Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - Brunch

Back to life, or something like it

The only way director Anup Singh could come to terms with the passing of actor Irrfan Khan was by writing a book about the man who had been his muse

- By Dinesh Raheja

Director Anup Singh’s book, Irrfan: Dialogues with The Wind ,isan impression­istic narrative based on his interactio­ns with the internatio­nally acclaimed actor, Irrfan Khan.

Coming to terms with his grief over Irrfan’s death proved difficult for 60-year-old Anup, who had forged a close bond with the actor while directing him in two lauded films, Qissa and The Song of Scorpions. But this emotional turmoil eventually led to Singh penning a book on the actor.

“Initially, I tried very hard to block out Irrfan’s passing and not think about it, it was just too painful,” Singh reminisces. “But I was flooded with memories. I would be in a car with my wife and a gentle curve on the road would make me think of one of Irrfan’s gestures. Sometimes, when I closed the door of my house at night, it would make a bass creak… and it would remind me of the sound of Irrfan’s voice.”

While this sense of Irrfan’s continued presence in his life consoled Anup, it also made him question its import. “I realised that perhaps he was there because there was a sense of something incomplete in our work. We had been planning at least five or six more films together. That is why I started writing the book.”

Rhythm returned

“Irrfan was my muse,” Anup says emotionall­y. “We were supposed to do another film together but I’ve just put the script aside because I don’t know whom to cast. In the last months before he passed away, we communicat­ed regularly, and Irrfan, generous as always, would push me, ‘Why don’t you think of this actor or that? He would be good’.”

Singh admires the resilience his friend showed in his final days. He reveals, “Irrfan approached his ailment not with questions like, ‘Why did this happen to me? Why am I in so much pain?’ His question was: ‘What is this? What does it tell me about life, about my body? And how does it change my relationsh­ip with other people?’ One of Irrfan’s defining characteri­stics was his curiosity. He could look at a pebble for half an hour. But at the end, and I write about it in my book also, he did have a sense of loss, of desolation. Because he felt that he had not been

The Song Of Scorpions given the answer he was looking for. He felt that there was much more he needed to learn.”

For Singh, penning the book has been cathartic. “It made me very happy. I felt Irrfan and I had done another film together. While writing, I could see him working with me. Every dialogue that I put down, I remembered his tone. For Irrfan, both life and performanc­e had a lot to do with rhythm and he worked very hard to find the right rhythm. I hope that the language of the book, the lilt, the poetry of it which comes from Irrfan, will also enter the reader. That is what I would like to celebrate about Irrfan—his sense of rhythm, his joy in life.”

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Dinesh Raheja is a reputed film historian, columnist and TV scriptwrit­er who has been writing on cinema for over three decades

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