Irrfan Khan was a wonderful, spiritual human being: Director Asif Kapadia

screenmixMay 28, 2021

Two years after the actor’s death and two decades after they first worked together, Oscar-winning director Asif Kapadia says he is still coming to terms with the fact that Irrfan Khan is no more. Working with Irrfan on the 2001 film The Warrior, his first international project, was the beginning of an amazing journey, said Kapadia. The third person on the ride was Monsoon Shootout director Amit Kumar.

“That relationship with Irrfan and Amit is like this very strong triangle that kind of formed us, that we went on this amazing journey together. We all remained friends,” Kapadia told in a Zoom interview from London.

“The last time I was in Bombay, Amit and I went to see Irrfan. We have not come to terms with it. It’s also strange because I haven’t been able to travel really since all of this happened last year,” Kapadia, best known for his documentaries Senna, Amy and Diego Maradona, said.

The director, whose 2015 documentary Amy on singer Amy Winehouse won the best documentary feature, Oscar, said he and Kumar miss Irrfan every day.

Irrfan, one of the first actors from India to have made significant strides in international cinema with films such as The Namesake, Slumdog Millionaire and Life of Pi, died in April last year following a two-year battle with a neuroendocrine tumor, a rare form of cancer. He was 54. In The Warrior, the film that brought Irrfan to the attention of the international film community, the actor played a warrior who goes through a spiritual transformation.
Kapadia said Irrfan was and continues to be special for him.

“We miss him, and he was amazing and he was special and we must not forget Irrfan, not just for the work that he did, but he was a good guy, he never changed. He was always like this wonderful, spiritual human being,” the 49-year-old director said.

Kumar, whose one of the OTT projects has been executive produced by Kapadia, recalled Irrfan as being a person with a “certain kind of aura”.

“For me, he was such a warm person. It’s interesting that Asif used the word spiritual to describe Irrfan because there was a certain kind of aura around him. There was more than just his physical being, you felt that there’s something very special in him,” the Mumbai-based director said in the same interview.

He added that he and Kapadia traveled around the country for two or three months while preparing and researching for The Warrior. That’s how he came up with the idea for his critically-acclaimed 2003 short film Bypass, which featured Irrfan Khan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui.

The actors later went on to work together in The Lunchbox.

Describing the coming together of Irrfan, Siddiqui, and Kapadia for Bypass as ‘magical realignment of destiny’, Kumar said working with the actor on the film is a memory close to his heart.

“I had worked with Asif on The Warrior and I could see everything that Irrfan was doing in that. I thought, ‘I really need to try and work with him’, and then Bypass happened,” Kumar said.