Amid cancer treatment, Irrfan Khan finds new a perspective

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In this Jan. 22, 2018 file photo, actor Irrfan Khan poses for a portrait to promote the film “Puzzle” during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Taylor Jewell/Invision/AP)
In this Jan. 22, 2018 file photo, actor Irrfan Khan poses for a portrait to promote the film “Puzzle” during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Taylor Jewell/Invision/AP)

Los Angeles (AP) — Actor Irrfan Khan is a Bollywood star and Hollywood chameleon, who has bounced between the two with ease for decades, working with everyone from Mira Nair to Wes Anderson and Ang Lee and stealing scenes in both Oscar-winners (“Slumdog Millionaire”) and blockbusters (“Jurassic World”) alike. But all that’s been put on hold as he undergoes treatment in London for a neuroendocrine tumor, a rare form of cancer.

Although Khan’s life now is very different from only a few months ago, he still has films that he worked on as recently last year coming out, including “Puzzle,” a poignant character drama from Oscar-nominated producer Marc Turtletaub (“Little Miss Sunshine”) about a stifled suburban housewife, played by Kelly Macdonald, who forms a bond with a more cosmopolitan man, (Khan), over a shared fondness for puzzles. It’s one that the 51-year-old actor is immensely proud of, and eager to talk about, but, he also knows very keenly how unpredictable his life has become.

AP: ‘Puzzle’ is quite lovely, but also a small character drama — a bit of a departure from the bigger Hollywood films you’ve become known for

Khan: I was looking for something for a long time in American cinema, Hollywood cinema. I have been reaching for this, for a personal experience where I could invest myself and I could have more meat that I could get apart from myself completely and get into something which is unknown. This character had complexity and a strange unpredictability where he himself doesn’t know where things are moving and is in a limbo state. There are so many interesting angles to this person. It was a complex situation, but I love that the way it comes out of the characters’ mouths is very simple. So I fell in love it with it and I shifted my schedule in India and said, “I’m going to do it.” It worked out and I really loved it.

AP: How are you doing in general?

Khan: I’ve seen life from a completely different angle. You sit down and you see the other side and that’s fascinating. I’m engaged on a journey.

AP: There’s been a lot of speculation in the media about your condition and you’ve made pleas on social media not to trust the reports. But what do you want people to know about what you’re going through?

Khan: There are challenges which life throws at you. But I have started believing in the way this condition has tested me, really, really tested me in all aspects — physical, emotional and spiritual. It has put me in a rapture state.

Initially I was shaken. I didn’t know. I was very, very vulnerable. But slowly, there is another way to look at things that is much more powerful and much more productive and healthier, and I just want people to believe that nature is much more trustworthy and one must trust that. Nature will do whatever it has to do.

This sudden jolt has put me into a platform where I could look at things in a completely different manner. And for that I am really thankful.

AP: What is your day to day like now? Are you reading scripts or planning to work at all?

Khan: No, I’m completely out of reading scripts. This has become a surreal experience. My days are unpredictable. I used to think my life would be like that, but I could never practice unpredictability and spontaneity. That has happened now. I don’t plan. I go for breakfast and then I don’t have a plan. I take things as they come. That has been really helping me a lot. I don’t make plans. I’m just spontaneous. And I’m loving this experience.

AP: You’re in London going through treatments. Is there anything you can share about that?

Khan: I have had the fourth cycle of chemo. And I have to have six cycles and then we need to have a scan. After the third cycle, the scan was positive. But we need to see after the sixth scan. And then we’ll see where it takes me. There’s no guarantee of life with anybody. My mind could always tell me to hang a kind of chip on your neck and say, “I have this disease and I could die in a few months or a year or two.” Or I could just avoid this conversation completely and live my life the way it offers me. And it offers so much. I admit I was walking around with blinders. I couldn’t see what it offered me.

You stop your contemplation, you stop your planning, you stop the noise. You see the other aspect of it. It gives you so much. Life offers you so much. That’s why I feel like I have no other words but thanks. There are no other words, there’s no other demand, there’s no other prayer.