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Malaal actor Meezan Jaaferi: Padmaavat gave me confidence to be an actor

Meezaan Jaaferi on his first Bollywood film Malaal, working in a Sanjay Leela Bhansali movie and comparisons with his father Jaaved Jaaferi.

Written by A. Kameshwari | New Delhi |
July 2, 2019 1:11:44 pm
Meezaan Jaaferi makes his debut with Sanjay Leela Bhansali film Malaal Meezaan Jaaferi starrer Malaal, produced by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, releases on July 5. (Photo: APH Images)

Sanjay Leela Bhansali is launching Jaaved Jaaferi’s son Meezaan Jaaferi in his production venture Malaal. The film is all set to hit the screens on July 5.

Ahead of its release, Meezaan talked to indianexpress.com about his Bollywood debut. The newbie also got candid about his father Jaaved Jaaferi and grandfather Jagdeep.

Here are excerpts from the conversation:

A lot about you reminds me of Sanjay Dutt from gangster films like Vaastav. Did you watch his films?

I did watch Vaastav before working on this film. I saw a lot of films where I thought there was a similarity or relatability with my character of Shiva More. There are very few Bollywood films where the protagonist comes from a Marathi background or a chawl. So, I tried to pick up as much as I could (from films) but somehow I am always compared with Sanjay Dutt because of the look of my character – the hair, the broad built and even the body language. But I take it as a huge compliment because I love him and he is an amazing personality. I have met him a hundred times but every single time I feel ‘yeh kaun aagaya yaar.’ He has a very striking personality.

Why did you say yes to Malaal?

The film was given to me. Sanjay sir (Sanjay Leela Bhansali) told me that he will launch me. I didn’t know the project back then. I went back to college and after two years, I got to know that sir is starting Padmaavat. So, I came to work with him. I worked with him on that film for a year and after that, he introduced me to Mangesh Hadawale (director) and the film.

After that, our workshops went on for long. Mangesh Sir has an unconventional way of organising the workshop. He doesn’t give you a script or narrate the story. He briefed us about the character and told us to transform ourselves into the characters before shooting for the film. For a year and a half, we were in the process to become Shiva More and Astha Tripathi (Sharmin Sehgal).

With Malaal, my faith was completely on sir (Sanjay Leela Bhansali). I trusted him and his judgement because I have seen his work and known his thought process after working with him on Padmaavat. I feel blessed that I was offered Malaal. I only realised later what I have in my hand. So, I don’t have a ‘malaal’ (regret) about doing Malaal. (laughs)

You assisted Sanjay Leela Bhansali as an AD. How is he as a teacher?

That (Padmaavat) was actually my silver screen debut under Sanjay sir’s direction. It was amazing and I think that’s what has made me confident about coming on screen.

I never knew that I had to stand in the shoes of Ranveer sir. He was unavailable for the shoot and Sanjay sir had to film a few shots. So, Sanjay sir asked me to do the scene. He asked me and I, of course, could not say no to him. So, I was there the next day. I was not thinking but just following what was being told. I had to prepare a full speech in an hour for 500 people present there. I had to get into the costume of Khilji in the scorching heat. Now, five minutes before the shot, one of the AD comes to tell me that I need to have the same gestures or mannerisms as Khilji aka Ranveer. So, that was a very scary experience but I had a blast.

Meezaan Jaaferi is Jaaved Jaaferi son Meezaan Jaaferi is Jaaved Jaaferi’s son and veteran actor Jagdeep’s grandson. (Photo: APH Images)

Your father is extremely popular, especially among the kids. But do you think Bollywood couldn’t give him what he deserved as an actor?

Absolutely. My mother keeps saying that at home all the time. You know, it’s not in anyone’s control. I somewhere feel that my father did this to himself as well because there are ways, a few things you’ve got to do, to function in the industry. You have to socialise, make friends and meet people. He didn’t do any of it. My father is a man of principles. I won’t say break those principles but sometimes you have to put in extra effort. So, since he didn’t have the personality to go out and party or socialise, he missed out on a lot of opportunities. Having said that, kudos to him that he has survived for so many years and is still working. I am so glad and proud of him because there are very few who have survived in the industry for so long. That is also because he is super talented. In fact, multi-talented. Else, he would have dissolved way back. I am sure he will keep working in the future as well as he has a lot of things to do. I hope I get to do a film with him in the future.

You also danced with your father on your track. Tell me about that.

That is the first time we have danced together. People expected us to share the stage before this because he is one of the best dancers in the industry but that never happened. I am so glad I got the opportunity through my first film and my first song. My whole family was present during the shoot. They were so excited and happy. It is a memory we will cherish forever.

What were you feeling during the shoot of that song?

I was like this is not my father and I have to beat this guy in the video. But it’s easier said than done because he is Jaaved Jaaferi. It’s very difficult to keep up with him in his home ground, which is dance. It went well. And my dad also liked it.

Your grandfather Jagdeep is an icon. How did he and your father influence you while growing up?

My dad has always been this proper and strict person. People expect him to be funny because he has done such characters but he isn’t like that at all. He did not get enough time to spend with me because when I was growing up, he was working a lot more. Whatever time he got, he spent that time in correcting me whether it was about studies, behaviour or culture. So, because of that, I was always scared of him, which distanced him from me. Today, I understand that the role of a father is so difficult. By the time you are 23-24, you start understanding that and it (father-son relationship) becomes the bond of friendship. So, we are trying to become friends now and trying to break the walls. In the whole process, the only thing I learnt was how to conduct myself, to stay humble and grounded even if I become a star in future.

With my grandfather, it was a very friendly relationship. Like they say that grandparents spoil their grandchildren. It has been a very open relationship. He spoke about his experiences. The beauty of knowing those experiences was that he would tell them in a fun manner. He always told his experiences like a story. So, we would learn moral lessons from it. How to behave on a set, what to observe on the sets, and how to behave with the directors and so on, he told me through his experiences with Amitabh Bachchan, Bimal Roy, K Asif, Dilip Kumar, Guru Dutt and others. It really takes your vision to another level. You are getting to hear stories that no one will ever know. It’s like he was a secret archive of India’s film history. And I was the lucky one to have access to it. I feel very fortunate to have been born in such a family where I have had one-on-one learning from Jagdeep and Jaaved Jaaferi. And of course, Sanjay Leela Bhansali comes as a cherry on the cake.

Star kids have an easy start but proving themselves is a task. Are you prepared to face all the hurdles?

I am already facing it. I knew I would face it. But I don’t care because nepotism exists everywhere. Also, I am not bothered about being compared to my father or my grandfather because I know I have done well (in Malaal). Good thing is that I am making my own identity. I am not doing a comedy film. If I was, the comparison would have been valid. But I am playing this massy character, which neither my father nor my grandfather have attempted before. I am coming as a lead which didn’t happen to them either. Yes, with dance I might be compared with my father but I have my own style and I am good at it. So, I don’t see a reason to worry. I am just worried about my work.

Malaal also stars Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s niece Sharmin Sehgal. The film releases on July 5.

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