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  • Irrfan Khan, ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ and ‘Life of Pi’ actor, dies at 54.

  • Irrfan Khan, one of India’s best-known and most beloved actor.
  • In 2018, the actor revealed he had an endocrine tumour, a rare cancer.
  • In 2013, he won India’s National Film Award for his leading role in Paan Singh Toma

(CNB News) – Bollywood star Irrfan Khan, known internationally for his roles in “Life Of Pi” and “Slumdog Millionaire,” died Wednesday, his representatives confirmed. He was 53.

“It’s saddening that this day, we have to bring forward the news of him passing away,” read a statement from Khan’s PR agency, Hardly Anonymous Communications. “Irrfan was a strong soul, someone who fought till the very end and always inspired everyone who came close to him.”

Khan, one of India’s best-known and most beloved actors, revealed in March 2018 that he had been diagnosed with a rare neuroendocrine tumor — an abnormal growth that begin in the body’s specialized neuroendocrine cells, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Earlier this week, Khan was admitted to the ICU in Mumbai’s Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital due to a colon infection, according to his PR agency.
Khan’s mother died last week, but Khan was unable to attend her last rites owing to India’s ongoing nationwide coronavirus lockdown restricting citizens’ movements, the agency said.

In 2013, he won India’s National Film Award for his leading role in Paan Singh Tomar, a biopic about a top athlete who becomes a bandit.

Other Bollywood hits he acted in included Lunchbox and Hindi Medium. His latest, Angrezi Medium, was released just last month. His international breakthrough came in the British-Indian film The Warrior by director Asif Kapadia which won a Bafta.

It was also shortlisted for the UK’s official entry for the Academy Awards but had to be dropped on the technicality that Hindi was not a language indigenous to Britain. The critical success of The Warrior launched his film career and for the next two decades he would make as many as five or six movies a year.

He kept in touch with Mira Nair – who had spotted his talent at drama school but cut him from Salaam Bombay. They would go on to make The Namesake in 2006 and New York, I Love You in 2010. Michael Winterbottom cast him as a Pakistani police captain in A Mighty Heart and Wes Anderson wrote a small role for him in The Darjeeling Limited – just so he could work with him.

Two months after Khan went public with his diagnosis, he wrote an open letter about his experience with the cancer treatment, reflecting on the “intensity” of his pain and the “uncertainty” of life.

It drew a massive outpouring of support from his fans around the world.

Early life

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.

Irrfan Khan, seen here in Sahib Biwi Aur Gangster, starred in dozens of Indian films
“No-one could have imagined I would be an actor, I was so shy. So thin. But the desire was so intense.”

In 1984, he applied for a scholarship to the National School of Drama in Delhi. He lied about his previous experience in the theatre and got in.

“I thought I would suffocate if I didn’t get admission,” he told one interviewer.

It was at drama school that he also met his future wife – the writer Sutapa Sikdar.

“He was always focused. I remember when he would come home, he would head straight for the bedroom, sit on the floor, and read books. The rest of us would be hanging around gossiping,” she recalled.

Illness

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.

“God speaks to each of us as he makes us, then walks with us silently out of the night.”

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