Before Sunil Dutt played Birju, the rebellious young man-turned-bandit in “Mother India”, it was Jagdeep who was supposed to star in the role, according to writer-filmmaker Rumi Jaffery. Jaffery, who directed Jagdeep in two films “Life Partner” and “Gali Gali Chor Hai”, recounted the anecdote which he heard from director Mehboob Khan’s recordist Pandu Dada.
“Mehboob Khan’s recordist Pandu dada had once told me, while I was working with him on ‘Aa Ab Laut Chale’ as a writer that when ‘Mother India’ was being made the role of Birju was earlier played by Jagdeep bhai. I was stunned when I heard this,” Jaffery told PTI in an interview.
Jagdeep even shot for the Nargis-starrer for a few days, but as director Mehboob Khan felt his intensity wasn’t convincing enough, Dutt eventually landed the part in the 1957 film.
“Later when I asked Jagdeep bhai about it he said he was not only offered the role, but he even shot for it for few days. But Mehboob Khan felt the anger wasn’t coming on his face and then Sunil Dutt was cast,”, the writer said.
“No one would ever believe that Jagdeep bhai was earlier cast as Birju. I wanted to record this anecdote. Sadly, he isn’t with us anymore,” he said.
Best known for playing the iconic Soorma Bhopali in the 1975 blockbuster “Sholay”, Jagdeep died on Wednesday at the age of 81.
Jaffery, who first met the actor when he was shooting for his 1988 directorial “Soorma Bhopali”, said his relationship with the actor was beyond work.
“He was like family to me. Before coming to Mumbai from Bhopal, I had stayed at his house for a few days. He was warm and loving. He had the image of a comedian onscreen but in real life he was a serious, thoughtful man.
“When Jaffery, a frequent collaborator on filmmaker David Dhawan’s comedies including “Coolie No 1”, “Haseena Maan Jayegi”, “Mujhse Shaadi Karogi”, turned director, he was keen on working with Jagdeep, but he wanted to offer him a role that matched his talent.
“When I offered him ‘Life Partner’ and ‘Gali Gali Chor Hai’ he immediately said yes. I am glad he agreed to work with me even when the films didn’t do well commercially.
Working with him has always been a memorable experience,” he said.
Jaffery said Jagdeep, whose real name was Syed Ishtiaq Ahmed Jafri, would often improvise his dialogues lending a rhyme to the writing.
“Earlier when actors were busy doing multiple films there would be other people dubbing for them, but Jagdeep bhai’s dialogue delivery was such that no one could dub for him, only he could do it.
Citing the example of a scene from the 1981 film “Kaalia”, in which Jagdeep played a car dealer to the titular con man (played by Amitabh Bachchan), Jaffery said it was a masterclass in acting.
“In the scene, he and Amitabh go on a test drive. Bachchan is driving on full speed, the door of the car and everything else gets damaged. In the scene, Jagdeep bhai had to give his reaction to what is happening.
“He later told me how in dubbing he recreated the scene in his distinctive way that it became one of the highlights of the movie,” he added.
The writer said he will miss several such anecdotes and the man who shared them so lovingly