Phone Call…

There are friends who like to stay in touch with you. There are those who believe in the adage that if you really are close, then the act of staying in touch doesn’t matter, you will be back to the same level of emotional bonding that you have always shared. Then, there are those that you tend to call up because the conversations are gems and you want to experience them as often as possible. Normally, this is also initiated from your end, the other person happy in the idea that you will be the one taking care of staying in touch and if the reverse happens, it does end up being the cause of great curiosity.

So, it was almost an occasion when Sushant called me up this morning. He firmly belongs to the last category of the three that I have mentioned in the beginning. Phone calls from him are rare, but chats with him are the kind that you can only have with your friends, uninhibited and exhilarating. Sushant is also an extremely interesting individual. A genuine film connoisseur, his understanding and knowledge of the medium is deep and studied. Not only that, but he also has considerable writing skills, which, embellished with a penchant for satire, belie his tall and brooding exterior. However, today was different. Today, the phone call was not from a friend, today the call was made by a fan of cinema who was shaken by the demise of Irrfan.

Sahabzade Irfan Ali Khan died today, the 29th of April, 2020 after a prolonged battle with cancer. The fact that his death is affecting people at such a deeply personal level is a sign of how much the man has meant to moviegoers. For our age group, this has been a journey, from the days of 80s Doordarshan to Chandrakanta, right up to sharing screen space (and dare I say overshadowing) superstars in Piku. There have been a bunch of stellar performances on the way; Maqbool, Lunchbox, Haider, Pan Singh Tomar; just to name a few. He was also active in Hollywood with movies like Jurassic World, Spiderman, Life of Pi and so on. The resume is rather impressive. However, this level of attachment for a man has to be something more, something that goes beyond the tangible.

One of the hallmarks of his acting was the ease with which he essayed his roles. There was an almost languid tranquillity with which he would mould himself into the character; showing mastery of his craft to such an extent that you would think that it just wasn’t there. Humans have a tendency to appreciate those practitioners who make things look relaxed and uncomplicated. Look at the world of sports, players who seem to play with “ease” have always been more endeared. Rohit Sharma, Roger Federer, VVS Laxman, Mohammad Azharuddin are some of the names that immediately come to mind. There command over what they do, is just beyond what others can, and no, I am not talking about results and numbers, it is that intangible which turns their craft into something that is created with imagination and skill and is beautiful. And anything that involves imagination will invariably tug at hearts. No wonder, today on twitter all the top 10 trending topics in India were connected to his death.

Anyway, the call with Sushant ended. It also contained a very sincere acceptance of getting overwhelmed from his side. As a lover of cinema, it was natural for him to be affected, losing one of the brightest stars in its sky. Here was my friend of years and years, opening up to me because a man had been the source of boundless amounts of joy and had left his impression burnished all over his soul. After the call, I played the album Piku on iTunes. Anupam Roy’s music and lyrics carried a different weight today.

“Jheeni Jheeni in Saanson se
Pehchani si aawazon me
Goonjan hai aaj aasman
Kaise hum bezubaan..”

There is indeed a sense of poignancy around. Irrfan was supposed to be a child who spoke very less. I guess that is why his eyes said so much. When I was listening to the songs from Piku, all I could think of was that gaze with which the actor would regale us with his stories.
Anyway, he has left us. I can only end with these lines from Helen Keller
“What we have once enjoyed deeply we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.”

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