When Bollywood actor Irrfan Khan missed playing the role of India's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru - GulfToday

When Bollywood actor Irrfan Khan missed playing the role of India's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru

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As Irrfan Khan's career in Hollywood was picking up, he was identified to play India's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru during the final days of the British Empire and the partition of the sub-continent in 1947 but the project fell through largely due to the Indian government's nitpicking with the script and cost overruns.


Irrfan was approached by the British director Joe Wright (Anoushka Shankar's husband) to play Nehru in "Indian Summer", based on Alex von Tunzelmann's similarly titled book, the actor's biographer, Aseem Chhabra, writes in "Irrfan Khan, The Man, The Dreamer, The Star" (Rupa).


The film was also supposed to explore the rumoured affair between Nehru and Edwina Mountbatten.


Cate Blanchett would play Lady Mountbatten and Hugh Grant was offered the role of her husband, Lord Mountbatten.


"Generations of Indian actors have dreamed of playing Jawaharlal Nehru or Mahatma Gandhi but only a few have had the opportunity. Naturally Irrfan was excited about being cast in the role even when he had no physical resemblance to Nehru. He addressed that concern in an interview: 'I'll turn myself into the character through my attitude.


There were, however, delays, the first of which was the Indian government's demand to approve the entire script.


AmitabhBachchan-Irrfan Irrfan Khan with Amitabh Bachchan and Deepika Padukone.


 "There was even a promise from the director that he would not show any kissing between Nehru and Edwina Mountbatten" but the film's budget shot up to an estimated $30-$40 million. And finally the project was shelved.


The actor, who had already made a mark in Hollywood with films like "The Namesake", "Life of Pi" and "Slumdog Millionaire", also turned down a few lucrative offers, most significant was when he said 'no' to Ridley Scott's "The Martian" (2015).


Instead, he opted for a charming, quiet love story - "Piku" (also released in 2015) - where he also got a chance to play the love interest (in the most un-Hindi film way) of Deepika Padukone, and co-star with Amitabh Bachchan.


"He was in two minds about what to do, and he kept asking me," "Piku" director Shoojit Sircar says, adding that the dates for the two films clashed. "I was thinking, possibly for him, who is Shoojit Sircar? He's nobody as compared to a Hollywood director."


Irrfan did meet with Ridley Scott and the director told him that he had seen "The Lunchbox". Irrfan later told the press that this was the second time he had been offered a role by the Hollywood director and producer.




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The first, "Body of Lies" (2008) had Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead. But again Irrfan had to say no because the timing did not work out.


Irrfan also said no to Steven Spielberg one time. "It was a chance for him to act as Scarlett Johansson's love interest. But he was concerned that the film did not offer enough acting opportunity to his character.


Perhaps he was being careful after getting a minuscule role in "The Amazing Spider-Man" (2012).


However, Irrfan's biggest regret was missing out on the Christopher Nolan film, "Interstellar" (2014), for which he was expected to stay in the US for four months at a stretch.


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