I have never been more devastated by a loss of a public personality as I have been with Irrfan’s. I have been in a zone where I have watched one of his worst films, gone through the interviews, talked about him to friends, been close to tears, and started resembling a man whom I would otherwise pity and put my hands on his shoulders to say ‘it’s okay’. I know it isn’t though. Irrfan isn’t going to be here again. So I bought this book immediately, I wanted a hard cover but the lockdown prevented that. Kindle is a dream, but more about that some other day.
There’s some honest confession about this book. Aseem Chhabra never met Irrfan to interview him for the book. He went to people around his characters, his life, his drama days, among others. In fact there’s no member of his family interviewed. Apparently, he wanted, but Irrfan had been unavailable. He was also not keen to have the book written, and was wary of the content. He had rejected several offers earlier, but thankfully, he said yes this time. Otherwise the world of cinema would have been much poorer.
You don’t teach,
And then take away,
Leaving little few.
But it isn’t you,
You always struggled,
And that made you
Honestly, even here, he has given us all a dream. Irrfan’s life is a dream. Aseem narrates how beautifully he had fooled the people who interviewed him for NSD, included Mohan Maharishi, school’s director from 1984-86, when Irrfan took admission. He was not qualified, and he lied about working in theatre after NSD. His heart lay in films.
‘They must have liked something in me,’ Irrfan later told actor Anupam Kher. ‘I had so much sincerity and honesty and desire to learn. I had even lied to them about what I would do after graduation. I would do theatre, although I only wanted to act in films.’ Mohan later told, addressing Irrfan, ‘You told a beautiful lie and said it so convincingly. And now you are living the life you wanted so well.
The book isn’t complete in itself. Aseem has quoted each of the sources he has used to combine the film. So, everyone is free to read the extra interviews, the extra videos, everything that has been put forth so beautifully that it might take a long time to take in everything. In essence, it is an ecyclopoedia on Irrfan, opening up to further research topics. Those who want to go through it, like me, can keep themselves immersed in the text.
You also get to know about the various works of Irrfan that aren’t mainstream and not in the public. You realize how Irrfan’s beliefs progressed, and he was a very intimate person. The people interviewed for the book include Naseeruddin Shah, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Ang Lee, Sudhir Mishra, Mira Nair, Govind Nihlani, Konkona Sen Sharma, Ratna Pathak Shah, Vipin Sharma, Shoojit Sircar, Tillotama Shome, Nikkhil Advani, Manoj Bajpai, Vasan Bala, Ritesh Batra, Tanmay Bhat, Pooja Bhatt, Mahesh Bhatt, Avinash Arjun, Ram Gopal Bajaj, Mostafa Sarwar Farooki, Varun Gautam, Meghna Gulzar, Barry John, Asif Kapadiya, Shailja Kejriwal, Jai Khanna, Amit Kumar, Ashvin Kumar, Zeenat Lakhani, late Antony Minghella, Bharat Sharma, Anup Singh, Sooni Taraporewala, Suparn Verma, and Mita Vashisht. Going by the list, you can gauge how much information you can sustain.
In the end, it becomes hard to come to terms with the loss of Irrfan, so I’ll leave you with words of my poetry again,
Life hasn’t been kind,
The problem is the dreams,
Yet dreams made you.
Now this, the void,
The word of the day, and the world,