I hesitantly tell Jackie Shroff I’ve not seen any of his films except Aaranya Kaandam. “I am sure your parents would have watched at least Hero or Rangeela,” he says. The versatile, and handsome-as-ever actor is returning to Tamil cinema with CV Kumar’s directorial debut, Maayavan.
Excerpts from the conversation:
You seem to have really taken to South Indian cinema.
I think South Indian cinema has taken to me. Maayavan is due for release. I’m also a part of Saaho, for which I’ve shot for two days in Hyderabad. I’ll be returning to the sets on September. I pick what comes my way. Bollywood gives me whatever it can give—like Happy New Year and Housefull 3. They labelled me a baddie first. Now, I’m also getting character roles.
You’ve completed more than 30 years in the industry. What’s changed over the years?
Nothing, really. People watch cinema for the same reason they did around the 80s. There are more theatres today. And technology has evolved. There have been ups and downs. But that’s the way life is. I wanted to be a villain but became the ‘hero’ eventually. Did you get the pun? (laughs)
You’ve retained your style over all these decades. What’s your secret?
I have a commanding presence. And I have been experimental with my looks from the beginning. Do you know I used to get shirts stitched from curtains and my mother’s saris? I acquired a lot of style without ever going to college. I don’t think it has left me yet. (smiles)
But to answer your question, I keep it all simple. I wear comfortable, presentable clothes. I make sure my nails are clean. I don’t wear socks that stink. Fashion that you see on the ramp is for the ramp, darling. You can’t wear them regularly. Dogs will bite you!
How do you choose your projects?
I have been choosy always. Without me, there would have been no Dhoom 3. In Tamil, after Aaranya Kaandam, Maayavan happened. I take my own time to finalise the projects. I do films when I am bored. Don’t get me wrong. I am into farming and other things. I don’t do films for money anymore.
In fact, I even did a few short films for free. When a young, aspiring filmmaker approaches me, I oblige. I don’t ask for money. But the script has to be compelling.
Your role in Maayavan must have seemed quite compelling then.
I will be seen in a bindaas, don-like character. I am the source of the hero’s mental torture.
Box office success or critical acclaim?
I am lucky and blessed to have had both. I think it’s a balance that needs to be achieved.
What keeps you going after all these years?
I have never learned acting. It’s an emotion you need to feel. A lot of your personality comes out when you are acting.
That’s why, when you see my performances, you see my passion and my love for my work. Over these years, my friendship with some filmmakers has become deeper.
I did many films on grounds of friendship. Some worked, many flopped. But I have no regrets. I am one of the few actors who can boast of such variety. I accepted a negative role when my career, as a hero, was at its peak.
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