“I can do anything. Main kuch bhi kar sakta hoon“.
The self-delivered dialogue perhaps best describes the talents of Bollywood actor Irrfan Khan, who passed away in Mumbai on April 29 at the age of 53 after being admitted to Mumbai’s Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital on Tuesday, where he was under observation for colon infection.
The actor, best known for his intense eyes and widely protean oeuvre of films, was a master of versatility. From drama to noir to comedy, the veteran actor often traversed across genres and was not afraid to experiment. (Think Maqbool to Lunchbox, Life of Pi to Piku.) His talents won him fans not just in India but even abroad, making him one of Tinseltown’s Hollywood’s represent.
But, perhaps, the best part about the actor was his ability to self-deprecate, a true testament to his humility and a building block to his iridescent wit.
One of the best examples of this side of Khan came to the fore in 2015 when the Namesake actor appeared in a series of spoof-sketches on YouTube with then internet sensations AIB. One of them, titled “Every Bollywood Party Song", found him taking on the Bollywood song and dance industry and deftly pointing how it glorified the objectification of women, sex and money.
While many actors worth their shot would think twice before appearing in an alternate medium to spoof the industry they work in while making of fun of self, Khan wasn’t one of them.
And while the song itself was a hard-hitting hit with teenagers and “Millenials", the best part about it today seems like the three-minute skit at the beginning of the song in which he also spoofs AIB. In the skit, Khan who appeared as himself was seen rejecting offers from “Christie" (Christopher Nolan).
When a team from AIB (who also played themselves) arrived to discuss future collaboration and ask him what he could do, pat came the reply. “Main kya kar sakta hoon? Kuch bhi kar sakta hoon. I can do anything. I don’t want to brag about myself but I CAN DO ANYTHING" Khan said.
He went on to add that it was called “Swag", a word he had allegedly heard at Cannes.
Not wanting to “brag" about himself, Khan went on to remind people of the time he played India’s gritty version of Macbeth. “There was a movie I once did called Maqbool. After watching it, I swear, Shakespeare himself called me up and said, ‘Irrfan you nailed it," he said.
The Padma Shri winning actor who has received a lifetime’s worth of accolades for his iconic roles was not afraid to joke about the tepid reception independent and mature films like Lunchbox received as opposed to the crores that films with “party songs" made.
He was also, perhaps, one of the first actors who took to millennial pop culture which solidified him even further as an actor confident of his universality and talent. The second video he did with AIB in which he himself dressed as some popular memes would serve as a reminder of Khan’s self-deprecating yet powerful brand of humour.
On this day, here’s remembering the spunk and wit of Irrfan Khan, the actor who could do anything.
(This story was originally published on April 29, 2020)