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Return of the macho man

Jackie Shroff may not be getting any younger, but the film industry seems to have rediscovered him in a new light



Photo: Rajeev Bhatt

IN THE industry of cute boys, he has been the man; in the business of manufactured machismo he has carried an unprocessed vigour effortlessly.

Never in line for the greatest performer, over the years Jackie Shroff has prolifically juggled the images of Jaggu dada and Jackie, the unassuming entertainer.

Now, some 150-odd films later, Jackie seems to be rediscovering himself. His latest release, Dobara, shows him playing an author, coping with his past folly while clutching on to his present, for the first time in his career.

"No, I have never planned my life. It was enough for me that starting from a kholi, I made a name for myself. I don't say I have always done quality work. At different stages of my career, I have worked for money, for friends, for satisfaction. However, in the last few years, I am feeling either the industry is running short of actors or it is rediscovering Jackie all over again. On my part, with technique playing an important part in films these days, I have become conscious about the technicians I work with."

Different strokes

Not ready to accept that the industry has treated him on face or rather body value, Jackie enumerates Aaina, Yaadein, Mission Kashmir and Devdas. "You can call them too late in the day or commercially unviable, but people have tried to give me a different image in the past."

But his biggest swing is in the process now, when for the first time somebody is fiddling with his measured physique.

"Yes, Rituparno Ghosh has asked me to put on weight for Antarmahal. This long hair and moustache are all part of the getup. The film is based on the novel by Tarashanker Bandhopadhyay, and I am playing a middle-aged landlord with two wives being played by Rupa Ganguly and Soha Ali Khan. I am taking lots of rice and mishti doi but somehow I have yet to add weight."

He continues, "Again it is the technical brilliance of Rituparno that attracted me to do the film. I don't know Bengali but I am listening to the recorded script and Bengali music to get the feel of the language. Rituparno has sent me a script in Roman and I will try my best that he doesn't have to dub my lines."

Legal eagle

Then on Hindi turf, he is experimenting again with Divorce, where he is playing the lawyer of a child "seeking divorce from his parents" and Hulchul, where he is one of the four sons of a patriarchal family, headed by Amrish Puri, which hates girls. His trials on the production front have Boomed repeatedly, but Jackie, one who believes filmmaking is not at all a loss making business, is confident his next venture will turn things around.

Boom and bust

"I could not figure out why Boom didn't work. People love to watch fashion shows, but they didn't like a film on the fashion industry. As for the presentation of Amitabhji, he agreed to do the film after he liked his part. Criticism should be about how he played it rather than why he did it."

Off screen, however, he remains the quintessential Jackie: chivalrous to girls, avuncular to kids and patronising to fans in his typical Mumbaiya lingo. Meanwhile, his heroines are getting younger, with Urmila in Rangeela to Soha in Antarmahal. Jackie, happy to compete with John Abraham on the attitude count, doesn't mind. "Certainly, they are getting younger. But as long as Dev saheb is around, we all are kids."

ANUJ KUMAR

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