When superstar Irrfan's screen debut was a 'blink-and-you-miss' cameo

04:39 PM Apr 30, 2020 | Neeta Shetty |

Mumbai: The news of Irrfan Khan’s sudden demise has come as a shock to his fans and colleagues from the film industry. The 54-year-old actor who rose to fame for his natural acting style with films like Paan Singh Tomar, Life of Pi, The Lunchbox, did not really have a dream start at the beginning of his career.


Born to Jagirdar Khan and Begum Khan in Rajasthan, Irrfan was an emerging first class cricket player and had been selected for the CK Nayudu Tournament. Owing to lack of funds, Irrfan could not turn up for the tournament. Destiny obviously had other plans for the actor.

In 1984, Irrfan earned a scholarship to study at National School of Drama (NSD) in New Delhi where he was spotted by Mira Nair, who was finalising her cast for Salaam Bombay. While Mira wanted to cast him as a street kid in the movie, Irrfan’s physique didn’t quite suit that of undernourished children.

Just came two days before the shoot of Salaam Bombay, Mira had to uncast him and offered him the role of a letter writer in the movie which was simply a blink-and-you-miss cameo opportunity for the Piku actor.

In an interview, Irrfan said that this particular episode changed something within him and he was mentally prepared for anything after that.


Irrfan who did a lot of tele-roles and theatre in the interim period, landed his first solid role in a mainstream film in Vishal Bhardwaj’s Maqbool (2004). Meanwhile Mira kept her promise of casting Irrfan in a lead role by casting him in The Namesake (2006).

Irrfan’s acting skills was widely noticed and he landed himself several international projects, including Slumdog Millionaire (2009), the life-altering The Life Of Pi (2012), Jurassic World (2015).

In the Hindi film world too, Irrfan featured in movies like Life in a Metro, Paan Singh Tomar, Piku, Hindi Medium and the very recent Angrezi Medium. In 2011, he was awarded the Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian honour for his contribution to the field of arts.

Angrezi Medium which released in March this year marked Irrfan’s comeback to the screen after a 2-year-long hiatus.

Irrfan who was diagnosed with Neuroendocrine Cancer in 2018, flew to London for his treatment and after more than a year long battle with the disease he returned to India in April 2019.

His co-star Kareena Kapoor Khan, ahead of Angrezi Medium’s release had stated that Irrfan is one of the finest actors among all the Khans.

“I have worked with all the Khans – Shah Rukh, Salman, Aamir and Saif. But for me, it is an honour and privilege to work with Irrfan Khan. He is the pioneer, one of the finest actors among all the Khans if I may say, and he is the biggest Khan for me.”

Irrfan got admitted to Mumbai’s Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital on Tuesday and breathed his last on Wednesday.

Expressing Grief over his demise, Amitabh Bachchan tweeted, “just getting news of the passing of Irfaan Khan .. this is a most disturbing and sad news .. An incredible talent .. a gracious colleague .. a prolific contributor to the World of Cinema .. left us too soon .. creating a huge vacuum .. Prayers and duas.”


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