MEET IRRFAN KHAN
At 48, Irrfan Khan is a character-acting veteran. Considered too "unconventional-looking" for Bollywood leads and, too little-known and Indian for Hollywood's, Khan has perfected the art of being that guy, from that thing. Since his breakthrough in Asif Kapadia's The Warrior in 2001, right up to Ang Lee's award-magnet Life of Pi just over a decade later, Khan has built up the steady level of kudos that comes from being a serious, dependable actor.
Khan was born to Muslim parents in the Jaipur village of Tonk. His mother's side has royal lineage and his father's side was well-to-do, but Khan Sr was a self-made man. "He had a tyre shop but, really, he was a hunter." Khan, the eldest of two brothers and one sister, side-stepped the family business when his father died and escaped to drama school. "First, I pursued cricket, then I tried business, but I quickly got bored. Cut, cut, cut to drama school. No one could have imagined I would be an actor, I was so shy. So thin. But the desire was so intense, I thought I'd suffocate if I didn't get admission."
Three decades later and he is no less passionate. Danny Boyle described his performance in Slumdog Millionaire as "beautiful to watch", and the late Roger Ebert commended him for subtle, engrossing work in Mira Nair's The Namesake. Mostly, though, Khan morphs on screen. He seems to disappear into the role, his face almost unrecognisable from one picture to the next: getting older and then younger-looking – blandly indistinctive at one turn, with sharp, penetrating features the next.
Irrfan has cracked both domestic and international markets. In the west, he has become the go-to Indian, bit-parting his way through Darjeeling Limited, A Mighty Heart, HBO series In Treatment and The Amazing Spider-Man.
In India, Khan gained the reputation of a skilled actor from his roles in Bollywood movies such as The Warrior, Maqbool, Haasil, Charas: A Joint Effort, Paan Singh Tomar, The Lunchbox. He appeared in the title role in Paan Singh Tomar, a biopic about an athlete. Both the movie and Khan's performance received critical acclaim. As of 2013, he had appeared in more than 30 films in Bollywood.
Khan has won three Filmfare Awards, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and an Independent Spirit Award nomination. He is also the recipient of 2011 Padma Shri award, the fourth highest civilian award in India. He has garnered the National Film Award for Best Actor in the 60th National Film Awards 2012, for his performance in Paan Singh Tomar