Irrfan Khan, Bollywood Star Who Crossed Over to Hollywood, Dies at 53
The actor was comfortable in mainstream and art-house roles. His films include “The Namesake,” “Life of Pi” and “Inferno.”
NEW DELHI — Irrfan Khan, the celebrated Indian actor who became a crossover star in Hollywood, died on Wednesday in a Mumbai hospital. He was 53.
Mr. Khan’s death was confirmed by a spokesman for the actor. He had cancer and was admitted to the hospital for a colon infection last week.
Mr. Khan started his career playing small roles on Indian television in the 1980s. He found critical and commercial success later in life, with roles in movies like “Slumdog Millionaire,” “Life of Pi” and “The Namesake.” In India, he is best known for his performances in “Maqbool,” “Haasil,” “Paan Singh Tomar,” “Piku,” “The Lunchbox” and “Hindi Medium.”
He was at home in commercial and art-house projects, and stood out in Bollywood for his versatile roles and nuanced performances. He first gained the notice of international audiences in the BAFTA-winning film “The Warrior” released in 2001. In the film, he played the lead role of a renegade warrior in feudal India.
He also appeared in blockbusters like “Jurassic World” (2015), and the screen adaptation of Dan Brown’s “Inferno” (2016).
Mr. Khan’s performance as an investigator of a double homicide in the 2015 Hindi movie “Talvar” prompted a Times critic, Rachel Saltz, to write: “Mr. Khan is this movie’s best weapon. Playing a familiar character type, the world-weary detective, he gives a performance, full of small, sly details, that doesn’t seem familiar at all.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote on Twitter: “Irrfan Khan’s demise is a loss to the world of cinema and theatre. He will be remembered for his versatile performances across different mediums.”
Irrfan Khan was born Sahabzade Irfan Ali Khan on Jan. 7 1967, to Saeeda Begum and Yaseen Khan, a middle-class couple in Rajasthan, India. He was one of four children, and described his childhood as a happy one of kite flying, cricket playing and hunting trips with his father.
His father died when Mr. Khan was 18, and he said his mother hoped that he would carry on with the family business and stay close to home. But Mr. Khan had other plans.
He won a coveted spot in the theater program of the prestigious National School of Drama in New Delhi and never looked back.
In March 2018, he was told he had a rare neuroendocrine tumor and spent several months in London undergoing treatment. He disclosed the news of his illness via a statement on Twitter shortly after his diagnosis.
Mr. Khan appeared to have recovered from the cancer and started shooting his last film, “Angrezi Medium,” in 2019, a sequel to his 2017 hit “Hindi Medium. The film was released last month, shortly before the coronavirus lockdown started in India, but Mr. Khan was not part of the promotions for the film.
His wife, Sutapa Sikdar, and their two sons survive him.
In a message released with the film’s trailer, the actor said, “I truly wanted to promote this film as passionately as we made it, but there are some ‘unwanted guests’ in my body and they’re keeping me busy. I’ll keep you informed on that front.”