The fear of being a “blotch” in late actor Irrfan Khan’s otherwise beauteous career graph kept filmmaker Karan Johar from directing the “very sexy” star.
In an interview with journalist-author Shubhra Gupta for her book Irrfan: Life in Movies, Johar admitted that Irrfan was way stronger than anything he could have ever offered him.
“He (Irrfan) was way stronger than anything I could have ever offered him. I never arrived at a screenplay, a film, a thought, or an idea that would warrant the presence of the magnitude that Irrfan Khan brought to the table.
“That’s the reason I’ve never had a film with Irrfan because I’ve never wanted to be that filmmaker that gave him a substandard mainstream film. I didn’t want to be the blotch in his otherwise beauteous career graph,” said Johar, as quoted in the book.
The filmmaker, known for directing blockbusters like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, My Name Is Khan, and Ae Dil Hal Mushkilafter, said Irrfan’s death in April 2020 from a rare form of cancer was a “terrible” loss.
Ironically, after Irrfan’s death at least “five scripts” landed on Johar’s table that the director believed would have been perfect for the Paan Singh Tomar actor.
“There are at least five scripts that landed on my table after he passed away that were screaming Irrfan Khan. I just feel terrible. And you know why those scripts came to my table now? Because now is the time that cinema is ready for that material and that material was all Irrfan Khan,” he explained.
The 51-year-old filmmaker counts not directing Irrfan and Sridevi as the two regrets of his life.
Recalling how he and his friend, fellow director Zoya Akhtar, agreed that there was “no other actor like Irrfan Khan”, Johar also spoke about the late actor’s little discussed but “tremendous sex appeal”.
“It’s very important to say that women found him sexy; he had tremendous sex appeal. You know, always, it’s the actors who do the more cerebral, the more intellectual, the more critic-friendly cinema that you don’t associate with sex appeal, somehow. I think Irrfan Khan was very sexy, and it was a huge icing on his terrific talent cake,” he said.
Taking solace in the fact that he has at least one of Irrfan’s movies, The Lunchbox, on his roster — even if he was just a presenter on that film — Johar, one of India’s most bankable producer-director, said to him the actor’s “real breakthrough moment commercially” came with the 2017 film Hindi Medium.
“Hindi Medium did business of about seventy crores purely on account of a simple, high-concept, small film, and Irrfan did it entirely on his own… That’s when I think everyone woke up to the fact that Irrfan Khan is a numbers man as well.
“Up to the point, everything else – Life in a… Metro and everything that you said – had a great actor, great idea, he worked very well. But when Hindi Medium came out and it did the numbers, that’s when the industry woke up to his commercial possibilities,” he added.
Unfortunately, it was as late as that, Johar said.
Irrfan: Life in Movies, published by Pan Macmillan India, hit the stands on Wednesday.
The book offers a compelling account of Irrfan’s life and achievements — starting from his days at the NSD to his nearly decade-long stint in television and his gradual ascent in the film industry.
It engages key people, including Irrfan’s wife Sutapa Sikdar, director Mira Nair, Vishal Bhardwaj, and Anurag Basu in conversation on the iconic actor’s art, craft, and legacy.