Jackie Shroff started his career with the film Hero (1983) and became a star overnight. Here’s all you need to know about the actor
Jackie Shroff is special, and not only on his birthday. Unlike some of his brassy publicity-hungry colleagues, Jackie Shroff is very shy in public. He hates talking about himself. And if you insist on interviewing him, he will speak in mumbled half-sentences and ask you to fill in the gaps. Once his most constant male co-star asked him, ‘why doesn’t he market himself better?’ and he replied, “Because I am not a bar of soap,” Jackie mumbled.
He loves to sing. Rather than converse, he will sing to himself. His favourite singers are Mohd Rafi and Kishore Kumar. He loves Rafi Saab’s ‘Main Zindagi ka Saath nibhata chala gaya’ from his favorite film Humdono. Jackie also sang on screen for his character in Shiva Ka Insaaf. Jackie starred in the first 3D film in Hindi Shiva Ka Insaaf in which he played a super-hero, Zorro mask, and all. Jackie’s son Tiger sought inspiration from his father for The Flying Jatt where he played a super-hero. Farq itna hai, Jackie’s super-hero flew. Tiger’s sank.
Though Jackie is a month younger than Anil, he played Anil’s older brother in Ram Lakhan. When I once asked Jackie about this, he gave me a classic reply. “Kya farq padta hai, Dost? Dev Saab was older than all of us. Yet he was the youngest hero of Indian cinema.”
Jackie’s favourite actor is Dev Anand whom he unabashedly idolized and copied in his earlier days. Jackie also had a crush on Asha Parekh. When he finally met her, he couldn’t stop blushing. Till Dev Anand’s last his self-declared Biggest Fan Jackie Shroff continued to connect with his idol once every fortnight.
As Jackie had explained “It was a self-imposed rule. I had to catch up with Dev Saab, had to speak to him. It wasn’t for him, it was for my own sake. I hero-worshipped Dev Saab, from the first to the last. It was genetic. My mother was his biggest fan. She passed it on to me. My earliest memory is of being sent to school by my mother with that famous ‘Dev Anand Puff’ hair. My mother used to comb my hair like Dev Saab every morning. And I made sure it stayed in place. “
Dev Anand gave Jackie his first break in Swami Dada. Luckily for Jackie, he didn’t go with the Dev puff to meet his idol.
Laughed Jackie, “No no-no. By then Dev Saab’s hairstyle had changed. I first met his son Suniel. We were both doing Hindi diction classes together. Suniel suggested I meet his father for a film that Dev Saab was making. I pinched myself in disbelief. Coming face-to-face with one’s idol is a very tough thing to do. There’s every likelihood of disappointment. Not with me. My love for Dev Saab continued over the years. There was no one like him. He was everything to me. “
Interestingly Jackie ended up playing henchman to Shakti Kapoor in Dev Anand’s Swami Dada after being offered the second lead. “That’s right. I was to play the second lead to Dev Saab. Then he got a big star (Mithun Chakraborty) for that role. He felt sorry for me. He told me there was one role still open. I had to stand quietly behind Shakti Kapoor throughout. Was there any question of saying No??? Did anyone ever say No to Dev Saab? From that time when I did Swami Dada for Dev Saab, then my jump to a leading man in Dev Saab’s Saache Ka Bol Bala, to Censor and Chargesheet…Dev Saab just had to ask. I’d blindly do any role big small, cameo, a walk-on for him. “
Prod Jackie about the quality of Dev Anand’s later cinema and Jackie sneers, “Who cared about what his films were or were not? I worked in his films because of him. And I went to see his films only for him. That man even at that age was so innocent, so free of guile and wickedness.
Dev Anand was also Jackie’s spiritual guru. “He taught me so much about life and cinema and goodness heart and kindness to others. I never saw him raise his voice at anyone. I try to be like that. People say I resemble him physically. That’s the biggest compliment. I certainly copied him in my romantic songs. You know, I was a complete wild street kid when I came into movies. It was Dev Saab’s screen presence that taught me how to romance women on screen. Off-screen I was known to be quite junglee. Would you believe it, he offered me a film to direct under the Navketan banner! A film for a banner that gave us Guide and Tere Mere Sapne. Can you imagine what it meant to me to be asked by my hero to be part of his dream? I think my life was fulfilled the day Dev Saab asked me to direct a film for him. “
Jackie’s spiritual guru sent him hand-written letters offering advice and wisdom. “They are my most precious possessions. They’ll be handed over to my son one day. I’ve them laminated and on the wall. One day when I build my home in the hills (where I belong) these framed letters would occupy pride of place. Dev Saab loved the hills. We were shooting for Chargesheet in Mahabaleshwar when he tasked me to move to the hills. I will one day. As I said, no one says no to Dev Saab. “
Jackie’s daughter Krishna Shroff can’t stop hero-worshipping her father. “He’s the kindest soul I know. He’s given my family the best life possible. I am so fortunate to have him as a figure to look up to. He’s my shield. I feel the biggest sense of security when he’s around. He’s the ultimate father and human being, and I always tell him that they don’t make men like him anymore. He deserves to be celebrated and loved every single day of his life.”
Adds son Tiger Shroff, “Every son’s first hero is his father. My dad was my first superhero. For me, he was Superman and Batman combined. I loved to see my Dad play the desi super-hero, my father didn’t have to try to be a super-hero. It came naturally to him. He was tall well-built and his body language rendered itself effortlessly to the super-hero mould. I had to work hard to get into the super-hero mould. I hope I’m not compared with my father or with Hrithik Sir. The one main thing that my father has taught me would be to love and respect my mother. His mother was everything to him. To me both my parents are everything for me. I can’t choose one over the other. With due respect to the remake, I didn’t want to compare it with him. In Hero, my father was a….full-on hero, larger-than-life the ultimate pinup boy. To compete with that would’ve been very foolish. I didn’t like being compared with my father. There was nothing to compare! I was, and still am shy, gawky, and very underconfident around women. My father could charm anyone with just one look. What was I? Not even a chip off the block.”
Tiger says he would dare follow in his father’s footsteps. “I would’ve never done a remake of my father’s film Hero. Not at the start of my career. Not now! The comparisons would have killed my career! My father oozed sexy confidence in Hero. In my debut film Heropanti I could barely hold my own on camera. I got clobbered by critics in my first film. My dad was loved from the start,” says the affectionate yet reverent son, who admits he didn’t get much time with his dad during childhood. When my sister and I were growing up, dad was out shooting constantly. Mom chose to give up her career and look after us. But dad would still make sure he was around for all mine and my sister’s important occasions, birthdays included. I loved to see my dad play the desi superhero. My father didn’t have to try to be a superhero, it came naturally to him. He was tall, well-built and his body language rendered itself effortlessly to the superhero mould. I had to work hard to get into the superhero mold. I hope I’m never compared with my father or with him.”
Jackie’s voice wells up with pride when I tell him success has not changed Tiger. “All credit must go to his grandmother and mother. They brought him with the right values, while I was working round-the-clock to give my family a comfortable life. The kids have got a good head on his shoulder.”
Subhash K Jha is a Patna-based film critic who has been writing about Bollywood for long enough to know the industry inside out. He tweets at @SubhashK_Jha.