Tour To Irrfan Khan’s home -A Tribute
When I walk into his living room on a sultry afternoon, actor and Bollywood celebrity Irrfan Khan is attempting to move a pond.
Arguably the finest actor in current Hindi cinema, Irrfan has moved from a home on Madh Island—a quick boat-ride away from the Mumbai mainland—to a high-rise in Oshiwara, an area close to Lokhandwala, the suburban neighbourhood that houses many of his film and television colleagues. It is a literal hop from the fringes to the thick of it, akin to the actor’s career. Last year, for instance, he played romantic hero to Deepika Padukone, and then Aishwarya Rai. This month, his next release features Tom Hanks. Going from an off-centre idyll to a mainstream neighbourhood, he’s holding on to what matters most.
“It is important for me to have a water body,” Irrfan explains, passionately (and oddly) specific, pointing to something that looks like a Turkish bathtub, a square of blue stone. “It has to have its own ecosystem, survive on its own. That fascinates me. That the fishes don’t have to be given oxygen separately, that the water doesn’t have to be cleaned or changed.” It is, literally, a living-
Shabnam Gupta, who designed the interiors, feels this pond—which was relocated from a corner to the middle of the living room—posed a unique challenge. “When he ideates, he enjoys the sound of water,” she says. “But this has to be an extremely controlled amount of sound, otherwise it gets on your nerves. Plus, he wants fishes and lotuses and reeds.”
Stepping out of the lift into Irrfan’s fifth-floor apartment is like walking into an inkwell. All is dark-blue, and dimly lit—save for a pair of latticed arches with a cut-out floral motif. “So that when you enter the house from the noise outside, it changes your mindset. It brings you in,” says Irrfan, thumping his chest à la Matthew McConnaughey in The Wolf Of Wall Street, rhythmically accentuating the entrant’s journey.
The Khan residence—home to Irrfan, his wife Sutapa and teenage sons Baabil and Ayan—is an intimately made one. They are not a family that call guests over often, and he doesn’t like playing host to big gatherings. Walking in through the darkness, you step abruptly—and, by dint of the contrast, almost shockingly—into a spacious house bathed in natural light. It makes the head spin.
“The jhoola is a must,” he says, as he stops by a swing. A two-seater, it has a plank the size of an open newspaper, and hangs from dark-green ropes—the ornate, thick kind that could hold open a stage curtain, or disallow entry at a discotheque. This is possibly where Irrfan sits after turning down yet another Christopher Nolan offer, or ruminates over what may become the next Lunchbox.
He confesses to a mirror fetish—“I always peer into them even if I’m walking by in a hurry”—dating back to well before he considered becoming an actor, and this house fulfils one of his longest-held fantasies. “I finally have an area surrounded by mirrors, where I can see myself from every angle.” His thrill at this dressing room appears endearingly narcissistic, till I remember an actor needs to be aware of every aspect of his physicality—body, costume, and look. Irrfan himself had once told me that one of his most profound acting influences was a Naseeruddin Shah film, where he felt captivated by the actor’s back, which seemed to be emoting in its own right. There are no small parts.
Sutapa’s bedroom, with its floral motif and Gond art, is a more individualistic area, standing out in a house built around varied knick-knacks, collected across far-flung travels. It comes with a tiny balcony, barely big enough to hold a round yellow table and two chairs. This is what Irrfan defines as the sanctuary of the house, a quiet space he envies. “I like her room because it is its own thing; it has evolved on its own. There is no school of design here. There is nothing synthetic about the way it feels.”
We stand over the dining table and he points out a set of five black wire lamps hanging just above eye-level. Irrfan marvels about craft and symmetry, about the cross-hatched intricacy and the differing density of the wires shielding the light, and it’s clear: the man is obsessed with detail.
He waves one of his trademark hand-rolled cigarettes like a crayon as he talks, and shrugs resignedly when I ask if the whole house is a smoking zone. We step through the hall into his bedroom, and he nearly trips over a stray football left behind by one of his sons. “A smoking zone and a football field,” he corrects.
His new television hasn’t been delivered yet. The corresponding gap in the bedroom bookshelf, thus, has been temporarily stacked, haphazardly, with awards of every description, from GQ’s ‘Man Of The Year’ prize, to a Screen Award for Paan Singh Tomar. He’s sheepish about these awards, claiming they are only visible while things are still being shuffled into place. “They will all be put away out of sight. Hidden away.”
“Where will you keep the Oscar?” I ask him.
That famed trophy has been dismissively stashed away by some of its winners. Sean Connery keeps his in the bathroom, while Timothy Hutton’s lies in his fridge. Irrfan laughs. “So many awards mean so little, but that… that is an award that would change everything; it can open up every choice for an actor.” He pauses, surely, I think, aware that, as an actor on the radar of the world’s best film-makers, he isn’t too far from that possibility. “I know I won’t keep it in the bathroom,” he smiles, and then, thoughtful for but an instant, dismisses the decision-making. “If it were ever to come, it would come with its own place. It would find its own place.” Much like he has.