Irrfan Khan was a huge admirer of Naseeruddin Shah, his senior in the theatre and cinema world, and aspired to have an acting career like him. His colleagues at the National School of Drama often saw Naseeruddin in his performances.
The admiration eventually became mutual, as is evident from the tribute the senior actor has penned for Irrfan. Naseeruddin has recalled his first meeting with Irrfan, as well as the qualities that defined him as a fine actor.
"One day on returning home I saw Ratna (Pathak Shah) sitting in my drawing room with a very slight, very mild looking person who was rehearsing with her for a TV film they were to act in together. If not for those eyes I might have taken no notice of the man, never having seen him perform but something in his quiet assurance as he rose to greet me that day stayed with me...," Naseeruddin wrote for The Hindu.
Naseeruddin also recalled Irrfan's days of struggle, when he did small roles in TV and movies before the world recognised him for his talents.
"His early stint which saw him making do with walk—on parts in movies or more prominent ones in forgotten TV serials - a path that didn't seem to be leading anywhere - was for him, I believe, an apprenticeship to hone the craft on display in the work he was to subsequently astonish us all with. It was as if nature recognised what he was capable of and was preparing him to do justice to it," he added.