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Without Make Up: Mahesh Bhatt pays tribute to Irrfan Khan !

A special tribute to Irrfan written by filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt for CineBlitz May special issue. Take a Read !



29thApril 11.34 am. Two words ‘Irrfan gone’ leap out of my smart phone and hit me like a tonne of bricks. 

There’s an end and there is an ending to that end but when the end arrives it leaves one shattered. Though Irrfan Khan was suffering from cancer and was being treated by the best of the best doctors available in the world, the truth is that a feeling of a sudden end hovered over the heads of his family and friends. But hope is Mother Nature’s best pain killer. As they say, man lives in hope and dies in hope. Alas, with that message it was clear to me that life had lost in the race with death.

As minutes melted into hours and hours into days, I found myself drowning in a sea of memories. Sounds, smells and images of bygone days began to flicker in the inner auditorium of my heart. 

I was hurled into that enchanting evening where I first met Irfan Khan. The sun had set but it’s afterglow made everything in Writer-Director Vinta Nanda’s flat sparkle. Since there was a power failure,Vinta was arming herself to deal with the fast deepening darkness by filling every corner of her modest abode with candle light. I felt as if I had walked into a Chapel. What actually contributed to this feeling was the explosive presence and the eloquent silence of Irrfan Khan. The story was that Irrfan, knowing that I was coming to meet Vinta,had requested her to engineer a meeting with me without making it too obvious. 

“I will just pretend as if I have dropped in to see you. You can introduce me to him… thereafter let’s see where things go.”

Though nothing substantial transpired between us that evening, the truth is the after taste of that silence which I had experienced in our first evening became the bed rock on which we forged a long personal and professional relationship. And then years later one evening when I was driving to my farmhouse in Kalote, I got a call from Irrfan. In his usual light-hearted manner Irrfan asked me if I knew any doctor of repute who could help him get an accurate prognosis of a very rare kind of cancer for someone close in his family. Don’t ask me how but when I put the phone down my heart told me that the relative he was talking about was none other than himself.

Hours later when I spoke to my Doctor friend he simply said, “I see no hope Sir. You should help him and his family to brace themselves for the worst. I have also informed his wife about how grim things are. The chances of his recovery seem bleak.”

A few days later Sutapa called me and asked me to come over to meet Irrfan. By now the industry was buzzing with the news of how serious his condition was. It was a quiet afternoon when, with a heavy heart, I rang the doorbell of his plush apartment. When the door swung open, a sombre-looking domestic help without meeting my eyes led me in.

Hardly had I taken a step or two when I saw a frail Irrfan emerge from his bedroom heading to greet me, wearing a weak smile. It takes courage to look into the eyes of a friend who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. 

Looking into his eyes was like staring at the blazing sun. I blinked and then averting my gaze began singing ‘

 Mainey dil se kaha dhundla nakhush inaasa majhlaaya ghum to yeh ghum hi sahi..  

My singing made Irrfan’s pale, weak smile bloom. Memories of ‘Rog’ the film which was produced by Pooja Bhatt in which he starred as a leading man for the first time coursed through our hearts. Holding my hand he led me to a corner. Even before we settled, Sutapa emerged and joined us with heart-breaking warmth.

“Irrfan, the taste of death intensifies ones’ passion for life. I have no words to offer you… but I urge you with my entire being not to postpone living anymore. Do whatever your heart has pined for, longed for with audacity, because who else better than you know that none of us are assured a tomorrow. The doctors will do what they have to do to fight this dreadful disease. Thank god you have the means to afford the best treatment, but just live…” I said. Even before I had concluded what I had to say he interrupted me and said something I will never forget. 

“Bhatt Saab it’s very strange, ever since I’ve come to know how serious things are I find that everything that was unimportant has withered and just dropped out of my life. There are times when I am invaded by the kind of peace I have never known in my entire life.” His words had the authority which emanates from a life lived. We sat down for a while conversing but all that I retain of that unusual man whom I had met in that candle-lit dusk many summers ago is the warmth of his hand and the glow of his smile.

The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. Thank you life for gifting me Irrfan.

(This is an excerpt from our special May issue on Rishi Kapoor and Irrfan Khan. Please click on this link to read more)

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