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At National School of Drama, We Were Mesmerised By the Persona of Irrfan Khan: Vani Tripathi Tikoo


Last Updated: May 02, 2020, 23:18 IST

Images: Twitter

Images: Twitter

Vani Tripathi Tikoo reminisces Irrfan Khan's performances at the National School of Drama as well as the time she spent with him while working on several TV shows.

Vani Tripathi Tikoo, former BJP national secretary, knew Irrfan Khan from his days at the National School of Drama (NSD) in Delhi and looked up to him as a senior theatre person. As the news of his demise broke, the actress-politician was flooded with memories of watching Irrfan deliver brilliant stage performances at NSD, as well as the time she spent on the sets of TV series they acted in together.

Excerpts from her tribute to Irrfan:

"It's an absolutely devastating piece of news. We theatre people and those who are connected to the National School of Drama were closely watching his recovery. After Angrezi Medium released last month we were hoping that Irrfan would bounce back.

I am totally inundated with memories, which go back to the late '90s. I remember the first time I had gone to Mumbai to perform in a German play at the Prithvi theatre. Irrfan came to watch the play with some more batchmates and they waited for me to finish backstage and come out. I was so taken aback because even at the NSD we were completely mesmerized by the persona of Irrfan. Not just as a senior theatre person, we looked up to him as an actor who taught us so much.

I have also had the privilege of working with him in a TV series when I moved to Mumbai. There's so much he taught me. Between speaking dialogues and having normal conversations with me, it was all so natural. Whether the camera was on or off, Irrfan was Irrfan. And I think that defines the great talent of Irrfan Khan, that you could not disassociate the natural quality. Whatever role he did, he became those people.

The Mumbai film industry did not know what it meant to deliver dialogues without shouting. In theatre everything is so larger than life, you tend to project your voice. But even when he was a student at NSD, you never saw Irrfan scream or shout on stage. If somebody really knew the minutest nuance of speaking a dialogue, it was Irrfan.

We went on to do a lot of television work later and on one of the shoots I had asked him why he wasn't doing films. His first reply was, 'I'm not exactly 20 years old Vani. I had shifted to Mumbai at a time when most people say that they are past their 'hero' age.' The second thing he said was, 'Who's going to run my kitchen, who’s going to feed my family?'

When we look back today, he broke every possible rule in the rulebook. When Lunchbox came, it was screened at the Cannes Film Festival. He broke the mainstream commercial idiom of what it meant to be the lead actor. What it means to be the protagonist in a film, not just a hero or an anti-hero, he brought that to commercial cinema.

Some years ago he starred in a film called Qarib Qarib Singlle. At 50+, you saw him star in a film which was like romantic comedy, and it wasn't one of those film where you saw an ageing man dating an 17-year-old. It was so heartwarming and funny.

His journey also belongs to the people who have learned from him, and I am one of those persons. I had not seen him in a while, ever since he went to London, but I always used to ask people who were in touch with him. Each project of his was like a leap forward, almost like a masterclass of great acting. The coming generations will also learn the craft of acting by seeing Irrfan on screen."
first published:April 29, 2020, 15:55 IST
last updated:May 02, 2020, 23:18 IST