In a conversation a few years before his passing, Irrfan had revealed, “I’d get calls on the wrong day. That was very annoying. That doesn’t mean I’m against birthday celebrations. In fact, I am going to have a party for the first time this year for my birthday. I am waiting for my friends from abroad to arrive. I was working on my birthday. To me, that’s the best way to celebrate. For years, I waited for the right roles. Now when they’re coming to me, I feel privileged, blessed, relieved and liberated.”
Irrfan was very happy during his birthday in 2016. He had two hits to his credit and he was in the mood for celebration. “Last year was very satisfying for me. Piku and Talvar got me tremendous praise. So, I’d say this birthday, I feel very fulfilled. I rarely feel like celebrating any occasion. But this time I am in that mood.”
And just when Irrfan had begun to enjoy his success, God had other plans. Irrfan was not the least competitive. He never felt insecure about any other actor. In Priyadarshan’s Billu he was pitched against Shah Rukh Khan. The two actors Irrfan and Shah Rukh at the core of the conflict played their parts with empathy. Shah Rukh Khan extended his real-life iconic status to a role that required double his usual acting skills because it’s autobiographical. But the film belonged to Irrfan Khan. As Billu he was a portrait of restrained self mockery and dignity in the face of bizarre demands on him by star-struck villagers.
Billu was one of Irrfan’s great performances. He played the commoner against SRK’s superstar with uncommon conviction. Irrfan’s health failed suddenly. He once revealed he was health conscious. “I do look after myself. But not in an obsessive way. I workout, but in my own way. I follow the regime that my body demands and not what the physical trainer thinks my body requires. Besides that, I think I am getting to do the work that I want. Inner contentment always reflects on your face and body.”
Sadly the inner contentment could not stop destiny from taking a nasty turn.