Jackie Shroff, the Bollywood superstar who created a huge impact in the 1980s and 1990s and changed the chocolate hero perception, speaks to Rohan Dua, the executive editor of The New Indian, about his roles, songs, his mentor, his characteristic style, and how he feels about 72 years of India’s independence.
Rohan Dua: It’s been wonderful knowing you all these years through celluloid. You remain a rage in the country with the kind of roles that you portray on the big screen. You were someone who became the country’s biggest star in the eighties and nineties when not many people would have attached significance to the kind of outfit that you sported. You made a statement and expression with your lovely moustache. What do looks and your characters mean to you today?
Jackie Shroff: First of all, doing such work is a matter of pride. Sometimes, I (my characters) become bad, sometimes, I become good. I tried my best to do justice while portraying the role of a police officer when I had just entered the industry.
I was offered the second lead; the main lead was Dev Sahab (Dev Anand). After 15 days, my role was given to Mithun Chakravarti and they said there was a role for me too, that of a member in Shakti Kapoor’s gang. Suddenly, I was a villain. So, I thought that’s life with its ups and downs. Whatever you are doing, do it with all your heart. I became a henchman of Shakti Kapoor. I played around.
Rohan Dua: Did you do modelling before that?
Jackie Shroff: Yes. Models are stiff actors, so I took baby steps and did modelling first. Then Subhash ji (Subhash Ghai) saw me; he wanted a new actor. He asked me if I know acting and if I had acted before. I said ‘yes’ and I got selected and did not look back after that. The roles that I got were of the villains.
The dream of becoming a pilot got fulfilled in Border. I got a chance to meet real heroes. I started looking at people out there and they were just simple boys and they were the best fighter pilots I have ever seen; they were so normal and casual.
I also got a crucial role in Ram Lakhan in 1989. The film holds a lot of significance for me.
Rohan Dua: It proved that you are not a chocolate boy and still can create an impact.
Jackie Shroff: Niyat saaf har manzil aasan (If your intention is good, it will pave the path for you). All the movies came as a blessing and I worked for 12 hours every day.
Rohan Dua: At 65, you still look as dapper as you were in the movie Hero. In fact, when I met you before this interview I was complimenting you. When you performed in the movies even the smallest roles really influenced us — be it your dialogue delivery or impressionable characters.
Your characters in movies like Devdas, Ram Lakhan, Khalnayak and many others left an impact. Which among these influenced you; something that changed your point of view?
Jackie Shroff: Border and then King Uncle — it was about orphanage that was a good thought and I liked that film. Ram Lakhan is extremely close to my heart; I got a lot of love for portrayal of my character, elders as well.
I want to say here that elders in any family are important, so joint families are important. There are many Indian values to learn from your elders. All the Vedas and Ayurveda should also be promoted in the schools. We have been taught Jack & Jill and Humpty Dumpty, but not the Vedas. So, I feel we remain uneducated without having studied them. After reading Atharveda, I got to know about the specifications of different trees which I never got to know from my school books. The Vedas should be taught from kindergarten itself.
Rohan Dua: Do you think that reading about the Hindu sacred texts should be made mandatory in schools?
Jackie Shroff: Anything that preaches goodness like pranayama should be promoted. Atharveda will teach about medication, Rigveda will teach about Mantras. Why not spread good energy; every classroom must have a plant that should be watered by the children. Plants are our friends; they give us oxygen.
Rohan Dua: The moment I entered your house, I saw a lot of plants. You seem to be very fond of them. Which are the plants that you usually have?
Jackie Shroff: AC water makes the environment devoid of water. I have an Areca plant that removes toxins from the environment.
Rohan Dua: As a powerhouse of talent, you speak the language – ‘tapori’ language — that touches the chord of people of every part of the country from Punjab to Rajasthan to Himachal. It captures the sentiments of many in this country because that language is something which is so unique to you and no actor has used it. You speak English pretty well, you speak Hindi. Why is ‘tapori’ language so close to your heart and where did you learn it from?
Jackie Shroff: I used to live in a ‘chaul’ in Valkeshwar; all kinds of people were there from governor, ministers to people like us. There were little rooms in the same kholi. I listened to everybody there. Gujaratis, Marathis everybody was there (radio, Vividh Bharti taught me proper Hindi). So, my language was khichdi of all languages. And that was the language of the heart. And Mumbai’s language is like that has no gender specification.
Rohan Dua: Who were there in your family at that time?
Jackie Shroff: My parents and elder brother, four people in all. Papa was an astrologer; he even went to Dhirubhai Ambani’s house and read ‘Patrika’; he said to him ‘you will be the world’s one of the most powerful persons. He said to me that I will be a hero, and I have future in mass media.
Rohan Dua: You said your father is an astrologer of Gujarati descent. We have great personalities hailing from Gujarat — one among them is Narendra Modi.
Jackie Shroff: Yes… I met him… so lovely…he is such a divine personality.
Rohan Dua: Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah are from Guajrat. How proud do you feel?
Jackie Shroff: Of course, I feel very proud. They are ruling the country and taking care of it: ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kisan’ is the buzz. Handling the whole country is a huge task and the credit goes to them. We are talking about the pride of Gujarat — the lion of Gujarat — and how well he (Modi) is ruling. Because of him, India is shining everywhere.
The main thing is the security of the country and agriculture. I respect real heroes and leaders.
Rohan Dua: Some of your songs are very close to my heart like Sun Beliya, Hero songs, Tera Naam Liya and Gardish songs. Out of your songs, which are among your favourites?
Jackie Shroff: Sun Beliya…The song featuring me and Madhuri ji (Madhuri Dixit) is my favourite. It is very close to my heart because it is a clean song…family song. I am very fond of old songs.
Rohan Dua: You had a great ‘jugalbandi’ with Anil Kapoor. How did the friendship start?
Jackie Shroff: When I cleared SSC, I used to roam around the place in the evening with my friends, where Anil Kapoor’s then-girlfriend (now wife) used to live. He used to come to meet her so we used to say “hey hello”. One day, he asked me about my style of clothes; from there, our friendship started. After that, we talked and met at parties. The audience accepted us as elder and younger brothers. Anil is elder than me in real life but he became my younger brother in films. He is soft as well as tough. We did 11 movies together; I think the bond just grew stronger. We never cared about whose name should come first.
Rohan Dua: I must also mention the movie 1942- A Love Story.
Jackie Shroff: You liked it?
Rohan Dua: I loved it; there was a song in it…Yeh Safar Bahot Hai Kathin Magar Na Udaas Ho Mere Humsafar. R D Burman made a comeback with these songs. You and Anupam Kher had a very key role…the film was set against the backdrop of our freedom struggle. Also, this is the 75th year of independence.
Jackie Shroff: It’s a huge thing brother.
Rohan Dua: How do you feel about India completing 75 years of its independence?
Jackie Shroff: Everyone’s life is difficult, but balancing it is life. When you look around, there is so much pain and suffering that you feel bad. People are facing malnutrition. It is difficult to manage such a huge population. We have to realize that hardships make us strong. We have to take life as a journey.
Rohan Dua: You have noble thoughts.
Jackie Shroff: Many have such thoughts. Human beings have everything in them – good and bad.
Rohan Dua– Talking about Parinda… You won the best actor Filmfare award for it. Someone told me that during the climax scene, Nana Patekar actually got burnt.
Jackie Shroff: The first shot was okay, but the technicians felt that the fire was not enough. They created more fire and Nana got burnt fire. He was rushed to the hospital and returned after 15 days.
Rohan Dua: You have had a fruitful association with Subhash Ghai. You still cherish his friendship, and look on him as your godfather. You have done lovely films with him. We still remember those audio cassette days when there was your cover on the cassette and it was written Subhash Ghai film.
What was your association with Subhash Ghai like? How did the mutual trust develop?
Jackie Shroff: Even after knowing all my shortcomings, he gave me the role of a hero…it was blind trust. Director for us used to be everything. He makes you star by putting you from ground. We used to have normal meetings at his place; he never made me feel like an outsider. I don’t see him as a friend…I see him as a brother and mentor. He even performed kanyadan at my wedding.
Rohan Dua: Was there ever any argument about fee with him?
Jackie Shroff: No chance; he is my guru. Asking for it from Subhash Babu would be like battamizi. How can I ask for money from whom who brought me and made me.
Rohan Dua: Would you like to disclose your first fee?
Jackie Shroff: I took it as a blessing whatever he gave me… maybe it was 25,000-50,000; whatever he wanted to give, I accepted. I was nobody to ask.
Rohan Dua: Let’s do a small quiz with you. I have some dialogues of yours with me you have to guess the movie. Nazuk ladkiyan dadagiri karti hui acchi nahi lagti…
Jackie Shroff: Hero…
Rohan Dua: Khubsoorti voh nahi hoti jo aaine mein dikhai de, khubsoorti voh hoti hai jo aaine me nazar na aye…
Jackie Shroff: Aaina, this line is all about inside beauty.
Rohan Dua: Kuch log umar ke sath badhte hain, kuch log bigadte hai umar ke sath
Jackie Shroff: I don’t know.
Rohan Dua: Even I don’t know.. Next: Pathan ko sirf do baate aati hain, hadh se zyada pyaar aur nafrat
Jackie Shroff: Mission Kashmir…I think.
Rohan Dua: Aapki kamiz ka size chota hai sir
Jackie Shroff: Hero…
Rohan: If I talk about Sunny Deol… what do you think about him as an action hero?
Jackie: He is my superhero… I believe in every action he does. He stays very quiet inside – introverted.
Rohan Dua: Many people from Bollywood have entered politics — like Hema Malini, Jaya Bachchan, Sunny Deol and Babul Supriyo. If any political party approaches you from Gujarat or Maharashtra to join it, would you accept it?
Jackie Shroff: First of all, you got to know your subjects; we just can’t go take the crown and make yourself king of that area without knowing all subjects. I’d rather join social work if anyone approaches me. If you sit in a position where you don’t even know what you are doing…it’s foolish. Some people are there who know about everything.
Politics is a responsibility. I have to be guided as an actor in politics. I am dependent on the technician when acting.
Rohan Dua– You have been a very inspiring and sophisticated actor and must taught your son the same. The discipline reflects on your son who as a young actor has established himself. He has taken your template to remain calm towards many options. So, how difficult was it to ensure such upbringing?
Jackie Shroff: I said at the outset that joint family is very important I used to be mostly on shooting so Tiger’s (his son) grandparents and maternal grandmother usually stayed with him, so he is influenced by them. I used to meet him only once a week.
Rohan Dua: People still like your personality because you stay grounded.
Jackie Shroff: Thank you, everybody… for loving me and my family. Keep spreading love.
Rohan Dua: When do you actually plan to get your son married?
Jackie Shroff: It’s up to him; he is working…he stays with me, leaves in the morning for work and then we meet at night. I don’t take any decision…it’s up to him — be it right or wrong.
Rohan Dua: What according to you are the most important movies that our generation should watch of yours?
Jackie Shroff: Ram Lakhan, Border, Khalnayak and King Uncle.
Rohan: You performed serious roles in Parinda, 1942 – A Love Story, Yaadein etc.
Jackie: Yaa, Yaadien, I loved that film.
Rohan Dua: You did films in Tamil, Telegu, Gujarati and so on. What was the reason that you entered into regional film industry?
Jackie Shroff: I wanted to experiment in every language. Big production films did not want to give us (fee), small production could not give us (fee), and the middle type used to cut the money. So, I went through all these phases in my life.
Rohan Dua: You like to wear your own kind of outfit and have a different style. You have your distinguished accessory like bandhani and scarf as well.
Jackie Shroff: I love bandhani because during my childhood, my mother used to wear bandhani sarees, I used it play with my mother’s saree.
Rohan Dua: Even when you met the PM, you wore a cap.
Jackie Shroff: It’s our desi fabric; style statement with the basic fabric like cotton… I like it very much.
Rohan Dua: You have worked with actresses like Manisha Koirala, Madhuri Dixit, Meenakshi etc. Which of your co-actresses did you like the most?
Jackie Shroff: I liked all my leading ladies; whom do they like is more important.
Rohan Dua: Who has been your favourite director?
Jackie Shroff: I like giving respect to all. I don’t like to compare; being judgemental is a very bad thing, you are no one to judge anything. Everybody has his own way. I loved working with every director. I really liked my all directors and co-actresses, I cannot distinguish.
Rohan Dua: In which movie did you have the name of your son Tiger?
Jackie Shroff: Kahin Pyaar Na Ho Jaye.
Rohan Dua: Any line in Gujarati in which you would like to send a message or in your tapori language.
Jackie Shroff: Majama Che. I can’t say dialogues…I am proud that two Gujarati men are leading this country.
Rohan Dua: We thank you so much for the journey you had for 40 plus years. Wish your son and daughter an incredible career ahead.
Jackie Shroff: To your family too, to everybody…