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Seasoned, sensible Meet JACKIE SHROFF

Jackie Shroff has seen it all. This moderate has a spiritual side that he reveals to SUNANDA KHANNA


HE DOESN'T send the cash registers ringing nor can his movies rake in the bucks. Even as he's been in the field for close to 22 years, there's no denying that more of his movies have bombed at the box office than triumphed. Be that as it may, film actor Jackie Shroff stands head and shoulders above his counterparts in Bollywood ("They're all paper tigers, made so by the press. I respect only Shammi Kapoor and Dev Anand"); he makes no false claims about himself, his competence as an actor or as a bodhisattva on the path to eternal truth. He goes that extra mile to state the obvious: Be a good human being. Spiritualism begins and ends here.

So why is he on a whistle-stop tour of the city to meet Mata Amritanandamayi and be a part of this mega cultural conclave that has a sea of humanity begging for more?

Her philosophy is so simple, not so unique either. So what makes her so special?


"The lady asks for nothing, just a bear hug! She's not saying, change your religion or leave everything and come and live in my township," says the man who is more practical than profound; more realistic than rhetoric. "Today is also the first death anniversary of my mother and if I went exploring the deep I would see some coincidences here."

But Jackie Shroff is a man in a hurry. There's no time, in fact no inclination, to see more into an incident than at its face value. Clearly the man has dug in his heels. His ideas on religion are woven deeply into the fabric of his personal life.

Talk about environmental issues, pollution, pesticides in water and cold drinks and the reticence vanishes. Jackie Shroff wears his celebrity status responsibly and will use any platform to talk vociferously and with feeling about the world we are leaving behind for our children. Nothing is safe or pure anymore, he says as he derides the world governments for sheltering only their own interests.

The actor is deeply concerned that "even our vegetables contain elements of lead. So, what should I feed my kids," asks this devoted father of two. Does this tempt him to leave the country and find cleaner environs outside? "Maybe not the country, but Mumbai definitely. I don't plan to stay there forever. In fact I will work for three more years and then move to Goa or Khandala to do organic farming and live a healthier life."

And provide the same to his children, unmistakably the focus of his existence. But what about films? Jackie is in the midst of shooting with Raveena Tandon and Mahima Choudhry in Goa. He hopes to do fewer but more sensitive films in the future. He recently chucked up plans to make a film on Subhash Chandra Bose after learning that senior and known director Shyam Benegal was making a film on the same subject. Similarly his cine project based on the life of Charles Sobhraj didn't see light of the day because Art Malik had the same idea. But this kind of martyrdom is expected of Jackie Shroff. He is known to be a man with a big heart who has always been there for others.

It's been a long haul for Jaggu Dada; from overcoming the trauma of seeing his elder brother drown before his eyes as a ten-year-old to a Romeo at Mumbai's Teenbatti, a street-smart flunky at a travel agency to a hunky model and movie star who was offered ambassadorship to a European country and finally a man who has found his nirvana. Do the right thing.

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