Irrfan Kahn, the Indian-born actor who found fame in Hollywood as well as Bollywood, has died aged 53. The actor had recently been admitted to the intensive care unit of Mumbai’s Kokilaben hospital with a colon infection.
The actor has struggled with health issues over recent years, in 2018 Kahn revealed that he had been diagnosed with a neuroendocrine tumour. However, he was well enough to continue shooting Angrezi Medium, which will now be his last picture.
Khan’s most famous role in the west is as the police inspector in Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire but was a Bollywood mainstay acting in smash hits like Hindi Medium and Haider.
Born Saahabzaade Irfan Ali Khan in Jaipur in 1966, the young boy chose to avoid following in his father’s footsteps as a tyre salesman and instead went to drama school after try and failing to become a professional cricket player. Despite working hard at school Khan found it difficult to break into acting.
Though he eventually found some fame on TV soap operas, the actor was frustrated with his lack of film roles, “I came into this industry to tell stories and do cinema and I was stuck in television,” he told the Guardian in 2013. But a breakthrough did happen.
Khan was cast in Asif Kapadia’s first feature film, the quasi-samurai film The Warrior, which was shot in India. It quickly became a cult classic and won a BAFTA in 2002 for best British film. It would propel Khan into mainstream Indian cinema. It saw Khan regularly cast as villains or policemen, a trait he shared in Hollywood too, most notably in the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire.
After Boyle’s film, Khan soon became a well-loved character actor for big-budget Hollywood films including Jurassic World, Inferno and his star-performance in Ang Lee’s Life of Pi. It was a career littered with success and classy performances and is a testament to Khan’s skill and personality.
Khan is survived by his wife Sutapa Sikdar, and sons Babil and Ayan.