British filmmaker Danny Boyle on Wednesday paid rich tributes to the "wonderful actor" Irrfan Khan, who died in Mumbai aged 53, describing him as a "pivotal" figure in the making of his 2009 Oscar Award-winning directorial venture Slumdog Millionaire.
Boyle recalled that though the role of the police inspector played by Khan was not a huge one, the actor saw the potential in it and also went on to reassure an important partner on the project by his decision.
"Irrfan was a wonderful actor and a pivotal figure in the making of 'Slumdog Millionaire'," Boyle told the BBC.
"It wasn't a huge role and in fact on paper it was even less rewarding looking. But Irrfan saw the possibility of guiding our audience with his dignity, his grace, his charm, his intelligence and his calmness, through this crossword puzzle of an idea of a film," he recalls.
The film, which went on to win a record eight Oscars in 2009, including one for musician AR Rahman for 'Jai Ho' song.
"He [Khan] also reassured one of our most significant partners on the film, Peter Rice of Fox Searchlight, who as a friend (before he was involved in the film) told me to cast Irrfan Khan in it, whether there was a role for him or not. He said, just get that guy," Boyle recalled.
"Then he ended up buying the film and releasing it to put it on its trajectory towards the Academy Awards, and he was no doubt partly enticed by the fact that indeed we had got Irrfan Khan," he said.
Referring to Rice and Khan as a "match made in heaven", Boyle expressed his gratitude to the actor for his contribution to the project and to the cinema.
Khan died of a rare form of cancer in a Mumbai hospital on Wednesday. He was buried at the Versova graveyard in the afternoon. Political leaders across the party lines mourned the demise of Khan.
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