Deepak Dobriyal who is in faraway Uttarkhand is now negotiating a new form of lockdown. “I am in a state of denial about Irrfan Bhai’s going. Till the other day he was a fighter, a warrior in the true sense of the word. People from the outside can’t see what he went through for three and a half years. I was with him. I know the pain he and his wife Sutapa have endured. I can’t imagine he has been defeated in the battle. So I am here pretending to myself that he’s still with us.”
Deepak spent a good four years shooting with Irrfan and getting to know him. “And he became not just a part of my life but my wife’s too. He would tell my wife to look after me and handle me with kid’s glove as I am very bholu (innocent). After coming in contact with Irrfan Bhai my wife actually started looking at me with more respect. That’s how generous kind and loving Irrfan Bhai was towards me. I remember a Holi party at Tigmanshuji (Dhulia)’s home some years ago… as soon Irrfan Bhai saw me he rushed to me and kissed me so hard on my forehead that at Tigmanshuji commented, ‘Yaar, why haven’t we worked together yet?’”
Deepak’s favourite Irrfan performances? “Was he ever less than brilliant? But I think Haasil, Paan Singh Tomar, Maqbool, Life In A Metro, The Namesake and The Lunchbox were the highpoints of his career. I even liked him in Chandrakanta. But when I said so he would get annoyed.”
Deepak pauses to remember that his dear friend and brother is actually gone. “Yeh iss saal ho kya raha hai(what is happening this year?). I am stuck so far away. I couldn’t be present at my Bade Bhai’s last rites. I can’t forgive myself for this. My heart reaches out to Sutapa Bhabhi (Mrs Irrfan Khan). People have seen only 5 percent of the struggle Irrfan has gone through, the other 95 percent that Sutapa Bhabhi went through is not known to anyone.”
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