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'Aditya is a man of today'

Anjum N | May 27, 2003 19:30 IST

Eighteen years after making his debut in Subhash Ghai's Meri Jung (Nutan, Anil Kapoor, Meenakshi Sheshadri), the multi-talented Jaaved Jaaferi -- he also happens to be comedian Jagdeep's son -- is trying to make a comeback to films.

Jaaved Jafferi, Joy Fernandes and Gulshan Grover in Jajantaram MamantaramJaaved plays the lead in Soumitra Ranade's Jajantaram Mamantaram, releasing May 30. Produced by iDreams, the film has him playing Gulliver in a village inhabited by Lilliputian-like people, including the villain Chattan Singh (Gulshan Grover) and his evil giant Jhamunda (Joy Fernandes).

Ask him if he is excited about his comeback and the spontaneous mimic says in characteristic style, "Of course, I am. We also have a song for it… Comeback ishq hai jo!"

Anjum N spoke to the inimitable Jaaved. Excerpts:

Tell us about your role in Jajantaram Mamantaram.

I play Aditya, a Mumbai guy who struggles to survive every day. His ship gets trapped in a storm and he finds himself washed on to an island, Shundi, inhabited by tiny people. This island is often visited by a giant, who creates havoc and eats small children. This guy, Jhamunda, is actually a magical creation of a little man, Chattan Singh, the army chief who wants to take over the island.

The film is about how I slowly befriend the little people and clash with Jhamunda.

Is the film meant specially for kids?

Yes, it is a kids' film, but adults will also find it enjoyable. All children's movies in the past -- be it Chhota Chetan [Master Arvind, Baby Sonika, Dalip Tahil], Makdee [Baby Shweta, Shabana Azmi, Makrand Deshpande] or Chota Jadugar [Suraj Balajee, S P Balasubramaniam] -- had kids playing the lead. In Jajantaram Mamantaram, though there are kids in the movie, the lead characters are not kids. The story unfolds between grown-ups, but it will appeal to kids also. Its USP is that, for the first time in a Hindi film, we have a big man in a world inhabited by tiny people who start interacting with him and loving him.

Is the film based in some specific period?

It is based in the present, though we haven't specified it in the film. But if you look at the clothes he wears, or the Walkman he carries, it shows he is a man of today.

Also, it is not based on Gulliver's Travels, like a lot of people are saying. It's actually based on a folktale about Bakasura, a rakhsasa [demon] who used to sleep for long periods and would then wake up and eat people. Yes, the element of a huge man reaching an island inhabited by small people is similar to the Gulliver tale. But Aditya's character is entirely different.

How exciting was it to work in a film with special effects?

When the filmmakers came to me with the offer, I found it very exciting. The concept was different, and I was to play the lead. The film was not supposed to be so big; it was supposed to cost under Rs 3 crore [approximately US $640,000]. But then, as the film progressed, it went up to Rs 7 crore [$1.49 million]. Now, with the special effects, post-production, packaging, marketing, publicity and everything, it is touching almost Rs 10 crore [$2.13 million], which is big even for a normal Hindi film. It doesn't look like the budget for a children's film anymore.Jaaved Jafferi in Jajantaram Mamantaram

iDreams, the film's producers, had tremendous faith in the product. It took guts on their part to take a Jaaved Jafferi and Gulshan Grover and make a film costing that much.

Today, in the Hindi film trade, the thinking is that certain actors do not have a particular market value; so if one takes these actors, the project should not cost more than Rs 2 crore [$426,000]. Jajantaram Mamantaram can break such myths.

A film does not work only because of its stars. If that was the case, then every Shah Rukh [Khan], Aamir [Khan], Salman [Khan] or Hrithik [Roshan] movie should have been a hit. But they aren't. The actors' appeal does count, and our stars do a good job, I'm not denying that. [But] the story has to hold on its own, the film has to be made and presented well.

So, you are making a comeback into films.

Of course, I am. We also have a song for it... Comeback ishq hai jo! [laughs]

Seriously, this is my second major shot at films. The first, of course, was Meri Jung. After that I did do a few films, but nothing really worked... or should I say it did not do me any good. Like 100 Days [Madhuri Dixit, Jackie Shroff] did well at the box office, but I was the second lead. So it did not help me much.

Over the years, with my shows on television [former veejay, Channel [V]; Boogie Woogie; anchor for various film award ceremonies], I have gathered a decent fan following. People have seen and liked my work... I have earned some respect not just from the audience, but also from critics, my peers and co-actors within the industry. I think I have a fair chance. But then, as I said, it's not just me; it's the entire film that has to work.

What other movies do you have in hand?

I am working on Kaizad Gustad's Boom [Amitabh Bachchan, Jackie Shroff, Zeenat Aman, Katrina Kaif, Madhu Sapre, Padma Lakshmi], which is another interesting project. It has no heroes or heroines, just nine characters.

Then there's Sangeeth Sivan's Sandhya [Jackie Shroff, Raveena Tandon] and Sooraj Barjatya's Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon [Hrithik Roshan, Kareena Kapoor, Abhishek Bachchan].

Talks are on for another project with iDreams, where I might also be involved in writing the script.

So will Hindi movies see a writer-producer-director Jaaved Jaaferi in the near future?

I have already been doing these things in advertising. The series of [television] ads I directed for Maggi [ketchup, in which Jaaved and Pankaj Kapoor feature in the 'It's different' series] have won awards. I have sung some songs. My song Mum-bhai [from Kaizad Gustad's Bombay Boys] was on the top of the popularity charts for about five weeks. I've written the Hindi script for Disney's Jungle Book-2 and dubbed for the character of Sher Khan. I've done choreography, voiceovers and have hosted live events. I've also had this desire to direct a movie for a long time now.

But first, I would like to concentrate on acting for some time.

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