Revisiting D-Day, A Film That Had Irrfan Khan and Rishi Kapoor Together
Writer-critic Prakash Gowda shares a touching note on the film and his personal experience with the two legends who passed away, Irrfan Khan and Rishi Kapoor
A film that might have been brushed aside as just another spy movie, D-Day will now have a pride of place in the annals of Indian cinema’s history - as a film where two legends who passed away within a span of 24 hours, shared screen together. Just a day ago, Kaarwaan was on my watch-list, as a fan boy trying to catch a glimpse of the Irrfan Khan that we knew and today, it’s D-Day (No pun intended).
D-Day is loosely based on S. Hussain Zaidi’s book, Dongri to Dubai (Almost every Bollywood gangster story is ‘inspired’ by it). Rishi Kapoor, after surprising us with his menacing act in Agneepath, went on to prove that he could pull of a Dawood Ibrahim act with such effortless ease. Irrfan Khan plays an Indian spy in Pakistan and depicts vulnerability through his eyes. There’s a leitmotif kind of line in the film, ‘Woh sweater kahaan rakha tha maine…’ which speaks volumes on a father’s love for his child. Perhaps his experience of playing the unforgettable role of Ashoke Ganguly in Mira Nair’s Namesake, which might have come handy for him to do this scene.
Interestingly, I have a connection with both actors, albeit a remote one, so to say. I was blown over by Irrfan Khan’s performance (As always) in Paan Singh Tomar and wrote its review. I went on looking for him on Facebook and shared the review with him, of course never hoping that he’d reply (Who does?). Two days later, he responded (Yay!) and wrote to me that he loved the review. He asked me if I was a writer or just wrote movie reviews.
I told him about a book that I had written, Baker’s Dozen, a short story collection that got published almost the same time around. He shared his email ID and asked me to mail it, adding that he generally doesn’t read books, his wife does – And reads them out for him too. Since he used to have a lot of time to spare during the shoot, he just might read my book. I was over the moon and sent him an e-Book version of my book. A week later, he wrote to me that he loved the book and wrote to me: “Your Baker’s Dozen is extremely brilliant. Continue your career as a writer passionately. May God bless you dear.”
He once asked me to meet up at the sets of Saahib Biwi aur Gangster shooting in Gujarat but I couldn’t make it, owing to a hectic day at office. I still regret of not giving that meeting a priority, it would have been the first and last time I ever met him. The interactions stopped with passage of time and maybe he must have forgotten this fan too and even I never bothered him much, hoping to meet him up someday. So that was Irrfan Khan, an actor, who despite being so successful, interacted with someone he had never met and had nothing to gain from.
Years later, I was invited to do a session on Mirza Ghalib while promoting my next book, Ghalib Unplugged at the Vadodara Literature Festival 2017. My session was to begin after Rishi Kapoor’s interaction with the audience on his book, Khullam Khulla. I had read the book right when it was released and had carried a copy with me to get it autographed. I went up to Rishi sir and gifted him my book before taking his autograph. He placed it aside and said, ‘I don’t read books’.
Dejected, I quietly picked up my book turned back. He called me, ‘Arrey autograph to lete jaao’. I told him, ‘Sir I don’t read biographies’. (I still kick myself of being so irreverent to him). Rishi Kapoor, who is known for being short tempered, calmly replied, ‘Main sach mein kitaabein nahin padhta bête…What’s your name?’ I felt so guilty and immediately apologized, promptly telling him my name while opening the pages of his book for the autograph.
A week later, I wrote a book review of Khullam Khulla and also mentioned this autograph incident in the review. I shared the book review with Rishi Kapoor on his official Facebook page of Khullam Khulla. To my utter surprise, he wrote back with this line: “You are one hell of a great writer!” The incident taught me that there’s a sharp contrast between the Rishi Kapoor we know and the real Rishi Kapoor.
Watching D-Day today was like reliving the moments I shared with these two stalwarts of Hindi cinema. D-Day has a brief scene towards the end, where Rishi Kapoor and Irrfan Khan share the screen. They exchange a look for a nanosecond and Irrfan Khan smiles. This smile can now be interpreted as his own way of acknowledging the truths of mortal life. Maybe I am reading too much between the lines, but isn’t cinema all about reading between the lines, especially when it comes to Irrfan Khan?