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April 23, 2002
He has never had any airs. With his trademark moustache missing and highlights streaking his hair, Jackie Shroff looks suave in his beige [designer] Anna Singh blazer.
Quite the antithesis of the 44-year-old father of three he played in filmmaker Subhash Ghai's much hyped Yaadein, which released July last year. Yaadein, for all the moolah it raked in from overseas, was slammed by critics and fans who even called it one of the year's biggest flops.
Jackie is unflappable as ever. "C'mon! Their opinion doesn't really matter. What I treasure the most is people coming up to me in the elevator and saying, 'You really did a great job'; neighbours who congratulate for a job well done or little fans who hug me and say they want to be like me. And just to state my case, Yaadein did well for me. I don't think too many people said I did a bad job."
More immediately, Jackie is now cast as Abdul 50-50 aka Chotte Bhai, who acts as the go-between for three models (Madhu Sapre, Katrina Kaif and Padma Lakshmi) and the underworld in Kaizad Gustad's [of Bombay Boys] new film which has been produced by Jackie's wife Ayesha. As a sleazy pimp in the film, he pockets 50 per cent of all the heists but never gets his hands dirty.
"The film is fun. But what is more enjoyable is seeing my wife work. After seeing her as girlfriend, wife and mother, now she has turned careerwoman. And seeing her work 12 hours at a stretch is fun. She's bloody thrilled about it so so am I," he grins.
Though Jackie's first 2002 release, the Amisha Patel-Aftab Shivdasani starrer Kya Yehi Pyaar Hai sank without a trace at the box-office, the year holds a lot in store for him. For starters, there is Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Devdas, touted as Hindi cinema's most expensive and the year's biggest film. "See, you won't see me in the film's posters or the promos. But I make a special appearance in the film as Chunnilal, Devdas' friend. It is not a lead part but you could definitely say that Devdas wouldn't move forward if it wasn't for me. As for Sanjay as a director, no one, in my opinion can surpass Sanjay's finesse, his sensitivity and his graceful style."
"I've worked with Madhuri [Dixit], Aishwarya [Rai] and Shah Rukh [Khan] a zillion times before. I wasn't starstruck or in awe of them. And I'm not going start comparing who is better. Let alone the performances, why must we even compare the different versions of the film? But the poor chap [Sanjay] has to live up to [K L] Saigal saheb and Dilip saheb. Though I haven't seen the [earlier] versions of the film, this is Sanjay's interpretation of the text. Drawing comparisions would be unfair. After all, the earlier versions were part of another era of cinema altogether."
Jackie is also excited about his home production Sandhya, produced by wife Ayesha Shroff ("After Grahan, you'd be nuts to think I'd try producing again!"), and directed by Sangeeth Sivan (sibling of noted cinematographer and director Santosh Sivan). "Hats off to Sangeeth and cinematographer Ranji Prasad who are brilliant. The film releases towards the end of May and is a thriller with a twist. Ashutosh Rana plays an inmate of a mental asylum who draws up a supari [contract] for his own murder. I play the hired killer, but in the asylum, I find I am trapped in this web of deceit and that someone has a bullet marked with my name. So in that sense it is not a whodunit, but a who's-gonna-do-it," the actor adds.
The actor also stars as the notorious alleged smuggler and serial killer Charles Shobraj in an international production called Bottomline is researched, produced and directed by Sorab Irani of SBI Impressario Productions [his production house]. Jackie Shroff who plays the lead in Bottomline says the role was an opportunity of a lifetime: "I have already begun my homework. Sorab Irani gave me cassettes with Charles' voice on them to listen to and imitate. I have also read through all the material that Sorab researched on."
"Sorab has been researching the film for over five years now so I'm going to work out my characterisation with him. I'm going to have to trust his judgement. I will also meet Charles in London soon. I hope I will be able to understand him better," he adds.
Another film that has the actor excited was the Sanjay Khan produced Maryada Purushottam Ram, where he plays the character of Ravana. "That project hasn't taken off yet but I am still signed so I am hoping that Khan will have sorted things out soon."
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