Haider’s Ruhdaar Dies, A Week After Kashmir Named Its Ventilator After The Character

by Tasavur Mushtaq

SRINAGAR: At the Covid-19 peak when Kashmir’s technology brigade succeeded in creating the first prototype of a ventilator last week, they named it Ruhdaar, something that has soul in it. The Urdu word became popular in Kashmir after Irrfan Khan played the character in Haider, Bollywood’s only reel that looked closer to reality in Kashmir.

Irrfan Khan explaining a shot of film Haider to the lead actress in Srinagar’s Partap Park.

When the engineers were discussing the name for their product, probably Irfaan was driven to the Mumbai hospital and put on a ventilator. On Wednesday when Khan breathed his last, one of the overseas mentor’s of the Ruhdaar project tweeted: “#IrrfanKhan is no more. Ruhdaar lives on! Rest in Peace.”

Khan was a person with a soul not mere life. That is perhaps why he was being loved and respected, even in Kashmir, a place which has seen countless Bollywood masala hits portraying the place negatively.

After battling neuroendocrine tumour for around two years, the acclaimed actor Irrfan Khan finally lost his battle at the age of 53. According to reports, Khan was admitted to Mumbai’s Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital on Tuesday after he had developed colon infection. Incidentally, he lost his mother in Jaipur on Saturday, merely four days back.

The news of his death was shared on Twitter by filmmaker Shoojit Sircar. “My dear friend Irfaan. You fought and fought and fought. I will always be proud of you..we shall meet again..condolences to Sutapa and Babil..you too fought, Sutapa you gave everything possible in this fight. Peace and Om shanty. Irfaan Khan salute,” he wrote.

Born to Muslim parents, he hailed from the village of Tonk near Jaipur. After doing television for years, he found his break in Aasif Kapadia’s The Warrior. His career gradually progressed and later emerged as India’s most celebrated face in the West.

A dependable actor, his Slumdog Millionaire performance was memorable. He also was part of The Life of Pi, The Mighty Heart and Jurassic World, Salaam Mumbai, Maqbool, Paan Singh Tomar, The Lunchbox, Gunday, Piku, Talvar, and Haider– the movie based on Kashmir.

The tributes for the deceased actor of decades pour in from all sides. The noted journalist Rajdeep Sardesai has tweeted, “Irrfan Khan..Bande mei dum tha, on and off-screen…RIP.”

Kashmir’s Haider

Directed by Vishal Bhardwaj, Haider was an Indian adaptation of Hamlet. In the movie, Haider, a student returns home to Srinagar from Aligarh in the 1990s to find that his father has disappeared and his mother is in a new relationship with his uncle. Regarding the film, the director is quoted to have said, “I’m also an Indian, I’m also a patriot, I also love my nation. So I won’t do anything which is anti-national. But what is anti-human, I will definitely comment on it,” he said.

Ironically, a young boy, Saqib Bilal who did a cameo in film Haider later turned militant. He was shot dead in an 18-hour gunbattle in Mujgund on the outskirts of Srinagar on December 9, 2018. As reported in 2018, Saqib had cleared his class 10th with a distinction and was studying chemistry and maths in Class 11. He had an interest in acting and had done a mall role in Haider. He appeared in two brief shots, once as a ‘chocolate boy’ and in another, he acted of ‘surviving a violent incident in a bus.’

The film Haider was written by Bhardwaj with author and journalist Basharat Peer. “I strongly feel that Kashmir has been the biggest tragedy of modern Indian history and no film has been made to capture the real tragedy of what has been going on there for the last 25 years. I began to read Basharat’s (Peer) book (Curfewed Nights) with Hamlet in mind and by the time I finished it I had decided to collaborate with him,” Bhardwaj had said after its launch.

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