Irrfan Khan is dead at 53. He acted in 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.
He was born Sahabzada Irfan Ali Khan on 7 January, 1967 in the Rajasthan village of Tonk.
His mother’s family had a royal lineage and his father was a wealthy, self-made businessman who owned a tyre business.
Khan dropped the “Sahabzada” from his name as it pointed to his family’s privileged past – he felt this would get in the way. He also changed his name from “Irfan” to “Irrfan” – not for any noble motive – but simply because he preferred the way it sounds.
When his father died, he side-stepped expectations he would go into the tyre business. He was determined to become an actor, although it was not a future his family and friends could easily foresee.
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.