He’s already the king of the Khans. When Irrfan Khan starred in the Jurassic Park franchise this year, he entered the billion-dollar film club. In itself that's no measure of good cinema, but at over Rs 60 to the dollar, it's some distance ahead of those other three Khans who rule Bollywood with their breathless did-we-hit-Rs-100-crore excitement.
But there was a time in Irrfan’s life when even a minute on screen was hard to come by. Take his minute in Salaam Bombay (1988), where he is credited as the “letter writer”.
After this, and well before he became the familiar brooding figure on the big screen, Irrfan worked for 15 long years in television. Haasil, which was released in 2003 and earned him a Filmfare trophy for Best Actor in a Negative Role made audiences notice his explosive talent.
But it took Mira Nair nearly two decades after Salaam Bombay to cast him as Ashoke Ganguly in The Namesake (2007). And it went so well that she gave him roles in two other short films.
So, how good Irrfan Khan in the shorter version of the game? Awesome, actually. Here’s the evidence.
In Migration (2008), he plays a closeted gay man cheating on his wife. You can watch the film here.
In another Nair short film for the New York I Love You (2008) anthology, in a story written by Suketu Mehta, Irrfan plays a Jain diamond dealer romancing a Jewish Natalie Portman. Better believe it!
A classic performance comes in the dialogue-less Amit Kumar short film, Bypass (2003). Watch this for the searing intensity he and his co-actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui bring to the screen without exchanging a single word. Isn't that what they say about acting? It's all in the eyes.
The Cloud Door (1995) is a Mani Kaul film in which Irrfan Khan appears in a non-speaking part alongside a talking parrot that gets more screen time than him. Irrfan is unruffled and gives it his best. You can watch this NSFW film here.