After being out of limelight for a long time Jackie Shroff is back in the hunt

Howsoever you try to see glamour world from a rational eye, you find cases which defy logic. The rise and fall of Jackie Shroff is one such curious case. Once a star, who defined raw machismo on screen, today Jackie could be seen doing cameos in pedestrian films, roles which don’t match his stature. “What stature? I started with a two minute role as the henchman of the villain in Swami Dada. It has been 30 years; you ask who Jackie Shroff is to the person sitting next to you. I bet he must have heard my name. As long as I retain my height, voice and discipline I can bounce back anytime.”

Considering one has recently seen his frustration in the unedited anti-polio campaign video on YouTube, one didn’t expect this kind of confidence from an actor who hasn’t given a hit for ages. But he has his reasons. “At a time when Indian actors are looking for small roles in Hollywood films, an international director has come to India to cast me in a lead role and that too in a Hindi film. Isn’t it big? I think I am starting a new trend. Why should we go to them all the time?” He is referring to Cover Story. Directed by Dutch director Laurens Postma, the film is an official adaptation of Theo Van Gogh’s The Interview. An unusual story with just two characters, Jackie is playing a seasoned political journalist who is asked to interview a film actress being played by newcomer Anjum Nayyar.

“It feels good that finally I got an opportunity to grill somebody,” he quips. “My father was a journalist with Blitz tabloid. For years I have been in the firing line of you people. I know what it takes.” In the 80s and 90s, the film magazines were full of his competition with Anil Kapoor with whom he did around a dozen films. “Those were all made up stories. The media wanted some spice and producers packaged it for them. We were friends all along. Otherwise we would not have been able to do so many films together.”

That Anil and his other contemporary Sanjay Dutt are still getting big banners could be the reason for his frustration that we see in the video on the net. “No, I have always been like that. You can ask any of my directors, the ‘sweet’ language I use during dubbing! The cuss words you hear during the shoot are directed at myself arising from the frustration of not getting the lines right. Sometimes it becomes a pressure cooker like situation. However, because of this the message reached the people. Otherwise nobody watched the edited version,” he laughs.

Like always, he says, he left the responsibility to mould him on the director. “I go to the sets with my personality, voice and discipline. The rest is director’s job. If you have to show your acting skill, then try theatre. With Subhash Ghai many times I could not make out what he was up to till I saw the final print. To me, in cinema, actors are horses and directors are jockeys. When I did Hero, film critic Khalid Mohamad called me a wannabe Dev Anand and described me as completely wooden. The film ran for more than 25 weeks. I told myself I am going to be a star and not an actor. But then Mahesh Bhatt cast me in Kaash and the same critics started saying arre ye to acting bhi karta hai.”

The critics had forgotten his acting talent all over again till last year when they saw him as an aging gangster in Tamil noir Aaranya Kaandam, where for once his eyes expressed multiple emotions. “When Bollywood started ignoring me, I tried regional films, Malayalam, Bengali, Marathi and now Gujarati, my mother tongue. In Aaranya Kaandam, I got to do things which I had never done before. I have learnt many Tamil actors refused the role because it would have spoilt their image. I never had such hang ups. I did Devdas in similar circumstances. No actor wanted to play a supporting role to Shah Rukh Khan. I said when a great actor like Motilal could do it, why can’t I. I am glad I could lead the cast in Aaranya Kaandam to two National Awards.”

The film opened doors for him in Tamil cinema and now he is playing the main villain in Rajinikanth’s Kochadaiyaan. Tight lipped about his role, he is all praise for the humility of the megastar. “In our film industry, after one hit youngsters surround themselves with body guards, they go to attend functions in full make up. Here is a man whom the world knows but still he doesn’t have any ego, any façade. I know him for a long time. He attended my wedding.”

The success down south has been noticed. “So many years after Aaina, Yash Chopra has signed me for two films: Dhoom 3 and Aurangzeb. And then I have a film with long-time friend K.C. Bokadia, who is making a comeback.” That’s Jackie Shroff for you. For him Bokadia and Chopra carry the same value. Even after doing a Parinda and an Aaranya Kaandam, his favourite film is King Uncle. It is not always about logic, bidu!