By Shilpa Jamkhandikar
MUMBAI – Irrfan Khan, an Indian actor who brought a modern sensibility to recent hit films and had roles in Hollywood movies such as “Life of Pi” and “The Namesake,” died on Wednesday, aged 54.
The death, after a prolonged battle with cancer, was confirmed by a spokesman who said Khan was surrounded by family at the time.
“He fought the many battles that came with it,” the spokesman said in a statement, referring to the diagnosis of Khan’s rare cancer in 2018.
Khan was among the first Indian actors to make a consistent mark in Western cinema, following in the footsteps of crossover pioneers such as Saeed Jaffrey, Roshan Seth and Om Puri.
Born Sahabzade Irfan Ali Khan in the western desert state of Rajasthan, in a family with no ties to cinema, the actor recalled in interviews that as children, he and his siblings were not allowed to watch movies.
The only exception was when a visiting uncle took them to the theater.
“An incredible talent,” said Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan, among the tributes on Twitter that followed Khan’s death. “A gracious colleague. A prolific contributor to the world of cinema .. left us too soon creating a huge vacuum.”
Another well-known director, Karan Johar, said, “Thank you for raising the bar as an artist … Thank you for enriching our cinema… We will miss you terribly, Irrfan.”