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s. r. ashok kumar
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chatActor Jackie Shroff ventures into Tamil films withAaranya Kandam which is slated for release soon

Ahundred-and-seventyfive films old and still going strong. He has played varied roles in different languages, including the four South Indian ones. That's Jackie Shroff whose debut Tamil film,Aaranya Kandam, is all set to hit the screens soon.Aaranya Kandamhas been produced by S. P. Charan under his banner Capital Film Works. The story takes place all in a day. Six characters are at a decisive moment in their lives — how they react forms the crux of this leisurely-paced film which has a gripping climax. Shroff, who was in Chennai to promote the film, was at his witty best when he sat down for a chat.

Excerpts from the interview:

Can you tell us what type of person Jackie is?

I'm still trying to find who I am. You can say I'm like a rainbow — when all its colours merge it will simply look white. As a child, I was scared of even the smallest of firecrackers. I was acutely traumatised when I witnessed my brother drown to death. Even after I completed school, I wasn't sure what I wanted to pursue. I wandered around aimlessly for two years. That was when I realised I had to work to take care of my parents.

I got a job as a supervisor in a garment factory. Then I switched to a travel agency where I met this person who told me I could take up modelling. I asked what I would get in return. He said ‘Money'. I agreed and he took me to Mr. and Mrs. Jain who first made me model for a well-known brand of suiting. I got money and also the suit I wore. That's how it started.

But today, you're known the world over…

It's because of Dev Anand who made me play a villain inSwamy Dadda.Herofollowed and made me popular. Over a period of time, I've played a variety of roles in over 175 films.

After playing hero in several films, you turned a villain inMission Kashmir. Why?

I began as a villain, and life came full circle when I played one inMission Kashmir. Subhash Ghai would tell me it's not the length of a role that matters, but only its scope. I have acted in several languages such as Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Hindi, English, Bengali, Bhojpuri, Marathi and now in Tamil.

But don't you feel your career is on a downslide now that you are acting in a regional language film?

How can you say that? I started acting in regional language films even when I was busy in Bollywood. Besides, the star frenzy here is greater — fans treat stars like demi gods. I love working in the South, particularly in Tamil.

I was happy when S. P. Charan got in touch with me. I'm a great fan of his father S. P. Balasubramaniam, who has sung for me inGardish(sings a few lines of ‘Ye Mera Dil…') I enjoyed working for his production company. I am in the company of talented actors such as Ravi Krishna, Yasmin and Sampath inAaranya Kaandam which has been directed by Kumar Raja. Yuvan Shankar Raja has composed the music. Besides, the film has bagged a prestigious award at the New York International Film Festival and I hear it's going to other festivals.

With so many years of acting experience behind you, haven't you thought of giving direction a shot?

So far, I have concentrated only on acting. That's why I have been able to do a variety of roles — from saint to sinner, from romantic to alcoholic. Hence I have not thought of direction or any other department. I am happy with what I am doing.

What do you intend to do for society that has given you name and fame?

I'm producing and directing short films (10 seconds to less than a minute) on social issues such as polio eradication, hygiene and AIDS. Once I am through with them, I intend giving them to TV channels to be aired for the benefit of society.

Having come from the North, how do you cope with the food here?

Oh, I enjoy south Indian food, particularly sambar, rasam and dosai. (After giving us this bit of info, he calls up his cook in Mumbai and asks him to make rasam for dinner. Laughing, he says he has a South Indian cook at home.)

s. r. ashok kumar


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