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|July 24, 2000||
Impeccable lineage, towering presence
His career parallels the history of Indian cinema. When young, he ran away from home because his mother favoured his elder brother. His early dream was to study in England, but his family turned that down. He then ran away to Bombay and, thanks to a perennial fascination with the sea, started to work in the docks.
Along the way, he got the assignment of painting posters for films. This work took him to various film studios, where his rugged looks attracted attention and secured him roles in various silent films. Initially, he worked as a 'double' for prominent actors of the time, before going on to get starring roles in silent films such as Rifle Girl, Bhabhi and Hamari Baat.
Came the talkies and Jairaj continued to make waves with movies like Swami, with Sitara Devi, Tamanna and Hatimtai.
Increasingly, he got into production and direction as well (branching out into Gujarati and Marathi films in time). To Jairaj goes the credit of directing Dilip Kumar in the latter's screen debut, Pratima. In his time, he worked with actresses like Meena Kumari, Madhubala and Suraiya, both when they were child stars and later when they grew into leading ladies.
Among his final films as actor was Khoon Bhari Maang, with Rekha in the lead. Saagar, the Rishi Kapoor-Kamal Haasan-Dimple Kapadia film, was, in fact, the remake of an earlier film of the same name made by Jairaj and starring Bharat Bhushan, Nargis and Jairaj himself.
His towering physique also brought him a whole lot of mythological and historical roles, with his performance as Tipu Sultan and Hyder Ali being standouts.
Towering, in fact, describes his stature in the industry as well -- Jairaj is one of the most respected names in the film industry. So much so that each year, on his birthday, stars, producers, directors, all congregate at his home to felicitate him -- a ritual the industry has faithfully followed for these many years.
Jairaj -- who, for a couple of decades, was instrumental in organising the Filmfare awards, won the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award in the fifties, then went on to add a Dadasaheb Phalke Award to his collection in 1982.
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