My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist. This catch dialogue from Shah Rukh Khan's movie "My Name is Khan" must have reverberated through actor Irrfan Khan's mind when he was stopped "several times" by the immigration authorities at the US airport.
"It's humiliating. They don't even disclose the reason," says Irrfan, who is one of the most recognised actors from India in Hollywood having worked in Oscar-winner "Slumdog Millionaire", "Life of Pi" and crowd pleaser "Spider-Man".
"Actually, I don't use my surname Khan in films, but in passports, surname and religion are required. I was stopped not once, but several times at airports in the US.
"Once I told the immigration people, why do you issue visas, if you don't want to give us entry, and the man scowled at me saying --Are you threatening me?," Irrfan said on Rajat Sharma's show 'Aap Ki Adalat' to be telecast on India TV.
Irrfan was detained twice at the US airports-- at Los Angeles airport in 2008 and at New York airport in 2009.
But, he is not the only celebrity to face this problem. Shah Rukh, his co-star and producer in 'Billu', was infamously stopped at the Newark airport in 2009. He faced a similar problem last year at the New York airport.
Other prominent Indians who have gone through a similar ordeal are former President APJ Abdul Kalam, John Abraham, Neil Nitin Mukhesh and Kabir Khan to name a few.
The actor, who is currently starring in Tigmanshu Dhulia's 'Sahib, Biwi Aur Gangster Returns', says he is tired of facing this everytime he travels to the US.
"The policemen with big guns just take you to a room and ask you to sit. they don't allow you to speak to anybody, nor use cellphones. And after long waits, they come and simply say --'Go, please go'.
"So now, I have told my hosts clearly that if I am stopped at the airport, I will just buy a ticket and return to India," said Irrfan.
Talking about his role of a older Pi in Ang Lee's film, which won four Oscars this year, Irrfan said it was quite challenging.
"My character was such that the fate of the film finally depended on my performance," said Irrfan, whose voice-over plays an important role in the visually-stunning movie.
Despite his unconventional looks, Irrfan has managed to create a reputation as a formidable actor in both Bollywood and in Hollywood. The actor believes most of the good actors are not great lookers.
"Most of the superstars are conventionally not goodlookers, whether Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan sahib or Dilip Sahib. I am not comparing myself with them. I am only exploring the possibility that the inner personality of an actor counts, not good looks.
"It appears as if Hollywood is mesmerised with my looks, but for me, language does not matter. Language does not make one an elite. In 'Life Of Pi', I was asked to use Canadian-French-Indian accent."
From his huge body of work, Irrfan describes Vishal Bhardwaj directed 'Maqbool' and Dhulia's 'Paan Singh Tomar' among his favourite films.