For the regular cinemagoers, Irrfan Khan is one of those actors that identify with “I’ve seen that actor somewhere” or “that actor from that movie”. His groggy eyes, dark complexion and ruffled hair are considered rather unusual features to play a Bollywood hero, but he has been embraced by Hollywood and international cinema for progressively important roles in very good movies because of his natural acting talent. Although he has only been recognized recently because of his work in both some major and successful productions such as Slumdog Millionaire, Amazing Spiderman, Life of Pi, Jurassic World and the upcoming movie, Inferno, he has been in the film industry for more than 15 years and has acted in over 50 films.
With rather humble beginnings, Sahabzade Irrfan Ali Khan was born in Jaipur city in India and followed his dream to become an actor after getting a scholarship to the reputed National School of Drama in Delhi in 1984. He then moved on to Mumbai to find work as an actor and ended up taking roles in many successful TV productions at the time. In many of his interviews, he mentions that he always wanted to work in films but as luck would have it, he kept being offered minor, even unpaid roles on TV. It was at this point that he thought of giving up his acting career but was offered to play a small role in an international film, Salaam Bombay!, just in time. Although his role was later edited out of the film, this opportunity gave him confidence to pursue other films during the 1990s. After a string of unsuccessful films, he was cast in some of the critically acclaimed films in 2000s like The Warrior, Road to Ladakh and Maqbool that made him get recognized as a talented actor. In 2008, he was a part of the highly successful film, Slumdog Millionaire, and this really brought him to an international landscape.
As an actor, Irrfan Khan is now considered admirable in the Indian film industry because he has been able to create a niche in the Indian cinemascape and create strong roles for actors like him. He is willing to put in considerable research before the selection and execution of his roles which he chooses very carefully. He has recently been criticized for rejecting roles in movies such as Interstellar and The Martian but it only goes to show how selective he is about his roles. His struggle to get to a level of a reputed actor demands that he believes in the roles he chooses and a brand of production house or the style of a particular director do not influence his decision about his movies. He is one of the very few actors from the Indian film industry who has been successful in Bollywood as well as Hollywood and his presence in a film has become almost synonymous with the quality of a movie. Take his prominent roles in recent efforts Lunchbox and Piku as fine examples of this.
Irrfan Khan is an actor who is a pleasure to watch on screen as he lives and breathes the character that he is playing in any role. It is no surprise that he was recently awarded the Padmashree award in India for his contribution to Arts (Cinema). He has undoubtedly broken the stereotype of actors in Bollywood as well as Hollywood.