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From 'Slumdog Millionaire' to 'Piku': Irrfan Khan's top 10 performances

Anamika Chatterjee

Published on April 29, 2020 at 13.50

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The legendary Bollywood actor may be no more, but his legacy lives through his films. We pick 10 of his finest outings.
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1. Maqbool

A film that catapulted Irrfan to the top league. An adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the Vishal Bharadwaj film saw Irrfan essay the role of a right-hand man of a don. As Maqbool, Irrfan internalised the modern-day Macbeth’s dilemmas of guilt and lust for power. The film may not have done well at the box office, but remains one of Bharadwaj and Irrfan’s finest works.
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2. Paan Singh Tomar

Irrfan was nearly invincible in his portrayal of Paan Singh Tomar. The role of a man who went on from being an Indian Army soldier to an athlete to a bandit offered him a scale to showcase his range and versatility as an actor.
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3. The Lunchbox

By the time Irrfan played Saajan Fernandes in The Lunchbox, he had carved a niche for roles that characterised him as abrasive. This was a major shift from that image. As a quiet, middle-aged widower falling in love all over again, Irrfan was measured and restrained, proving yet again that when it comes to acting, he could be a shapeshifte
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4. Talvaar

The Aarushi Talwar murder case remains one of the most controversial and contentious ones in recent times. Inspired by its events, the Meghana Gulzar film examined several possibilities, while refusing to take a definite stand on the matter. Irrfan’s presence in the film based on a plot that has multiple vantage points was indeed reassuring. He played an investigator, who points to the holes in the police investigation that charge the parents of the murdered teenager for the crime.
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5. The Namesake

Easily one of his finest performances in an English-language film! Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake revolves around the angst and dilution of identities experienced by Indian immigrants when they come into contact with another culture in another country. As Ashoke Ganguli, a first-generation immigrant to the United States, Irrfan was once again restrained, and effortlessly gave his character the many layers it truly deserved
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6. Piku

Think Piku, and you will realise that it is a story that revolves around a father-daughter relationship. Irrfan’s role holds a mirror to both of them and points to the self-centredness in closest bonds. Irrfan blended humour with candour in order to make Rana Chaudhary come across as the voice of sanity.
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7. Haider

A great actor can leave a profound impact even in a small role. Irrfan has proven this time and again. As Roohdaar, member of a separatist group in Kashmir, Irrfan embodied the cynicism, anger and foresight of a man aware of the cruel realities of his world.
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8. Hindi Medium

By the time he came to Hindi Medium, an Irrfan Khan film had become a genre in itself in Bollywood. His characteristic wit and comic timing in the film, which revolved around a couple’s struggle to get their daughter admitted to an English-medium school, was the USP of the film.
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9. Slumdog Millionaire

Having bagged several Oscar trophies, Slumdog Millionaire went on to become a film that examined class differences and poverty in India. Irrfan’s brief role as a police inspector listening to Jamal’s story was one of the few empathetic characters Danny Boyle could afford to the plot. Thankfully, a nuanced portrayal helped him shine in this one too.
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10. Qarib Qarib Singlle

Playing a chirpy and cheerful poet, he was pretty much in his comfort zone in the film. Just that by then, watching Irrfan in these obvious roles continued to be a treat for audiences and fans. anamika@khaleejtimes.com
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