In Memory Of India’s Celebrated Film Critic Rashid Irani

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~~Dipankar Sarkar

Rashid Irani was one of the most prominent film critics of the country. His presence at several film festivals held in Goa, Kerala, and Kolkata highlighted his unending zeal for the silver screen. He was a member of the Mumbai Film Festival Selection Committee and actively participated in the film society movement in Mumbai in the 70s under the initiative of Basu Chatterjee. He is considered to be the key person who helped in setting up the film club of Mumbai Press Club.

It is interesting to note that Irani was the co-owner of once vibrant Brabourne Irani Café at Dhobi Talao in Mumbai and worked as a former accountant. He lived alone in his house packed with nearly 5,000 books and very few household items. He, however, liked the presence of a human company.

According to the members of the Mumbai Press Club, Irani had moved his computer to the Club so that he would be compelled to leave his house more often. But the lockdown-related restrictions limited Irani’s social interactions and he missed the human contact. Last year in an interview to Mid-Day he said that the lockdown has turned him into an automaton. He encountered difficulty in managing the isolation and monotony of life in the pandemic.

“Like most people, I am disoriented and have become borderline depressive. While I live alone, I do not thrive on this loneliness; I need human contact,” he said.

Irani wrote about cinema at a time when very few newspapers covered the subject. He had a vast knowledge about important film movements such as the New Wave of French cinema and German cinema. He had had multiple health issues and was found dead in his apartment by the police on August 2, 2021. Irani’s funeral was held on August 3 at Dungerwady Tower of Silence, Kemp’s Corner, at 11 AM.

Filmmakers and critics around the country have expressed their grief on various social media platforms at the demise of such a graceful soul. Filmmaker Arun Khopkar on his Facebook page said, “I had shot a scene of my film on Narayan Surve in his restaurant, with Kishor Kadam playing young Surve. Rashid had to keep the restaurant closed for a day and refused to accept any compensation from me. A large number of viewers felt that it was the best scene. Maybe Rashid breathed extra life in it.”