'I learnt how generous an actor can be to a co-star and that long-lasting friendships can be made even in this professional industry.'
"I am in a state of denial about Irrfanbhai's going," says Deepak Dobriyal who shared the screen with the actor in Angrezi Medium.
"Till the other day, he was a fighter, a warrior in the true sense of the word. People from outside can't see what he went through. I was with him. I know the pain he and his wife have endured," Deepak tells Subhash K Jha.
"I can't imagine he has been defeated in the battle. So I am here pretending to myself that he is still with us."
Deepak spent a good four years shooting with Irrfan and getting to know him.
"And he became not just a part of my life but my wife's too. He would tell my wife to look after me and handle me with kid gloves as I am very bholu (innocent)," recalls Deepak.
"After coming in contact with Irrfanbhai, my wife actually started looking at me with more respect. That's how generous kind and loving Irrfanbhaiwas towards me."
"I remember a Holi party at Tigmanshuji's (Director Tigmanshu Dhulia) home some years ago. As soon as Irrfanbhai saw me, he rushed to me and kissed me so hard on my forehead that Tigmanshuji commented, 'Yaar, why haven't we worked together yet?'
Deepak reveals that Irrfan looked out for him.
"As an actor and a brother, he was protective of me. I remember when I had done a shot in Hindi Medium that he especially liked, he wanted to edit it personally so that my performance showed up well. Kaun aisa karta hai?"
"He recommended me for films like Blackmail and Qarib Qarib Singlle, but made sure no pressure was put on me to accept the offers. We did just two films together: Hindi Medium and Angrezi Medium. But it seems like a lot more because of the impact," says Deepak.
"We spent a good four years of our lives doing these two films. Working with him changed my life."
"I learnt how generous an actor can be to a co-star and that long-lasting friendships can be made even in this professional industry. We were so good together on screen because we never felt threatened by one another. We were like two sides of the same coin."
Deepak's favourite Irrfan performances?
"Was he ever less than brilliant? Haasil, Paan Singh Tomar, Maqbool, Life In A... Metro, The Namesake, The Lunchbox were the highpoints of his career. I liked him in Chandrakanta. But when I said so, he would get annoyed."
Deepak pauses to remember that his dear friend is actually gone.
"Yeh iss saal ho kya raha hai? (what is happening this year?) I am stuck so far away (the actor is presently in Uttarkhand). I couldn't be present at my bade bhai's last rites. I can't forgive myself for this."
"My heart reaches out to Sutapabhabhi. People have seen only 5 percent of the struggle Irrfanbhai went through. The other 95 percent that Sutapabhabhi went through is not known to anyone."