Critically acclaimed for his nuanced roles and underrated performances, Irrfan Khan's acting career spanned for almost thirty years. Many film critics call him one of the best actors that Bollywood has seen. Prestigious Hollywood director Wes Anderson, in his film The Darjeeling Express, wrote a role especially for Irrfan just so that he gets to work with him.
Even though unlike the other popular Khans, Irrfan lacked the looks to play the typical Bollywood romantic lead, he made his impression through his remarkable acting skills. Life in a Metro, which was released in 2007, for which he won the Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award saw the actor's undeniable chemistry on-screen with co-star Konkana Sen Sharma, which was one of the main highlights of the multi-star film.
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His role in Slumdog Millionaire as a police inspector has gone down as one of the best-played roles. Danny Boyle once stated, "It's beautiful to watch" (him acting) and compared Irrfan's performance to a perfect move by an athlete and how he can execute it over and over again flawlessly.
As his career progressed and his films started doing well, not only critically but also on the box office, he set a benchmark for all the other commercial actors. Irrfan established himself as one of the finest actors of Indian cinema, equally winning the masses and classes.
Irrfan left his privileged past behind
Sahabzada Irfan Ali Khan was born into a wealthy family. His mother came from a royal lineage, and his father was a well-known businessman. Irrfan dropped "Sahabzada" from his name since it pointed out towards his wealthy family.
Later, when his father passed away, and he was next in line to take care of the family business, but he sidestepped from what was expected of him and went ahead to pursue a career in acting.
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"No-one could have imagined I would be an actor; I was so shy. So thin. But the desire was so intense", Irrfan Khan once said in an interview. His family and friends had never foreseen him becoming an actor.
He applied for a scholarship at the National School of Drama in Delhi, where he also met writer Sutapa Sikdar, who later on became his wife.
Climbed the ladder all the way to top
He was so keen to start his acting career that he took up whatever small roles he could get in his early years of acting. He played roles in daily soap operas which were broadcasted on various channels. It was during this time when he was stuck between Indian soap channels that he got his first film role was a letterman in Mira Nair's highly acclaimed, Salaam Bombay! But unfortunately, his role was edited out of the final film. Irrfan greatly contemplated ending his acting career after his part was edited out of the film, but he pushed himself and made a mark for himself in the industry. Although the path ahead was still rocky, he kept moving on.
He started getting better and more prominent roles as directors discovered his talents, Mira Nair kept track of his work and cast him in The Namesake (2006) and then later in New York, I Love You (2008).
Irrfan has been a part of quite a few Hollywood projects, in an interview with Hollywood reporter (2014) when asked about his role in Jurassic Park; he said, "I'm playing the park owner, a very flamboyant person. When the first Jurassic Park came out, I barely had the money to see it, and now I'm playing a part. He's trying to entertain the world with good intentions, but sometimes being flamboyant doesn't mean having much wisdom."
In an acting career spanning over thirty years and a versatile body of work, Irrfan Khan has set a benchmark for the Indian film Industry.