It is really hard to choose one of Irrfan's characters that stayed with me. But the one who still is a mystery for me is Saajan Fernandes.
The week The Lunchbox was released, I was excited. I was looking forward to that movie. I never read or watch anything about a movie I really want to watch. The Lunchbox was one of those movies. On Friday, I went to the theatre. There were about fifteen people in the hall. I chose a row that was completely empty so I could see the movie in peace.
I was not prepared for my reaction or for what I would feel during the movie.
Generally, I am very attentive during a movie. I consciously try and observe everything that appears on screen. I try and think about what would happen next. I try to find some glitch, something that looks misplaced in the world created by the director. I get irritated by every whisper in the hall.
As the movie started, though, I forgot everything. I just remember watching this movie and not having a single thought in my head. I don't remember getting irritated by anything happening in the hall, I don't even remember anything happening in the hall at all.
I came out of the hall completely empty, not even thinking about Irrfan on screen. I did not try and observe others to figure out if they liked the film, which I generally do. I stood outside the cinema, on stairs that would lead me to exit. I don't know for how long I stood there, leaning against the wall and looking at the ground and the hall gate.
I shook my head out of that trance, thought about the film and all I could think was how easily Irrfan portrayed that character. How was it so easy? Why did I not see a single misplaced gesture in that performance? I was perplexed.
I went to the ticket counter again, bought another ticket for the next show. I went in to see this movie again. I was determined to watch this movie in full "hosh" and not fall into this state of emptiness.
After the movie was over, I went to my room in complete silence and switched off the lights. I did not sleep that night at all. I had never had an experience like this before, I have never had it since. No matter how well made a movie is, there is always some sense that I am watching a movie. I don't remember having that sense when I watched The Lunchbox.
I don't know what made me feel so. People talk about the loneliness of that character, the love that played out in the movie or how Irrfan talked through his eyes, and every other cliché. But I was never able to put my finger on what it was that made it so different. No cliché was able to satisfy the need to express the overwhelming experience I had.
Then recently I read a quote by Vijay Varma, that Irrfan's magic was invisible. That's what I think affected me. The invisibility of everything but the character on the screen. I don't think there is any other actor who can make whatever it is completely invisible. I think every actor performs tricks and we catch on to those tricks. We can see those tricks play out. But what Irrfan did was pure magic. He did not perform tricks, he showed us magic. I could never put my finger on it because it was invisible and it will remain so. That quote made me realise that there is no point dissecting it. I don't believe in anything godly or supernatural. But what Irrfan did in The Lunchbox was divine.