Irrfan Khan’s untimely death left many people heartbroken in its wake. We may have only seen him in movies and the interviews he gave, and yet, the loss felt deeply personal.
For the villagers of Igatpuri, Nashik, Irrfan’s death robbed them of not just their beloved superstar, but also a friend and “guardian angel” who had carved a permanent place in their lives through his initiatives. To honour his memory and legacy, they have named a locality in the village, ‘Hero Chi Vaadi’ or the neighbourhood of a hero.
The Better India (TBI) got in touch with Anil Kadam, a Gram Sevak in Igatpuri to know why.
Not just a lavish farmhouse:
About a decade ago, Irrfan purchased a plot in Igatpuri, with the idea of building a farmhouse which would be his sanctuary when he wanted to break away from busy shoot schedules. The popular hill station is famous for the surrounding forts, meditation centres and its proximity to Kalsubai—the highest peak in the Sahyadri ranges.
“He would stay here for 10-15 days in a year. And while we were thrilled to have the farmhouse of a superstar in our locality, he never made us feel intimidated by his presence. In fact, he opened the doors of his home to all of us. Whoever wanted to meet him—kids or adults, he would invite in, offer snacks and spend some time chatting.”
Kadam adds that although Irrfan did not speak Marathi, the native language in Igatpuri, he understood it. So the villagers would speak Marathi and he would respond in Hindi. “It made him an aapla maanus—one of us,” the Gram Sevak shares.
Kadam has also visited Irrfan’s farmhouse several times and spoken to him about how a movie is produced, about the issues that the village was facing and more. “He was always so well informed about everything!” he exclaims admiringly.
Irrfan Khan: the common man’s superstar
The hamlet where Irrfan built his farmhouse is home to several Adivasi and underprivileged communities, and he would always visit the village bearing boxes full of books, pens, shoes, stationery and sweets.
“There are three schools in this area and about 900 students in all of them combined. He always had enough stationery material, uniforms and shoes for all the children. A small road through the ‘vaadi’ would lead to his farmhouse and when his car passed, the villagers knew. He would ask someone from his staff to distribute these gifts. Even with these small contributions, he gave a boost to education in Igatpuri,” Kadam tells TBI.
Gorakh Bodke, a member of the Zilla Parishad there tells India Today, “Whenever we needed him, he stood by us. He gave us an ambulance, sponsored school structures and books for students.”
“He was a guardian angel to so many families. He never said no whenever anyone asked for help,” he adds.
His approachability and demeanour clearly won the villagers over, and it is not all surprising when Bodke mentions that they would travel as far as 30 km by state transport buses to watch his movies in theatres.
While Irrfan Khan’s death on 29 April 2020 has undoubtedly left a void in their lives, through this lovely gesture of rechristening a locality after him, they have ensured that his memory will linger on forever.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)