'To be pitched against him as a rival was not right. Luckily, it did not affect our personal equation.'
They were known in recent times as the archrivals of good cinema, a male version of the Shabana Azmi-Smita Patil rivalry.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui is heartbroken to hear of Irrfan Khan's death and says he cannot understand where the rivalry stories came from.
"Irrfanbhai was my mentor," Nawaz tells Subhash K Jha. "He was like an elder brother, and he remained one till the end."
"People seem to think we came together for The Lunchbox, but our relationship went back a long way. In 2000, Irrfanbhai directed me in an hour-long film Alvida. It is one of my best films," recalls Nawaz.
"I wonder why he never directed after that. He had the clear-headed focus of a born director."
"We also worked in a short film Bypass, which had Asif Kapadia (who directed Irrfan in Warrior) as a producer. In 2013, we worked in Meridian Line," says Nawaz.
"Working with Irrfanbhai was always a pleasure," says Nawaz. I considered him my mentor, my elder brother. This relationship of respect remained unchanged until his death," he insists.
The stories of rivalry between them are very embarrassing for Nawaz.
"I always looked up to him as a mentor. To be pitched against him as a rival was not right. Luckily, it did not affect our personal equation. I continued to be in touch with him during his illness," says Nawaz.
"His end has left me shocked about the uncertainty of life".
"I will always cherish Irrfanbhai as a human being and actor. He was beyond brilliant in Haasil, The Namesake and Maqbool. He never seemed to act."
"You never caught him out acting. He had such a long way to go. Why did this have to happen to him?"
"I wish Irrfanbhai peace in heaven and his family the strength to carry on. I will miss him."