JAIPUR: Actor Irrfan Khan's death has left his friends stunned in Jaipur, the city where he spent his childhood and was bitten by the acting bug.
Haidar Ali Zaidi, a friend from schooldays, recalled how Khan idolised Mithun Chakraborty, telling him that he wanted a haircut like that of the star.
The two went on to join Rajasthan University.
"In university days, our departments were different but we would to sit together near the university swimming pool.
Some theatre students used to perform there and seeing them, Irrfan himself plunged into theatre and later emerged as an amazing actor, which we have unfortunately lost today," he said.
Irrfan Khan, 54, died at a Mumbai hospital on Wednesday.
The actor was fighting a rare form of cancer with which he was diagnosed in 2018.
"We spent our school, college and university life together. He took a different path and I joined the civil services, but our friendship continued," Zaidi said.
"Whenever we met in Jaipur, we roamed the streets where we spent our childhood days and would go to our favourite paanwala," he said.
"He became a big actor. Yet he was very down to earth, simple and sincere and there was not one change in his attitude," said Zaidi, who is now Bharatpur's Superintendent of Police.
Ravi Chaturvedi, who taught drama at Rajasthan University but met Irrfan Khan earlier, remembered his commitment towards acting."
It was around 1980-81 when Irrfan got introduced to me. That young boy with extraordinary intensity had a strong desire to become a professional actor.
"He was desperate for admission to the National School of Drama," Chaturvedi said.
He also recalled that Khan, who lived then in the walled city's Subhash Chowk area, was fond of flying kites.
Chaturvedi, who now runs his own theatre group, said the actor's father died after he joined NSD.
Khan struggled for years - in Jaipur, at NSD and then in Mumbai - before achieving success, he said.
He described Khan as a simple person whose behaviour did not change with success.
A couple of years ago, Khan told Chaturvedi that he wanted to do something for theatre students in Jaipur. But then he fell ill. Sabir Khan, who also did theatre in the 1980s, said the actor never changed after he tasted success.
"He loved to interact with theatre and drama students for hours. He often visited my theatre group and gave tips to students. He was such an amazing actor," he said.
Singer Ila Arun, who too hails from Jaipur, said Irrfan Khan was an extraordinary man.
"He was a man with a simple face and intensity in the eyes. We have all seen that he had a fighter inside him. His demise is an irreparable loss," she said.