Jaaved Jaaferi wears many hats – actor, dancer, anchor, reality show judge, singer, dubbing artist and even a director. He has been there, done that in a career spanning almost 25 years.
Jaaferi can be credited with giving India its first dance reality show – Boogie Woogie way back in 1990s. This apart from being part of movies like 100 Days, Ta Ra Rum Pum, 3 Idiots and Bang Bang. After making the audience giggle with his Dhamaal franchise for years now, he was recently seen playing interesting characters in Bala and Jabariya Jodi.
The story behind Jaaved Jaaferi’s first film is also interesting. The versatile actor made his Bollywood debut with Subhash Ghai directorial Meri Jung in a negative role.
Here’s all that Jaaferi shared about the villanious act and everything new that he gave cinefans in his first big-screen appearance.
1. How did your debut film Meri Jung come to you?
A lady friend and I used to go to Sea Rock which was a hotel in Bandra. I had won an All India dance championship sometime in 1984. She told me Mr Ghai (Subhash Ghai) was looking for a new boy as villain. I remarked, ‘What will I do as a villain?’ She said it is a strong role, and Mr Ghai wanted a very good dancer. She asked for my video. So I sent that championship tape across and she sent to Mr Ghai. I got a call from his office that he wants to meet me. I was very casual and not a go-getter that I have to do this. I was just going ahead with my life and trying to finish college. Then I went to the meeting and Mr Ghai said this role is of a young villain because Amrish (Puri) ji is the main villain. I played Amrish sir’s son who is very flamboyant, good looking and impresses a lot of girls. And there was supposed to be a big dance number and I was someone who could dance. The film was written by Javed Akhtar sir. N.N. Sippy produced it and it starred Anil Kapoor, Nutan, Amrish Puri and Meenakshi Sheshadri. I asked for a day to think. He was initially like, ‘I am offering you a big film. I am Subhash Ghai. People want to work with me and you are asking for a day to think?’ But he understood and agreed. He said, ‘You talk to your dad (Jagdeep) and get back.’ Then I spoke to my father. He told me if it is a good team of people and the story is good, then go ahead and do your job well. So that’s how the film happened.
Then this whole song took off and a new kind of dancing was introduced in Hindi cinema. It had little elements of disco, breakdance and jazz. You see it today in Bollywood. The beginning of that was somewhere there. That’s where it kind of started. In fact people don’t know another thing. You see rap today. The first time rap was introduced in a Hindi movie was in the song “Bol Baby Bol”. There was a small rap in the middle of the song. I told Subhash ji why don’t we do a full rap, hip-hop song. It was too new, so he said that it will be too experimental and we don’t know if that will work in a mainstream song. However, Laxmikant ji (of Laxmikant-Pyarelal) said you do a piece of your rap in the middle. So that’s how this whole piece was there. People actually don’t know this, but it is an interesting trivia!
2. What do you remember of your first day on set?
I don’t remember much but I think the first ever shoot was in Madh Island. The scene had me flashing light on Meenakshi Sheshadri’s face while she is sitting with Anil Kapoor. He threaten me, gives me a punch and I fall. Then I say, ‘Okay man, I am gonna get back at this guy’. So I think that was the first day of shooting. I wore a lot of my own clothes in that. Through that, I tried to bring in a new fashion in Hindi cinema, which consisted of loose baggy pants and long shirts. I remember on my first day, Javed sir explained the scene to me. He said, ‘You are like a snake. You know how a snake is. It can hypnotise you with its dance and movement but it is very dangerous.’ He described my character like this. Mr Ghai was very cool. He didn’t want a typical villain who starts delivering lines in a typical manner. He wanted my character to be a normal college boy, but he is a bad guy. I didn’t have many dialogues on the first day of shooting, only two short dialogues.
3. Were you nervous? How many retakes did you take?
I was not nervous. I used to be on stage a lot in college. And if you can face a national college crowd, you can do anything. As the Dramatics secretary, I used to be on stage every year for the functions, so I got quite comfortable with crowds. I didn’t have a fear of being in front of the camera too.
I did one or two takes maximum because somehow Mr Ghai was happy with my work.
4. And who were your co-stars? How was the rapport with them when you got to meet or work with them again later?
Khushbu did a bit of work with me. I worked with Anil Kapoor and Amrish Puri too. I think those were the three people I interacted with, and Sudhir sir who is no more now. I acted with Anil after some 33-35 years in Total Dhamaal. So for me, it was like, ‘wow man, the first film I did with you was in 1985 and now this is 2019.’ We have a warm relationship which we share whenever we meet There is respect and love. Khushbu went into politics. Though I am not in contact with her much, I am very glad for her. Once in a while, we pass on messages on social media. I worked with Amrish ji in a film after that called Tahalka around 1989. I met Meenakshi once in between. So yes, we are in touch and there is still a lot of love and respect.
Javed sir was the first person who saw the trial with Shabana (Azmi) ji and he told me, ‘That scene you did in the jail, and how you speak to the cop, it was very mature and very well done. And Shabana really loved the way you did it.’ So for somebody to point out a scene and say you did this particular thing well in itself is a big thing. Then he saw Fire and gave me a huge compliment saying, ‘Very few actors would have done this scene with that Chinese girl in that salon’. After I came to television and did Channel V shows which changed the entire style of VJ-ing, he said, ‘You have done to television what Ameen Sayani sahab did to radio.’ He still meets me with a lot of love and affection. So from Meri Jung, the one person who has constantly been in touch is Javed sir. We exchange messages sometimes.
Meri Jung was N.N. Sippy sir’s son Pravesh Sippy’s first film as a co-producer. He became a good friend too. In fact, we are still good friends.
5. If given a chance to go back to your debut role, what’s that one thing you’d like to change or do better?
The problem that happened with Meri Jung is I was playing a villain in a big film with an A-grade writer, director and Anil was being launched as a solo hero. It was originally written for (Amitabh) Bachchan sahab. It was a very defining role for a lead man to be playing. I came in a movie like that as a villain. As an actor I was good, but there were a lot of other actors also who were good and competent. So where I stood head and shoulders above everybody else was in the way I danced. That time people said this kind of dancing won’t work. It is too complicated and people want simple stuff. However, I said this is what I know and this is what people like me doing. It caught on and then everybody wanted to do that.
Post Meri Jung, everybody started approaching me for a negative role but maintained that in Hindi films, dancing is done by the hero and not the villain. This was an exception that Mr Ghai made in Meri Jung, but it was not the norm that villains danced. Even if they danced, they weren’t good dancers and the hero was always above them. So that in my case went wrong. And then I started doing second lead roles and all. Maybe I didn’t plan it right. So I think that move of mine I think is the only thing I would like to change. I could have planned my career a little better.
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6. One film or role that inspired you to become an actor?
When I started, I didn’t know where I was headed. I didn’t even know if I was going to be an actor. The offer came to me and I took it up. I gave myself in the arms of destiny. I admired a lot of actors. In Hindi films, there was Dilip Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan, Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri and Kamal Haasan. In the west I liked (Chaim) Topol in Fiddler on the Roof. Then there was Marlon Brando. Then Gene Kelly, Fred Astere, they were dancers and I loved them. My father had a tragic life. And out of that tragedy, came the comedy he did. So all these played a big part in shaping me as a human being and an actor. For me, nothing was small. I did everything. In fact, the kind of stuff I have done, I doubt any actor would have done that!
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