfan had told me when we formally started the interview. He even went to the extent of cracking PJs such as naming the Hindi version of Inferno as 'Irrfan Oh!'.
The ordinariness which Irrfan portrayed on screen wasn't an act. It was him all along. He cracked PJs, laughed casually and also patiently observed every character around him. That's why he wasn't just a character who's relation with human ended in the theatres. He also managed to sublimate and come home with us.