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My Father Jagdeep

By PATCY N
Last updated on: July 23, 2020 13:44 IST
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'When he came to Bombay, he lived on the streets with his mother.'
'He had to sell whatever little they had in their bags -- their clothes, his toys.'
'When they did not have money, a bakery would sell the bread crumbs fallen on the floor for one paisa in a newspaper.'
'But before eating, they had to take out the rat and cockroach shit from the crumbs.'

Jagdeep is no more but his legend lives on.

There were many untold stories about the actor who passed away on July 8.

His son actor Jaaved Jaaferi, who is trying to come to terms with his father's passing, shares some of them with Patcy N/Rediff.com in this multi-part interview.

My father often spoke about his struggles.

He came from a well to do family; his father was a lawyer with the maharaja of Datia (near Gwalior in present day Madhya Pradesh).

He was the youngest of 10 siblings. The eldest brother was some 25, 30 years old older than him.

He was about seven or eight when his father passed away.

His mother took him to Karachi, where her two elder sons lived, before the Partition.

After the Partition, she decided to return to India.

It was strange because most of the Muslims were going that side.

My father saw the bloodshed in the trains, the riots...

When he came to Bombay, somehow there was no connect with his brothers.

He lived on the streets with his mother.

He had to sell whatever little they had in their bags -- their clothes, his toys.

The money got over and they were living under a bridge in Byculla (south central Mumbai; he was buried in a cemetry in the same area). He took us there once to show us.

He did odd jobs like selling kites, soap, combs and all that. That journey was tough.

When they did not have money, a bakery would sell the bread crumbs fallen on the floor for one paisa in a newspaper. But before eating, they had to take out the rat and cockroach shit from the crumbs.

They saw hard times.

My father would say that people who were labeled as 'bad,' like drunks and thieves, would come forward to help them. So they weren't actually bad. That's why he was never judgmental in life.

IMAGE: Rattan Kumar and Jagdeep in Bimal Roy's Do Bigha Zameen.

My father's first film was B R Chopra's Afsana.

He got the film through agents looking for junior artists.

He was mature enough to take responsibility, as his mother was working, washing dishes.

It was amazing that he came from a good family, where he had his servants, and it suddenly dropped down to nothing. He had to start a new life in an honest and respectable way.

Afsana was made in 1949, it released in 1951.

He had a scene where he just had to clap. But they wanted a child to say some heavy Urdu dialogues. The children were Bombay-based and did not know Urdu.

My father asked another child what happened if someone said those lines.

That child said, 'You will get double money.'

So my father immediately put his hand.

I have the clip of that dialogue on my phone, where my father said his first-ever dialogue in his first film.

IMAGE: Jaaved Jaaferi with father Jagdeep. Photograph: Kind courtesy Jaaved Jaaferi/Twitter

He slowly became popular as a child actor.

In Footpath, he played the young Dilip Kumar. The mahurat shot was on him.

He did a crying scene without glycerine and Dilipsaabwas highly impressed. He gave my father Rs 100.

After the shooting, he dropped my father at his house in Mahim (north central Mumbai), where he had a small kholi (room) in a chawl.

Dilipsaab dropped him at a petrol pump. When everybody came to take his autograph, he asked my father to sign his first autograph.

My father was known as an emotional actor, but Bimal Roy asked him to do a funny role in Do Bigha Zameen.

He felt 'Somebody who can make people cry can make them laugh too.'

That's why my father did the role of Laloo Ustad in Do Bigha Zameen.

I think he was the most natural child actor in the history of Indian cinema.

I have seen Daisy Irani ma'am, Sachin and Jr Mehmood saab, but for me, my favourite child actor was my father. The kind of naturalness he had, I have not seen in anyone else.

My father was not cute looking, and that's why he lost out on a lot of work.

V Shantaram had wanted to make Toofan Aur Diya with my father. They met at a film screening, and V Shantaram told him that I will make a movie with you. My father forgot about it but after four years, he was called.

When he entered the room, V Shantaram stood up and said, 'Oh ho ho.'

He said he had a role for him, but he had grown too tall. He was 14 then.

So he worked with K Asifsaab and Guru Duttsaab.

IMAGE: A young Jagdeep. Photograph: Kind courtesy Film History Pics/Twitter

My father doesn't remember who gave him his onscreen name Jagdeep, which meant 'jag ko roshni denewala (who lights up the world).' His name was Syed Ishtiaq Ahmed Jaffery.

Everybody called him Munna.

Jawaharlal Nehru gave my father his own walking stick for the film, Hum Panchhi Ek Daal Ke.

He had invited all the children for breakfast. My dad was 15 at that time.

Nehru gave everybody gifts, but for some reason, there was no gift for my father. So Nehru took his stick and said, 'This is very dear to me, but now, it's for you.'

Don't miss Part 2 of this exclusive interview! 'He felt bad about being typecast as a comedian'

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