Tariq Mir, Jammu and Kashmir’s Tyrion Lannister lookalike, dreams of Bollywood stardom

Bollywood film director Imtiaz Ali, known for popular films “Jab We Met” and “Rockstar,” had dropped in after attending a local film festival.

The two met and snapped a photo together, which Ali posted to Instagram with a caption that would change Mir’s life. It said: “With Tyrion Lannister at Pahalgam festival.”

Until then, Mir had never heard of Tyrion Lannister — much less Peter Dinklage, the award-winning actor who plays the character in Game of Thrones (GoT), the popular American fantasy drama television series.

The picture went viral and stories appeared on entertainment sites declaring that Peter Dinklage’s doppelganger had been discovered in Jammu and Kashmir.

Curious to know more about his lookalike, Mir went online and watched the GoT series on his cellphone. He saw his resemblance to Dinklage — their facial structure, their hair, and, as actors with dwarfism, their similar height.

A month later, Mir received a surprised phone call — a Bollywood casting director in Mumbai was offering him a small role in the film “Bharat,” a drama based on the 2014 South Korean film “Ode to My Father,” starring Indian superstar Salman Khan.

Mir accepted the offer and flew to Mumbai in July 2018 for a month of filming — it was his first trip outside his home state.

“It was a surreal experience to meet the superstar Salman Khan for the first time on the sets and dance alongside him and other actors,” said Mir.

“Even without makeup, many people on the set told me that I resembled the American actor (Dinklage) more than any other lookalike,” he remembered with a smile. “That made me very happy.”

More roles and offers followed — Mir’s star was on the rise.

Early struggles

Born the youngest of four brothers and two sisters, Mir grew up in Bumtham village in the Mir Bazar area of southern Kashmir’s Anantnag district. His father, a farmer, passed away after a brief illness in 2014 and the 36-year-old actor now lives with his mother and elder brother, who is a teacher.

Mir started acting in high school and won awards for his stage performances and skits. But work was hard to come by. He earned a small amount of money performing at college function and cultural events.

While Mir says some people in his village made fun of his height, it didn’t stop him from acting.

Tariq Mir said before the lockdown he was offered another role in a Bollywood film.

In his early 20s, he won minor roles in dramas aired by state-run television channels in Srinagar, the largest city in Jammu and Kashmir. But it was nothing compared to the fame he found from his resemblance to Dinklage.

After the Bollywood film, he became well-known in his village and locals swapped videos of him on their cellphones. Young people recognized him in public parks, at weddings, and other functions, he said. Everyone wanted a selfie.

But in the past nine months, his work has dried up.

Mir has been mostly restricted to his home since August 5, 2019, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi revoked the special status given to Jammu and Kashmir and introduced a bill to split the state into two union territories, effective from October 31. In India, state governments retain authority over local matters, but New Delhi has more of a say in the affairs of a union territory.
At the same time, New Delhi launched a security crackdown, suspending all communications and placing heavy restrictions on movement and public gatherings in the region.

It also issued a warning for tourists to leave due to a “terror threat” in Kashmir, one of the world’s most contested regions, claimed in parts or in full by India, Pakistan and China. Several countries — including Germany, Britain and Australia — issued travel warnings to stay away.

Before the crackdown, Mir says he was offered a role as a villain in another Bollywood film, “Marjaavaan,” directed by Milap Zaveri and released in November last year.
He said he had the script but couldn’t contact the casting director during the communications blackout. The lead role of an evil dwarf Vishnu Shetty was ultimately filled by Indian actor Riteish Deshmukh, who filmed parts of the movie on his knees.

“Had I got that role, it would have benefited me,” Mir said. “I’d not done any villain’s role till then and it was also a bigger role. It would have given me more work and publicity.”

Mir missed out on local work too. Peak summer tourism season events in Kashmir were canceled due to the security clampdown. Then in March, the Indian government announced a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Mir was confined to his home, again, without work.

And then the internet found another Peter Dinklage doppelganger.

Pakistani waiter Rozi Khan (left) and actor Peter Dinklage.

Competition for Dinklage fame

Waiter Rozi Khan was working at a small Kashmiri restaurant in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, when GoT fans noticed a striking resemblance. Like Mir, Khan hadn’t heard of Dinklage, but split photos of him alongside the star soon spread on social media.

When Mir’s slow-speed 2G mobile internet service was restored at the end of last year he saw the images of Khan and Dinklage. While Khan is the same height as Dinklage, Mir thinks he’s a better match.

“My facial features, hairstyle and beard is more similar to Peter Dinklage,” he said. “If you put our two photos alongside photos of Peter, I think you’ll find me resembling him more.”

Sadly for both Mir and Khan, the final GoT episode aired last year, wrapping up eight seasons and 73 episodes of the award-winning fantasy drama, potentially limiting their appeal — and work — as Tyrion Lannister lookalikes.

Mir hopes that after the coronavirus restrictions ease, he’ll be offered more work. He wants to act in more television dramas and take on bigger Bollywood roles.

He also has another dream — to meet Peter Dinklage in person. Just once, he said. “If I ever get a chance to meet him, I will just hug him first,” he said with a wide smile.

“Then, I’ll thank him from my heart and tell him that I got more work and respect because of him.”

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