Veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah has written a piece on Irrfan Khan, who died in a Mumbai hospital earlier this week after being diagnosed with a neuroendocrine tumour. The two actors have worked together in critically acclaimed films including Vishal Bhardwaj's Maqbool and 7 Khoon Maaf.
Naseeruddin wrote for The Hindu, "I never detected an iota of self doubt in the man, either as an actor or as a person and his willingness to repose trust in people, not to mention the intelligence that shone through in every thing he did, coupled with an almost feral magnetism gave his persona a tenderness, a quiet menace and a unique enigma that was the envy of many less hard-working actors who attribute success to God's benevolence or inborn talent or good luck, none of which in my opinion made Irrfan what he was."
"The laid-back comfort in front of the camera for which he is acclaimed certainly didn't come easily. Not only were there years of thought and practice behind it, but also an uncanny understanding of what communicates in performance, and how and to what degree. I feel absolutely no embarrassment, in confessing that I greatly envied his acting chops. And after witnessing something he had done often wished I could turn back the clock, and go over some of my old performances with the benefit of the hindsight and the understanding of acting that was his gift to all us lesser actors. Watching him, I could not hold back an untrammeled admiration, that at his age he seemed to have fully grasped the technique of acting, yet stayed hungry to learn more. This admiration of course, would turn to wonder at the way he kept his work process so totally invisible, that it was impossible to understand exactly how he did, what he did," he added.
Irrfan has often said that one of his toughest roles was the one that he played in American TV series In Treatment. He essayed the role of a widowed man struggling to come to terms with his loss of his wife. In his biography of Irrfan, journalist Aseem Chhabra had quoted Naseeruddin Shah as saying, "Irrfan called and said, 'Mere char-char page ke dialogues hain (in In Treatment). Kaise memorize karoonga? Aap kaise yaad karte ho?' Maine kaha, "Bhaiya time kitna hai aapke pass?' He said, 'Ek raat hai.' 'Phir to yeh raat to gayee tumharee. Sona wona bhool jao. Raat bhar baith kar yaad karo. Koi aur tareeka nahi hai. Koi jadoo ki pudiya nahi hai mere pass. Main hazaar dafa padhta hoon tab yaad hota hai. Is raat jitni baar padh sako padh lo. ("Irrfan called and said, 'I have 4 pages of dialogues. How do I memorise them? How do you memorise such long dialogues?' I asked him, 'How much time do you have?' He said, 'Only one night.' Then this night is gone. Forget about going to sleep. Sit up the whole night and memorise it. There is no other way. I don't have any magic trick. I read dialogues one thousand times, only then I am able to memorise them. So tonight try and read the dialogues as many times as you can.) And he delivered. He's very good in the show."
About Irrfan, The Lunchbox co-star Nawazuddin Siddiqui also tweeted, "In the year 2000 a film directed by #IrrfanKhan named ALVIDA starred me & I was lucky 2 have my mentor as my co-star in many films. No 1 will ever be able 2 fill his space in d entire world of cinema. Never thought in d worst of my dreams, that will have 2 say "ALVIDA" so soon RIP #IrrfanKhan."