In Shoojit Sircar’s Gulabo Sitabo, the one who remains at the centre of the story is Fatto Bi aka Begum, the 95-year-old owner of Fatima Mahal. She is a spirited woman. She is not dependent on her husband and controls the money in the house. And, just like her, Farrukh Jafar, the actor who brings Begum alive on screen, is free-spirited and lively. It is Jafar’s love for acting which motivates her to work even in her late 80s.
While many have noticed Jafar now, this is not the first time she has faced the camera. Jafar has been an actor for almost 40 years and has films like Umrao Jaan, Swades, Peepli Live, Sultan, Secret superstar and Photograph to her credit.
Farrukh Jafar is happy with the overwhelming response to her character in Gulabo Sitabo. “Bahaut accha lagg raha hai..(It feels great),” said Jafar in her frail voice as we talk to her over the phone. She added, “I never thought people would like me so much in the film. I liked the role and said yes to it.”
Jafar landed a role in Gulabo Sitabo after her daughter Mehru Jafar sent her short audition video to director Shoojit Sircar and Juhi Chaturvedi. The duo liked the video and approved her for the role. Recalling her first meeting with Shoojit and Juhi, the actor shared, “Shoojit and Juhi called and said that they want to meet me. Then, they came to my home in Lucknow and explained the role to me so elaborately that I got into the psyche of it immediately.”
One of the main reasons for Farrukh Jafar to work in Gulabo Sitabo was Amitabh Bachchan. A Big B fan, she has watched almost all his films. But, her experience of working with the megastar was nothing like how she expected it to be. “Koi experience nahi raha,” she said in a dismal tone. “He used to come, shoot for his part and leave. I wanted him to sit beside me and talk, but he never gave that opportunity,” Jafar added.
Beside her memories of Gulabo Sitabo, Farrukh Jafar holds a treasure trove of stories from her time in the Hindi film industry. She remembers calling Javed Akhtar ‘Jaadu’ and her debut film Umrao Jaan, where she played the role of Rekha’s mother. She recalled, “I met Rekha recently after 40 years at the screening of Secret Superstar. She just ran to me the moment she learned I have also come. She told me she is my first and my original daughter.”
Jafar also opened up about sharing screen space with Shah Rukh Khan in Ashutosh Gowariker’s Swades. During the film’s shoot, the two stayed at a hotel in Panchgani and had adjacent rooms. When Jaffer entered the room, she couldn’t figure out how to switch on the lights, and SRK came to her rescue. “I was ashamed that I don’t know such a simple thing, what will he think of me? But, he was very sweet. We became friends after this incident and used to eat together,” the actor recalled.
Ask Farrukh Jafar about Salman Khan, and she was quick to complain, “I invited Salman Khan to Lucknow to eat biryani. But he didn’t come.” However, the actor remembers him as a humble person who took care of her on the sets of Sultan. Jafar said, “During the marriage scene in Sultan, I blessed him (Salman) to get married soon and he told me, ‘kyun baddua de rahi hain’ (why are you cursing me).”
Gulabo Sitabo is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
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