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Some magic in his mantra...

He may make you laugh but he's no joker. He dances but he's no jiggler. Moreover, he's a man with morals rarely found in filmdom. Jaaved Jaaferi is a different sort of film star.


`A TAPORI from Mumbai' he might be in his film Jajantaram Mamantaram, a screaming, ludicrous host in Boogie Woogie, an unconcerned husband in Fire and a winner of the "Pride of New York" award for his unparallel vibrancy in dancing skills. But Jaaved Jaaferi, despite being a bagful of assorted talents, suffers from a stereotyped image — of a joker, a dancer, a mimic and a non-serious actor who is hardly ever seen in pivotal roles in films.

You saw him in Subhash Ghai's Meri Jung opposite Khushboo, the film whose Bol Baby Bol song and dance number shot him to fame.

"It was very difficult to keep pace with Jaaved in this dance, he is amazingly quick and flexible," said Khushboo in an interview after the song became the unique selling point of the film. Jaaved, however, did not continue to be seen in many roles or dance numbers. Though he could have — like Prabhu Deva, whose dance expertise earned him fame in Hindi films.

"Prabhu Deva came much later than me in Hindi films. I started the trend of such dance numbers which were vibrant yet decent. I could have become a dancing sensation, but I hate dances that call for pelvic gyrations. You might not have seen me dancing this way. Dance is an art. It is not meant to be reduced to unaesthetic jerks. I got many such offers where I had to twist dance to a cheap item number. The dancer in me is very uncomfortable with such movements," Jaaved reasons.

He is neither a non-serious actor nor just a hopping performer. But he is a much-misunderstood man, more because he has been an arbiter of his own fate. "I never planned my career. I had been pretty disorganised. Moreover, by the time I realised that to stay afloat in films you required a strong lobby, parlance and public relations, much water had gone down the drain," says Jaaved, seemingly repenting his lack of affiliation with people in the business. "I had no one to guide me as to how to go about in this world of glamour. If there was an anti-lobby working against me, I could not make out, hence I could not rectify mistakes I committed unknowingly."

But his father Jagdeep was in films when he started his career. "The age he lived in was different, so were the values. After Partition, he came to India from Pakistan empty-handed, struggled for seven to eight years to make his living in films. He lived on the road and slept on the footpath. He barely knew any politicking. Moreover, ever since I stepped out of home to fend for myself, I never took any help from family, neither a single penny, nor other support."

Does he lament the decision? "Not really, when I see myself as a person from a traditional background. I was a complete misfit in film parties. I did not speak the language that was required to fall on influential feet. I did not drink with them, nor smoke. I hate people who talk to me while smoking. I am a teetotaller, Alhamdullillah!" Jaaved seems relaxed, speaking his heart out.

Call it a cruel twist of fate, but his problems compounded when he refused roles he was not at ease with. "I am still very uncomfortable doing roles that are overtly sexual. I have refused many films even from foreign countries that required me to do that," he adds.

That leaves him with the choice of either comic characters or cheap dance numbers, neither of which is to his liking. "I am not a joker, so I refuse," he declares.

Not that Jaaved is unemployed. Mostly on tour doing stage shows, he has other ways to satisfy his artistic calibre too, with his theatre group "Couture" that has performed many plays since 1986, including Marathon Man, Evita and Trojan Woman. He is currently directing the play Grooves that showcases "Delhiwalahs' life through a party thrown at a farm house".

Among films there is Sandhya, and Kaizad Gustad's Boom — starring Amitabh Bachchan, Jackie Shroff, Zeenat Amaan, Seema Biswas and Padma Khanna — in which he has a "substantial role".

A man who has definitely lived an austere life in filmdom as compared to his peers, he sums up his attitude: "Ethics matter. When I see my face in the mirror in the morning, I feel contented that I had a sound sleep last night."

There must be some magic in his mantra. He leaves an indelible impression.

RANA A. SIDDIQUI

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