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TOPIC: From playing Nawab to a paanwala: Saeed Jaffrey straddled roles onscreen with ease
BLOG: INDIAN EXPRESS
WRITER: Shubhra Gupta (Film Critic)
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MEANINGS are given in BOLD and ITALIC
Veteran (very old and experienced) actor Saeed Jaffery, who delighted fans all over the world with his masterful screen presence and performances, passed away. Jaffery, 86, breathed his last.
Under a tree, sit two men. That they are gentle of mien (Someone’s mien is their general appearance and manner, especially the expression on their face, which shows what they are feeling or thinking.) and birth, there is no doubt, because they are dressed, top to toe, in rich brocade (Brocade is a thick, expensive material, often made of silk, with a raised pattern on it.). Their zubaan is khaalis Urdu, and they have in front of them, a chess game.
One of these Lucknawi nawabs, from Satyajit Ray’s 1977 classic Shatranj Ke Khiladi, is the late Sanjeev Kumar. The other is Saeed Jaffrey, versatile actor who died in London over the weekend.
Of Saeed Jaffrey’s many memorable parts in Hindi cinema, Nawab Mir Roshan Ali is a standout(Journalists use standout to refer to a person or thing that is much better than the other people ). It was Satyajit Ray’s first Hindi film, and Saeed Jaffrey’s first significant cinema role: before this, he had played bit parts in the US and the UK, both in theatre and film.
It was during the shooting of Shatranj Ke Khiladi that Richard Attenborough (who plays a British General) got to know Saeed Jaffrey well, and that led to another big break for the latter(When two people, things, or groups have just been mentioned, you can refer to the second of them as the latter), as Sardar Patel in Gandhi.
Before he left India to go West, Saeed Jaffrey had become quite a well-known voice on All India Radio, and had also begun a theatre company.
Four years after Shatranj Ke Khiladi came Sai Paranjpye’s Chashm-e-Buddoor. It ‘got’ the Dilli of that time beautifully, and gave us evergreen characters: the three layabout(lazy) Delhi University students, the love of their lives, Miss Chamko, and their lifeline, dispensing cigarettes and life lessons, the paanwala Lallan Miyan.
It was difficult to imagine that the urbane(Cultured) ‘nawab’ with his bespoke Urdu could enact a lowly ‘paanwala’. But Saeed Jaffrey, his lips stained a deep red, and affecting the right laid-back lingo(foreign language), won our hearts.
That he could do this, and that — play brown in white productions, as well as ‘desi’ as ‘desi’ could be — stood him in good stead through the ’80s and ’90s: after Gandhi, came Masoom, where he played the hero’s friend.
And then came the flood: wherever you turned, there was Saeed Jaffrey, as father, uncle, buffoon(clown), villain. The field was open, and he reaped and sowed. I remember being flabbergasted(extremely Surprised-स्तंभित) at Saeed Jaffrey’s wading(wading through something means to go through it) into the heavy dad role in Indra Kumar’s Dil, in which he has a grand time shouting and yelling at daughter Madhuri Dixit and her lover, Aamir Khan: ‘Shut your mouth, you little upstart(naive-सीधा-सादा)’ was still all right.
But he went to the ‘teri boti boti kaat kar rakh doonga’ level without blinking, his eyes all red, his toupee(cap) askew(not straight-तिरछा), and you knew that Bollywood had him, good and proper. It was hard to believe that the same actor was so restrained(Calm and unemotional-नियंत्रित किया हुआ) in one of my all-time favourites, the terrific My Beautiful Laundrette(a movie used here as a metaphore).
Saeed Jaffrey’s passing is yet another stalwart(loyal worker-निष्ठावान) gone, a multi-faceted(variety of different and important features-बहुमुखी) performer who straddled eras(belongs to that eras – पैर फैलाकर खड़ा होना), the stage, cinema and television, who made a home in the West and, so to speak, the East.
He could play louche(people who are unconventional and not respectable but still people find them attractive) and loving as few could, the accent and the bearing just so.
Aapke paan yaad rahenge, Lallan Miyan.
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