When Kapadia cast a 34-year-old Khan in The Warrior, it ignited both men’s careers – and sparked a lifelong friendship. Here, the director pays tribute to a man of ‘immense dignity and charisma’
I first met Irrfan Khan 21 years ago in a cheap beach hotel in Mumbai. I was 28 and casting my debut film, The Warrior, about a conflicted enforcer in feudal India. None of the actors I’d seen were right. I’d tell them I wanted to make a western, a mix of Robert Bresson and Sergio Leone, and their eyes would glaze.
They weren’t interested in doing a movie without songs or romance or much dialogue, filmed far away in Rajasthan and the Himalayas. A film which wasn’t typically British and was shot in Hindi, but wasn’t totally Indian, either.
Related: Film of the week: The Warrior
Related: Irrfan Khan – a life in pictures