Neeraj Kabi, who worked with Irrfan Khan in the 2015 film Talvar, says the late actor was the only one in contemporary Indian cinema who truly represented actors of the country in the global scene.
"Even before I worked with Irrfan in 'Talvar', I was a huge admirer of his work because he was one of the actors who set his journey with great quality, variety and a huge knowledge of the craft of acting. That is why, even though he was just a year senior to me age-wise, I felt like he was so senior as an actor with his skill, with his craft!" Neeraj told IANS.
Neeraj's film Ship Of Theseus earned international acclaim in 2013, and The Lunchbox starring Irrfan also released around that time. Neeraj counts The Lunchbox among his favourite Irrfan films along with Paan Singh Tomar, Maqbool and 7 Khoon Maaf.
"I remember watching ‘The Lunchbox' that released around the same time ‘Ship Of Theseus'. Both films found space in the independent cinema circuit. But at a personal level, ‘The Lunchbox' is one of the favourite films. In that film, Irrfan was at his best with the craft!" Neeraj said.
He added: "I think in contemporary times, Irrfan is the only actor who truly represents Indian actors to the world. Of course, from the past we have icons like Om Puri, Naseer saab (Naseeruddin Shah), Pankaj Kapur, Dr Sriram Lagoo but they are our seniors. I am not talking about them, they are the previous generation. In contemporary times, he is… I mean, he was the one. It really is hard to believe that he is no more."
Neeraj also recalled how Irrfan showed respect to his fellow actors. "In ‘Talvar', my character loses his daughter and it was quite an intense role. I had to concentrate and I would request all the unit members to stay silent before the take. I remember, even though he was such a huge actor, he just hushed down his voice from the moment I entered. He needn't have, but you know that is how an actor shows respect and give space to another actor. The interrogation scene got over, we heard ‘cut', and Irrfan shook hands. We exchanged a smile and he left. Of course, later we interacted but that one moment, one silence, one smile said a lot about his generous nature as an artist," recalled Neeraj.
What was his first reaction when he learnt about the demise of Irrfan on April 29? "Honestly, though we did a film together, I never knew him personally as a close friend. We shared an equation that usually two co-actors share. But when the news came out, it hit me so badly, (it was) almost like a personal loss. I couldn't control my tears because he was an artist who engaged with people without knowing them!" Neeraj signed off.
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