`I played the hero'
S. SHIVA KUMAR
Twenty-five years and a hundred films on, Jaggesh is disappointed with the State award for best supporting actor for Mata. He turned it down, insisting he was the protagonist
PHOTO: MURALI KUMAR K.
IN CHARACTER Jaggesh: "My only problem is my role being called a character role"
Awards being mired in controversy have happened before and will happen again. It is inevitable considering the politics and politicians involved. Everything depends on the strength and the length of the strings you can pull. The latest is Jaggesh being awarded the State Award for best supporting actor for his work in Mata. Jaggesh refused the award insisting he was the protagonist in the movie. Jaggesh feels his award was more of an effort to placate him than in recognition for his performance. I met him at his modest house in a quiet, unspoilt bylane of Malleshwaram. His office on the terrace is spacious and tastefully done up. Excerpts from the interview.
Why are you so disappointed?
It is human nature. It has taken me 24 years to reach this position. I had no godfather when I started. I did not have money for petrol when I visited directors. I believed in my talent and persisted. I've worked very hard. Please watch Mata.
You decide whether I played the hero or a character role. It was my 100th film and I wanted to do something different. Why would I do a supporting role? I play the protagonist who recalls the events in his life. I was very hurt and decided to reject the award.
You are not bitter about someone else winning the award...
No, not at all... I am a broad-minded person. I'm anything but jealous.
`This guy has been acting for 25 years and has not won a single award. So we decided to give him this,' the head of the jury is quoted as saying. This sounds like charity. I don't want that or sympathy. It's like making someone a hero just because he's been struggling for long. If that was the case you could have called the award a special one. In my mind I'm clear that I played the hero. This is like degrading a hero. This does not mean I have anything against character actors or their importance in a film.
Are you afraid you'll get slotted as a character artiste if you accept this award?
Not at all. All the producers who approach me want me to play the hero. I played one such role in Yare nee cheluve because I knew it would not hurt my image.
You are aware of the politics involved in the selection process.
I've heard about it. My only problem is about my role being called a character role. I have nothing against the committee or the Government.
Let's go back a little. How did this idea of becoming an actor start?
I was studying in the fourth standard when they were casting for a role in a play. I was determined and the principal thought I was the best. One teacher, M. Ramamurthy, even predicted that I would become a good actor. The seeds were sown. Later I used to perform at programs during Ganesha festival. At Sheshadripuram college, I was famous for my skits. I was good at mimicry and singing. My father, a farmer, was against my becoming an actor. I did not know who to approach for a role in films. An assistant director took me to Putanna Kanagal but he had already finished casting for the film he was making. He predicted a bright future for me though. That made me more determined. I started visiting producers. Many of them made fun of me. My friends said it was because I was not good looking. Finally K.V. Jayaram cast me in Shweta Gulabi, which ran for 100 days. I got a lot of small character roles and I grabbed anything that came my way. My first major film was Rani Maharani. I was the highest paid character artiste at that time. It was with Rowdy MLA that people felt I was hero material because of the applause I received.
I produced and played the hero in Banda Nanna Ganda. Ambarish helped me get the film released. I made big money. I haven't looked back since. I have played hero in 65 films.
You were at one time getting more applause than the hero in a film. I'm sure heroes wanted your role cut and were even reluctant to act with you...
You're right. It happened many a time. It was the main reason for my becoming a hero. I will not name anyone but most big heroes avoided me. To be honest I was without a film for one whole year because of this. I was very hurt.
The name Jaggesh was synonymous with double entendre at one point of time...
This was in the beginning when I did Tharle Nanna Maga. I was desperate to earn money. Today if you ask, which hero has the highest TRP ratings, the answer would be me. That is because my films are telecast often and that can't happen if they are vulgar. The biggest of heroes have been accused of this, like Ravichandran. There was double entendre in some old Raj Kumar songs. There was a lot of vulgarity in Tharle Nanna Maga but the director was Upendra.
At one stage you suddenly wanted to do a Kamal Hassan...
You're talking about make-up. I worked very hard. The make-up itself took four hours to apply. I was not able to release the film at the right time. The Nagappa kidnapping took it's toll. I lost a lot of money. I haven't produced a film since. I also lost money when I failed to win an election. I lost 60 per cent of the money I'd earned as an actor in a span of two years.
How much did you expect and how much have you achieved in this quarter of a century?
I have achieved about 10 per cent as an actor. I know I'm capable of much more but we actors are slotted. People are reluctant to accept variety. There's no actor like Kamal Hassan in the country. Nobody is as hardworking or versatile as him. I even pray for his films success but Rajnikant even though he does the same thing is more successful. It's a curse.
Among the producers who ridiculed you during your struggle how many signed you when you were successful?
Most of them. I did not feel bad because the circumstances had changed. I even told some of them that I would have done the same thing.
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