A veteran of nearly 80 films, he almost gave up acting in his 30s – after an unrewarding decade in TV soaps. Khan lacked the looks for a traditional Bollywood romantic lead but made his name as a character actor in Hindi cinema and in Hollywood productions like Life of Pi, Slumdog Millionaire and Jurassic World.
Deeply introspective and philosophical in nature, Khan would speak candidly and often controversially about both his Muslim religion and the film industries in which he worked. “I always object to the word Bollywood,” he once told the Guardian. “That industry has its own technique that… has nothing to do with aping Hollywood. It originates in Parsi theatre.
“Hollywood is too planned. India has no planning at all. It’s more spontaneous and informal. India could be more formal and Hollywood more spontaneous.” In truth, few actors can claim to have mastered both genres as well as Irrfan Khan. In 2018, he was diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumours – which affects cells that release hormones into the bloodstream. In a tweet quoting Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone With The Wind, he greeted the news philosophically.
“Life is under no obligation to give us what we expect,” he said. He sought treatment for his condition in London and posted a poem to his followers on Instagram suggesting his religion was playing an important role in coming to terms with the disease.