Kashmir’s Peter Dinklage

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Tariq Mir has earned fame and a role in a Salman Khan starrer for being a look-alike of the Hollywood legend, reports Umar Khurshid

Tariq with Bollywood Superstar Salman Khan on the sets of Bharat

A Hollywood actor Peter Dinklage has a face that the people cannot forget once they see him on screen. The 50-year-old actor received universal acclaim for portraying Tyrion Lannister on HBO television serious Game of Thrones that tells the story of nine noble families vying for control of the Iron Throne. But off-late, it was also presumed that Dinklage was on India tour in disguise when a man resembling Dinklage’s character Lannister was spotted by the fans in Kashmir.

A resident of Bumthan village in Anantnag, Dinklage’s look-alike, Tariq Mir, 33, with the same messy hair and scraggly beard, has earned a worldwide attention for being a doppelganger of a Hollywood star. Besides playing Lannister’s character at several government-organized shows in Kashmir, his appearance fetched Tariq a role in Bharat, a movie starring India’s megastar Salman Khan. Following this role, the actor acted in a number of national advertisements.

“I was recently approached by two more directors offering roles to me,” says Tariq, who is planning to leave for Mumbai once the roles are finalized.

Standing four feet four inches tall, Tariq started acting in 2004 when he was a Class 10 student at Government High School, Yassu, Anantnag.

“That was the first time, I performed on stage,” Tariq says adding he was appreciated by both teachers and students which piqued his interest in acting.

Two years later when Tariq was enrolled at Higher Secondary Anantnag for +2 studies, he performed a King’s role. “For the role, I received both awards and accolades from the teachers,” Tariq says. “I was honoured with the first position.”

Later, he was sent to compete with other artists in different places. At Pahalgam, he participated in an inter-school competition and secured the first position.

Tariq performed the same King’s role and he was yet again awarded by the chief guest and the then minister Mangat Ram Sharma. The interschool competition was participated by the hundreds of students belonging to different schools of Anantnag.

Tariq says he became a popular actor in the area thereafter. A year later he was called to perform at January 26 and August 15 functions held at Anantnag police lines. In 2006, a local drama director gave him a role in three Kashmiri dramas. Following that he shifted to Srinagar to essay more roles in Kashmiri dramas.

Within few years, as the people came to know about his talent he was called by the Department of Tourism, J&K, for the different functions, where he would portray the role of a clown welcoming the guests at the entrance. The trend to use dwarf as a clown at the entrance was later followed by Santoor and Taj hotels of Srinagar. “I was satisfied with the work,” Tariq said. “I never felt discouraged by anything.”

In 2016, Tariq was called by the Delhi tourism where he played the same clown’s role. As his role of clown trended on the internet, he was invited by the sponsors of International Trade Fair held at Delhi for the same character. He says they called him on phone asking for the role and he said yes without bothering about the money and other charges like travel and accommodation, they would offer him. “I received both money and respect from them,” Tariq says who was then moving first time outside the valley.

The clown’s role had become so famous that Uttar Pradesh’s tourism department sent Tariq an invitation and he moved to Lukhnow for the two-day event. Two years later, Tariq was again called to entertain the audience at Pahalgam but little did he know that he will be a country-wide celebrity after the show. The show was organized by the department of tourism Kashmir and the star cast which performed on stage were mostly from outside Kashmir.

Tariq with Bollywood filmmaker Imtiaz Ali

This time on February 20, 2018, as the cold breeze wafted across Pahalgam, Tariq and other artists rocked the stage. Apart from the top Bollywood director Imitiaz Ali, many prominent television faces were in attendance.

In the afternoon when Tariq was on stage portraying Tyrion Lannister of Game of Thrones, he was called by Imtiaz Ali, who took a picture with Tariq and shared on his widely followed Instagram. But Tariq had no idea that his life will never be the same after this picture.

Tariq turned into an overnight celebrity and the entire country loved him for the resemblance he had with Peter Dinklage. There is something about Dinklage that has made him the absolute favourite of Game of Thrones fans and the same followed for Tariq. The resemblance between the two is so perfect that nobody would judge who the real one is.

It was actually Imtiaz’s line producer and distant relative Khawar Jamsheed — his sister is married to Imtiaz’s younger brother Sajjad — who introduced Tariq to the director. As Imtiaz posted the picture on his Instagram, within minutes everyone on the internet began talking about the ditto look-alike of the Hollywood star. Tariq had actually auditioned for same clown’s role to Khawar, who spotted him and went on to take his career to places. Rather than taking him in as a clown, Khawar took Tariq for the event as a Dinklage look-alike, and people loved him over there. Soon this Indian Tyrion Lannister turned into a mini-celebrity in Kashmir and after the viral photo, his popularity grew in the country.

Until then Tariq wasn’t familiar with Peter Dinklage, nor had he watched Game of Thrones.

“Now it’s a part of my daily routine,” Tariq says. “I was myself shocked to see somebody of my height and the same face.” Not only are Tariq and Dinklage’s faces strikingly similar, but they are also of the same height. The photographs of the pair later appeared in social media showing the doppelgangers side-by-side.

He said the artists from outside the state at Pahalgam Festival began taking photographs with him. “I believe that after Imtiaz sir it was the outsider crew who could make out the lookalike appearance I have with Dinklage,” Tariq says.

Following the event at Pahalgam, Tariq was invited by a team of local boys who created a video in tribute to Game of Thrones. In January 2019, when the last and eighth season of the series was about to start, the fans across the world began sending their tributes to the official YouTube channel of the HBO show. The channel made sure to acknowledge all the love it would receive from the audience. Among the video clips that featured on Game of Thrones official site as a tribute by the fans included The Cure. The six-minute 21-second long video composed by Sufiyan Malik, pianist Hujat Kirmani, and Zakir Bakshi was made to pay an instrumental tribute to the show. Filmed at the ski resort of Gulmarg, it seemed like the perfect setting to recreate the snow backdrop of the TV series. Directed by Ruman Hamdani, the project took three months to film with pretty basic production equipment. The video was later shared by the official Jammu and Kashmir Tourism page.

And yet again in July 2018, Bollywood star Salman Khan’s stylist and friend Ashley Rebello left his followers stunned after he posted a picture of himself with Tariq. “Just see who I am with, on the sets of Bharat,” wrote Rebello on his Twitter handle, who has worked on Salman Khan films such as Tubelight, Tiger Zinda Hai and Bajrangi Baijaan. “The game is on,” he continued, making a reference to Game of Thrones.

As people in India were not aware of the Dinklage’s lookalike, it was presumed that Khan’s upcoming film Bharat has cast original Dinklage for the role.

Tariq believes that his profile increased dramatically after the success of the Lannister’s role in Ali Abbas Zaffar directed Bharat. But the only thing Tariq regrets at this point of time is that he missed his role in another Bollywood hit. In Milap Zaveri’s directed Marjawan that released in November last, Tariq was offered a role. He says the 3 feet tall antagonist’s role essayed by Hritesh Deshmuk was first offered to him.

“It must have been September- a month after Kashmir lost its statehood when Tariq was called by the director for the shoot but due to communication gag they couldn’t get in touch with the actor,” Tariq says.

Tariq feels proud to a part of the film industry. “I had never imagined that people with dwarfism will get such big roles,” Tariq says.

Tariq Mir in Mumbai

The 33-year-old says that he is regularly stopped by strangers desperate for a picture. “But I take it as a positive sign always,” Tariq says.

Describing Dinklage as an inspiration, Tariq says if his face would not have matched with the celebrity he would have been neglected the way other small-time actors of the valley are being overlooked. “I thank God for being kind to me,” says Tariq.

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