The Films of Irrfan Khan

Irrfan Khan. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

This month, alongside the release of Ritesh Batra’s worldwide hit “The Lunchbox”, Cinema Asian American presents a retrospective of Indian actor Irrfan Khan. The star of “The Lunchbox,” which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last year, Khan is a veteran of the Indian film industry, where he has made more than thirty films, carving out a distinct place for the dramatic soulfulness that has come to define his performances.

Khan’s first role was in Mira Nair’s 1988 debut film, “Salaam Bombay,” and the role which catapulted him to fame was the lead in the 2001 British film “The Warrior” directed by Asif Kapadia. In recent years, his performance in the Oscar-winning “Life of Pi” has brought him to even wider audiences.

Khan has made more than a dozen English-language films and TV shows, including a recurring appearance in the HBO series “In Treatment” as well as the Oscar-winning “Slumdog Millionaire” and Mira Nair’s adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel, “The Namesake.”

This month, Cinema Asian American presents seven of Khan’s film as a primer to his filmography, including works made in both Bollywood and Hollywood.

The Lunchbox,” Dir. Ritesh Batra, 2013
In this Cannes Film Festival hit, a government accountant (Khan) finds a pen pal and more in a nearby housewife after a simple lunch delivery goes awry.

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Slumdog Millionaire”, Dir. Danny Boyle, 2008
Danny Boyle (“28 Days Later”) directed this exhilarating and emotionally powerful Best Picture about an illiterate orphan (Dev Patel) from the slums of India who is on the verge of winning the ultimate prize on a popular TV quiz show. Khan stars as the police inspector who grills Patel’s character.

In Treatment”, 2008-2010
A psychotherapist meets with his regular patients Monday through Thursday, and seeks help for himself with his former therapist on Friday. Based on an Israeli series of the same name.

Life of Pi”, Dir. Ang Lee, 2012
In this technical and dramatic masterpiece, a zookeeper’s son is stranded at sea aboard a lifeboat with a zebra, an orangutan, a hyena and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker and must face questions of life and existence as he fights for his life. Khan stars as the now-adult zookeeper’s son.

A Mighty Heart”, Dir. Michael Winterbottom, 2007
A docudrama based on the memoir by Mariane Pearl, whose journalist husband Daniel Pearl was abducted and murdered by terrorists in Pakistan. While visiting that country with his pregnant wife, Daniel Pearl set out to conduct one final interview for his upcoming article and never returned. Khan stars as Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, a Pakistani terrorist arrested in connection with the death of Pearl.

The Namesake”, Dir. Mira Nair, 2006
In this poignant adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri’s award-winning novel, Khan plays an immigrant from India to the US who finds him, and his family caught in a sage of cultures clashing across generations as they attempt to acclimate to life in the US.

Paan Singh Tomar,” Dir. Tigmanshu Dhulia, 2012
With Khan in the lead titular role, this biopic tells the true story of an athlete who ran track and field in the army, rose to become a seven-time medalist at the Indian National Games, and then became a notorious bandit after a feud over his family’s land and his mother’s death.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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