Irrfan Khan “In Treatment”

5 Jan

Originally published at Brown Girl Magazine

I’ve recently become a fan of the HBO show, In Treatment.  My cable company offered me a trial of HBO and the show hooked me from the first episode.  The show features therapy sessions with four of Dr. Paul Weston’s (Gabriel Byrne) patients. Thirty minutes of sitting and talking is my kind of entertainment (and also explains my lack of enthusiasm for most popular movies). 

Critics agree the breakout star of the show is Irrfan Khan, playing Sunil, a retired math professor from Calcutta who comes to live with his son in Brooklyn after his wife’s unexpected death.  Jhumpa Lahiri is a consultant to the show and the detail of how Sunil’s wife died – a reaction to the anesthesia during a routine surgery – mirrors how Ruma’s mother died in the title story in her latest story collection, Unaccustomed Earth. Viewers might recognize Khan as the policeman from Slumdog Millionaire or Gogol’s father from The Namesake

Khan plays older for the role and the details for his character are perfect – the process of preparing his hand rolled cigarettes, the way he fiercely defends his family’s honor, and dislike for his American daughter-in-law’s lack of modesty.  Khan’s Sunil struggles to adjust to life in his son’s home – he is uncomfortable with the way his son has Americanized himself – changing his name from Arun to Aaron, marrying an American woman and allowing her to run the house.  Sunil is convinced his daughter-in-law is having an affair and reveals troubling details of a romance in his youth, the one time in his life he defied his parents.

The first two seasons of In Treatment were based on Be’Tipul, the Hebrew name of the series that originated in Israel and played there for just two years.  (I highly recommend the first two seasons as well – many episodes are available on youtube.) Gabriel Bryne’s portrayal of protagonist therapist Paul is superb; Sunil overcomes his disdain towards therapy after observing Paul’s respect for him – by not pushing questions and letting him smoke during sessions.  The last episode reveals a twist that cast each of Sunil’s actions in a new light. 

In Treatment is a fascinating, precise show, made infinitely better by Khan’s excellent acting and compelling storyline. I recommend the show to anyone interested in quiet drama and the inner workings of talk therapy. 

Photo of Sunil from

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