Maverick actor Irrfan Khan, who worked in critically as well as commercially acclaimed films, breathed his last on April 29 at the age of 53. Khan is survived by his wife, Sutapa Sikdar and two children. Irrfan, who was conferred the Padma Shri for his outstanding performances in 2011 was active in TV, films and theatre and had a career spanning almost 25 years. He started his acting career with the Mira Nair-directorial Salaam Bombay in 1988. In the critically acclaimed film, he played the role of a letter writer.
But how did a director of Mira Nair's stature spot Irrfan Khan and decided he would be a perfect fit for the role of a letter writer? This story dates back to the time when Irrfan Khan was a student at National School of Drama and was looking to make a mark for himself in the film industry. In 1986, Mira Nair visited the NSD to look for trained actors, who could work with street kids in her upcoming project Salaam Bombay, a film that was based on the lives, trials and tribulations of the street kids in Mumbai.
Nair spotted a 20-year old Irrfan at the basement workshop of NSD. While talking to the writer Anees Chabra for his book on Irrfan Khan titled "The Man, The Dreamer, The Star", Nair said, "I noticed his focus, his intensity, his very remarkable look, his hooded eyes. I clocked him." The interesting fact, however is that initially, Nair had thought to cast Irrfan as one of the street kids, Salim, but his height and physical built got in the way. He couldn't fit in with the actual street kids,who were 'undernourished and wizened little children.'
When Mira picked him from NSD for Salaam Bombay, Khan was the only one from his batch who had a feature film to his credit. Irrfan, however, was shocked when Mira, just two days before the shoot, had to give him a small role.
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