Why Does the Loss of Irrfan Khan & Rishi Kapoor Feel So Personal?

An ordinary fan’s attempt to reflect on grief.

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Mourning the loss of Irrfan Khan and Rishi Kapoor.
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It started yesterday morning with the news of Irrfan Khan’s passing away and it still continues, relentlessly, with the death of Rishi Kapoor. That deep feeling of grief that just isn’t going away. Across social media, the question that everyone is asking – why does this feel so personal?

Most of us are not film critics, from the film industry, or even their biggest admirers. We are just regular, run-of-the-mill everyday fans.  There are no intimate moments, no anecdotes from the time we may have met them or worked with them. No. Then why so much grief?

A Legacy to Remember

In 2003, my friends and I skipped college to go watch Maqbool. I think somewhere during the song where Irrfan Khan and Tabu are walking to Ajmer Sharif, I felt the power of destructive love. I was 19, and not in love, but watching that film changed my Disney-fied notion of what ‘pyaar’ is supposed to be. And this was despite having learnt Macbeth, by heart, in school. Irrfan Khan did what Shakespeare couldn’t.

Chatting with a friend yesterday about the actor ended up with a recommendation of a relatively unknown Rohit Shetty film (and probably not a very good one) called Sunday. The one line review – “Irrfan is hilarious in it”. Another colleague tweeted “Syska LED bulb ads will never be the same”. In an actor’s roundtable, Irrfan said he never thinks about his legacy. And that’s incredible, because it’s not just his ‘underdog’ life story or the  powerhouse performances that will stay with us.  We’ll remember him in everything we ever saw. He’s left us with a legacy and memories that perhaps he wasn’t even aware of.

Grief, they say is an all encompassing emotion. It marks the end of something you held close, something you were used to, something you never thought would end, ignoring all rules of our mortal life cycles.

Memories to Treasure

This morning again, the news of Rishi Kapoor’s death triggered a bunch of messages on WhatsApp groups and social media, from sharing and talking about our favourite films to all the songs we loved him in. I mean, which antakshari session didn’t have at least one person singing ‘hum tum ek kamre mein band ho’ and someone jumping to say that’s not how the song starts. Or parties, weddings, baarats, where we haven’t danced to ‘bachna ae haseeno’ and ‘om shanti om’.

These songs, dialogues from the films, ads they were in, things they said off screen, become a part of our stories, stories that are different for each of us. Unknown to them, they’ve formed millions of unique bonds. For me, it’s singing ‘ek haseena thi’, loudly, with my closest friends, every time we meet to celebrate something. And watching Amar, Akbar, Antony a thousand times as a kid.

So, is it okay to be deeply grieving someone we only knew from a distance? I think so. It’s a way of thanking them for the memories they gave us. Their art too, yes. But it’s the memories that creep in and lightly tug at your heart, on a lazy afternoon, when your playlist suddenly skips to a song featuring them, or when you come across a film that played a memorable character while flicking channels.

To quote a widely shared clip from the film The Namesake “Remember that you and I made this journey, we went together to a place where there was nowhere left to go”.

Thank you for the journey, Irrfan Khan and Rishi Kapoor. This ordinary fan will always remember the many journeys you took me on.

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