He is not the first Khan that would come to your mind if you were asked to choose one. He is not the first person you would prefer when asked about your favourite actor. He is not the first man that you’ll name if I asked you about your idea of a perfect man. Yet he was all of that, and so much more.The songs in his movies weren’t such that could be listened to for hours on repeat. But his movies were always full of substance. His movies would leave an imprint on your heart, forever.
From Lunchbox and Madaari, to Life of Pi, Jurassic World and Doob. It seems like he did everything more for the sake of an experience than for commercial success. He never took larger than life roles, and kept it simple and real.
An artist makes their way into your heart through the roles they perform. You never really know them, their stories, their battles, or their struggles behind the scenes. You just watch them on screen and fall in love with whatever it is they show you. The characters he performed were not all polished and shiny like the usual Bollywood heroes. He was a little rough around the edges, like the quiet man next door, a man who quietly ate his lunch alone in the last cubicle, a man who enacts a bunch of lies to provide the best for his family. He was real and relatable. And just like how his characters took time to settle in, so will his loss.
He taught me that even the best of friends can betray you when he said, “Chott khaya hua dost dushman seh zyada khatarnak hota hai,” in Gunday. He taught me how to have a clear conscience when he said, “Aajkaal shareef woh hotey hain jiske phone mein password nahi hota“. He taught me the difference between love and obsession when he said, “Mohabbat hain isiliye jaane diya, zidd hoti toh bahon mein hoti” in Jazbaa. Though the numbers these movies collected at the box office weren’t great, the impact they left on souls was uncountable.
My friend described him when he came to Dhaka for the shoot of Doob. She told me how his vibe was so very powerful that the whole room would only pay attention to him. That he met and spoke to everyone like they were the celebrities in the room, not him. He held people in such regards, as if they were the ones with five hundred thousand followers and not him.
He didn’t hesitate to take pictures after shooting for hours, he didn’t decline invitations for dinner, he was relaxed as if it was his own living room.
He was a fighter. He kept shooting movies even with unwanted guests destroying him from inside. He rejected movies like Interstellar to work in masterpieces like Lunchbox. It was never about fame and money for him.
Maybe that is why he left us so soon. He didn’t want to limit himself to the world any longer. It was time for him to rock the afterlife. There is a void that he left behind. Not just in Indian cinema, but also in our hearts. No matter how many times I watch Angrezi Medium now, it won’t be the same.
Tayeba is a realist by day, and a dreamer by night.