Unsung hero

Jackie Shroff has come a long way from his ‘Hero’ days, but his groundedness makes him endearing while helping him reinvent himself, writes RAJIV VIJAYAKAR

He’s created a new niche for himself now: as a powerhouse actor in not just films but also on the web. Subhash Ghai’s Hero made Jackie Shroff an overnight sensation in 1983, with the star excelling in both romantic and action roles. But for a good while, he was not exactly considered a great actor — until Ram Lakhan and Parinda (1989).

After this, Jackie did get his share of meaty roles — Gardish, King Uncle, Border, Lajja and Teen Deewarein among them. But not all these films did well or consolidated Jackie’s reputation as an actor. Hindi cinema is a shade notorious for giving successful stars meatier roles and recognition a shade late, and Jackie got his first whiff of a different histrionic stature when Aditya Chopra cast him in Aurangzeb as the corrupt businessman father of hero Arjun Kapoor. Not that he had never done negative roles earlier — but this was just one of those things!

Jackie was noticed in Aurangzeb despite the movie not fairing well. The same year saw Jackie acing the role of Aamir Khan’s honest but unfortunate father in Dhoom 3, another Yash Raj film. Jackie’s eyes had always been ultra-expressive in romance, but this time, the lethal combination of script, role and director helped Jackie scale new heights. Evolving over the years as an actor, Jackie even acted beautifully with his eyes in this film and also in Happy New Year (2014), in which he played the rogue villain who faces nemesis. 

Housefull 3, Brothers (in which he was brilliant) and the recent Romeo Akbar Walter and Bharat were among his recent Hindi film aces, but Jackie also was the wacky funny voice of the GPS system in Total Dhamaal this year, excelled in the Gujarati Ventilator, and a couple of years back, got on to a platform that
highlighted his versatility in author-backed characters — short films. Khujli saw him in superlative form, and he did complex characters also in shorts like Shunyata and The Playboy Mr Sawhney. He also gave an excellent performance in the recent and much-appreciated thriller series Criminal Justice on HotStar.

Father figure

Role milta raha, bhidu, main karta gaya (I kept getting roles and doing them, partner)! They were all good roles, and the platform or size of screen does not make a difference when the emotions are strong.” Among his film roles, Jackie makes it a point to specially mention Dhoom 3, Aurangzeb, a central role in the 2011 Tamil film Aaranya Kandam and the Konkani film Soul Curry as an arrogant saxophone player who loses out with changing times, as special. The recent Bharat, in which he played Salman Khan’s father, also ranks
high. “It was a fabulous role. Salman has always looked up to me. He was an assistant on my film Falak (1988). We have done a few films together (Bandhan, Kahin Pyaar Na Ho Jaaye, Kyon Ki).”

There is a small story there: Jackie had noticed “that good-looking boy” and taken him to his friend and producer K C Bokadia. The filmmaker then referred him to his brother-in-law Suresh Bhagat, who was set to be a producer, and that was how Salman Khan got his first break as a second lead in Biwi Ho To Aisi, which released the same year! “Salman is like my child. He cast me as his father, the backbone of the story, in his home production! That is our bond,” he smiles. He declares that by now, he has done films in 13 languages, including English, Punjabi, Bengali, Kannada, Oriya, Malayalam, Marathi and Telugu. He also calls his generation of actors as “fulcrums” as they have seen a balance of both sides of cinema — before and after their times — and therefore have a wide-angle view. “Those days, lyrics and music were different!” he reminisces, suddenly going off on a tangent on film music. “We would go mad when we heard those songs and danced to them. I would also freak out on classical music like that of Kishori Amonkar and Pt Hariprasad Chaurasia. Everything has a phase. Today, there are mostly vigorous dance songs. It’s all about economics. I like to think of all music as good, and I firmly believe that good lyrics and melody will never die, like Toofan ko kashti from my son’s film Baaghi.”

His son Tiger Shroff has proved his prowess and no one is happier than dad, whose eyes had once gone moist when we had mentioned at the film’s success party that Tiger’s grounded nature was all thanks to his upbringing. “My son has come out of our shadow!” he says softly. “He has maintained discipline and our izzat (respect). He has himself earned a lot of respect and love, and his fans, including children of all ages, love him so much.”

Earnest

Jackie considers his son an epitome of sincerity. “He not only respects his elders but is a role-model for society, which all actors must try and be,” he says. Also proud of his daughter Krishna, who manages the gym and mixed martial arts facility started by the siblings, he smiles and says, “Krishna is now making an ad documentary as well. Sports is a great way of keeping children on-track, because when they begin to love their bodies, they steer clear of bad habits! Today, Tiger and Krishna are training children in self-defence, which is so important.”

He notes, “There are many similarities between me and Tiger — he too is reclusive like I was. Our work-ethic is similar. My daughter Krishna is a lot more like my wife Ayesha, but there is something of her in Tiger as well.” Jackie will be seen next in the ensemble-cast action thriller Saaho, Sanjay Dutt’s Prasthaanam and a film down South with Vijay. Ask him how he is still going strong after 36 years, and he says, “I never worry, and one way I have avoided that is by never taking myself too seriously! I do not get carried away by success or bogged down by the failure of a film.” In a recent interview, Jackie showed a side unknown to most fans — he is very environment-conscious. “Keeping our children safe and letting them live in a safer, poison-free world should be our responsibility,” he feels.

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