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[Rattan Gujadhur] The Artistry of Irrfan Khan in Maqbool


Rédigé par Rattan Gujadhur le Lundi 4 Mai 2020



We all felt a deep quake in our hearts at the news of Irrfan’s demise. Like the brutal slash of a knife by a backstreet goonda in Mumbai, we felt the scrape and froze in disbelief. We looked at the pain flow off during the day, and it felt again that time was not only all-devouring, but also all-cruel.

Why does the universe unendingly remind us of this dancing game of mirrors, of appearances and disappearances, of bright stars and eventual dim lights? Have we still not learnt this vicious cycle of time?

Do we keep forgetting that life is simply a show of mirages, dreams, concepts, words, names, and more games, and very beautiful ones too. Irrfan Khan`s presence on the scene was one such phenomenon; a magic show that appears like a constellation to watch with awe. 

In Vishal Bhardwaj`s Maqbool, the mirage is that of the everyday visible and invisible symbolism of violence lurking in the deepest shadows of man’s soul. Bhardwaj ingeniously selected a plethora of star elites, rarely seen assembled on the movie stage. This was not the habitual flix featuring the all happy in-laws who have been re-assembled for a good goody fest.

Bhardwaj masterfully brought together Naseerudeen Shah, Tabu, Om Puri, Piyush Misra, Pankaj Kapoor, and of course Irrfan Khan for a remake of Macbeth, in the Mumbai-gangsta-style, into this magnum opus called, Maqbool. It was a rare prized regal for the eyes. Every eternal scene of this movie drags one to the edge. 

There is a constant clear visceral undertone to this movie, and one knows, this could have never been achieved without the puffed up, savage, cruel, and always terror-filled looks of Irrfan Khan or Maqbool throughout the flix. Surrounded by theatre stalwarts, Irrfan Khan challenges the stage with majesty and how he rose scene after scene, dialogue after dialogue!

Pankaj Kapoor is Jahangir Khan, our everyday Marlon Brando styled godfather figure, with a twisted mouth, a tenor voice, and an emperor-like ability to diffuse fear whenever he travels.

His lifeguard, a devout muslim, dutifully gulps down alcohol, on his special express demands. And to a talkative informer he says: ‘Gilauri khaya karo ... zabaan kabu mein rehti hai. i.e. you should eat betel leaf ... the tongue stays in control’.

Naseerudeen Shah and Om Puri are the beloved new genre witches, who plant in Maqbool’s head, the seeds of power, the aspirations to be a Godfather, and the image of the new ruler of Mumbai’s underworld! Puri’s classic line, ‘Shakti ka santulan bahut zaroori hai sansar mein’, meaning ‘power needs to be balanced’, puts the point à la ligne. Piyush Misra plays the very hot-headed lieutenant, devoted to Jahangir, the ‘emperor’, and Tabu the elegant, ambitious, and absolute temptress, our very own Lady Macbeth.

Maqbool is the off balanced and seemingly detached lieutenant from the very start.  Irrfan has the genius to look disengaged, yet involved, in the theatrics of each scene.

His nerve center and radar seem to switch on, upon hearing that Jahangir’s only daughter is involved with the second lieutenant`s son. Maqbool’s eyes simply pop off, and Irrfan magisterially plays the fake concerned second father, but is in fact cunningly salivating like a hungry wolf, as he now ran the risk of losing his place in the pecking order.

Meanwhile, as an additional twist and complexity to the intrigue, Maqbool falls in love with Jahangir’s wife.

The road to the Sufi Dargah is the perfect set up for the temptress to lure Maqbool into her heart, her world, not his. A different Maqbool emerges after this love tryst. He dreams of Jahangir making love to Lady Macbeth, and coils in horror, the rest is history. 

Irrfan rose to the occasion in one scene, in the living room, where all the giants are lazing around and chatting. A phone call from the lady arrives, but he downplays it. The witch ‘Om Puri’ throws the dice of the jyotish (astrologer), and announces that ‘one will rise like Saturn’ to take over Abbaji’s (i.e. Jahangir’s) place. Maqbool again plays the fake admirer of Jahangir here, and bursts out ‘mei zaban katt dugga aap ka’ (i.e. I will cut off your tongue) but is in fact sold on this potential bright new prospect of becoming the new lord of the manor.

To have one Naseerudeen Shah and Om Puri play the corrupted schemers here, and Irrfan as Macbeth, is a true masterful stroke of genius by Bhardwaj, as the whole drama rests on this very scene, the height through which all the world’s tragedies seem to emerge. It is like the ‘Joke’ of a Kundera. One mistake done in your past, will hound you for the rest of your life. This is Macbeth’s plight.  

Irrfan leads us into the pathos of a hero’s derailment into a villain to the extent that the audience still seems to root for him, not Macduff. The blood he sees, before he murders Jahangir, the way he falls behind in shock, when he sees in his mind, that the murdered scions are all watching him, is cinematic drama at its peak.

I had read during one of Irrfan’s interviews, that he had suggested the ‘falling behind’ stuttering scene to Bhardwaj, which was executed to perfection, and it is the very plat de resistance of the whole movie and murmuring to us, all the way back home, that one can hide from death, but death always appears unannounced, our unconscious acts of grappling for power, recognition, seem to have hidden in them, the signature of our end. 

Maqbool is the tragic hero of man’s unending fallibilities, and most such heroes do not have a Krishna, and are left to die alone.

So long Irrfan. You will remain our Maqbool for eternity. 

A propos de l'auteur : Rattan Gujadhur     left Mauritius for higher studies in the US in 1999. He has practiced in the Pharma and Biotech world for over 29 years and is a Dr in Chemistry. He remains deeply in love with Mauritius and has published reminiscences of Mauritius via a poetry collection and a novel.


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