Nawazuddin Siddiqui has shared “several precious memories” of working with Irrfan Khan, who passed away in April last year aged 53 after a two-year battle with cancer.
“I have learned a lot from Irrfan bhai,” says Nawaz, adding that the late actor was like an older brother to him.
Fondly recalling Khan, Nawaz also lay to rest rumours that the two stars ignored each other on the sets of the much acclaimed 2013 film The Lunchbox.
“Not many know that it was Irrfan who first directed me as an actor in a film called Alvida in 2000. It was my first film as a lead actor and his as a director. It was his idea to cast me in that film. It was an hour-long film that he’d made for the BBC. He didn’t direct much after that but had he done that, he would be as successful a filmmaker as he was as an actor,” Nawaz told The Times of India in an interview.
The two stellar actors shot in Mumbai’s local trains for The Lunchbox, and Nawaz remembers that “it was one of the best experiences to shoot in a packed train”.
“An entire compartment was booked for our shoot. Irrfan bhai and I had got into our get-up for the movie and sat between the locals. No one really realised but everyone just perfectly synced into our scene. Even those who were not in our unit became a part of The Lunchbox,” he said, further reminiscing about the time Khan took him to meet British director Danny Boyle.
“When casting for Slumdog Millionaire was going on, he (Khan) took me to meet Danny Boyle without an appointment. Imagine walking in to meet such a big director without any prior notice. Finally, both of us were cast in the movie, but unfortunately, when the shoot began, I was busy with another movie. So, my part was then offered to another actor. I have learned a lot from Irrfan bhai… even how to meet a big Hollywood director without an appointment (laughs).”
On rumours of rivalry between Khan and Nawaz, the actor asked: “How can I be his competitor or rival! Irrfan ki jagah koi nahi le sakta. There’s no one like him.”
Life of Pi actor Khan had revealed on Twitter in March 2018 that he had a rare disease and that he would share his story after the diagnosis is over. His health improved a year later, but in 2020 he was admitted with a colon infection to Mumbai’s Kokilaben hospital, where he passed away a day later. Khan is survived by his wife, Sutapa Sikdar, and sons Babil and Ayan.