Interview By: AAKANSHA SHAKHEWAR
We get into a casual chat with this charming man Meezaan Jaffrey, who looks just like his dad Javed Jaffrey with his attire. He is such a polite person and so jovial like his co-star Sharmin. He tells us about his journey and relationship with Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Mangesh Hadawale and Sharmin Segal. He also tells us about his character and the learning process for the movie ‘Malaal’.
What was the starting point for ‘Malaal’?
I was assisting on ‘Padmaavat’ and Sanjay sir told me that he wanted me to meet Mangesh Hadawale. He called me to his office and I met Mangesh sir. It was all about casual ‘Hi-Bye’ at first but then Mangesh sir told me he wants me to spend more time with Sharmin. Later I asked Sanjay sir. What is this regarding? Sanjay sir told me it is regarding this film and at that that time we had no title for it. Sanjay sir exactly knew what the movie was and he was not ready to disclose it then. He just kept on saying it is an amazing film of an amazing director and I think you should just get to know him better and you will understand what I’m talking about. I started hanging out more with Mangesh sir and we became friends and then after that he started telling us about all his projects. I think the whole reason he was doing these casual meetings with us was because Sanjay sir had asked him to spend time with us and to get to know us. If you like them only then work with them; I’m not forcing you to work with them. He got to know us and saw whether we are going to be able to pull this off because it is a very difficult character for debutants. He introduced us to the characters slowly but he did not give us the script. He would just give us the gist of the movie. At the same time, with all this we were watching his previous work because we wanted to know what all projects he has done. We used to have workshops every day. He gave us random scenes to do just to know what we are capable of, as actors so it was like an audition only. After a while he told me about my character and I thought ‘Will I be able to do this’? Because it is so different from what I’m in real life but at the same time I was very excited and I knew I’ll do it. It might be the most difficult thing on earth but I’ll pull it off. I’ll make sure I give the best of my ability to do something. We went to chawls, I started learning Marathi, and I started learning to speak in Hindi with a Marathi accent. I started going to chawls on my own just to sit, observe and try talking to people in Marathi because if they believe it only then the audience will believe it. I obviously couldn’t go there dressed like what I’m in real life so I went to Dadar station and picked up shirts and Kolapuri for myself. I wore them and then went for these workshops. I went in train and travelled to random places. I used to go till Virar and come back. It was just for learning and observing. I think most of my learning came from observation and I tried to pick up as much as I could. I used to go to Mangesh sir after and show that to Mahesh sir. He would tell me which is good and which is not. What is to be kept and what is not. Script came one month before shooting. Because of which Mangesh sir used to give us situations and ask us. What would Shiva do if he was caught up with such a situation? So I had to act like Shiva in that situation. Basically talk like Shiva and all this practice got so helpful that playing the actual character Shiva according to the script got easier for me. All of this has been really challenging for me but a lot of fun at the same time.
How was it working with the director?
He is one of my closest friends and I treat him like family. In fact, my family treats him like family. He can come and sit with my family even when I’m not at home and I can go to his house and play with his children when he is not at home. He has become such a close friend that he knows things about my life which nobody knows. I think that bond will remain forever. Tomorrow if I’m doing any movie with some other person or production house. I will still call up Mangesh sir and ask for his advice and help because I know that he is so good in his craft and has helped me so much in understanding acting and direction. I’ll always call him up first and ask him to help me if I don’t understand anything. We are extremely close and it is important to understand one another and we do understand each other well. The fact that he understands me so well, he can come today in a scene and sit next to me and tell me “Meezan remember that thing that happened in your life? Imagine that situation and do the scene. So automatically the emotion just comes out and that is when director’s craft really comes into play. He is so good at what he does that he knows exactly what to bring out of his actors which even they don’t know if they are capable of. I did not think at times if I’m going to be able to do an emotion really well but then I did it so well that I was amazed.
Why did you say yes to do the movie? What attracted you to say yes? This was a difficult script for a debutant….
Sanjay Leela Bhansali was the one major reason. Sanjay sir was telling me that it is an amazing movie and you should do it! He is such an amazing director that I’m obviously not going to argue with him. He is someone who I respect so much, admire him and I have worked with him for ‘Padmaavat’ and the fact that I know this man will not give me something which is mediocre. If he has faith in something then I should do it. If Sanjay sir tells me to do something I’ll do it. I can’t say no to him because of many reasons for everything that he has done for me in my life. It was only Sanjay sir because of which I said yes because when I said yes I did not even know what the movie was about.
What was your reaction when you heard the script?
First of all, I would love to mention, Mangesh sir is such an amazing narrator because when he narrates the story you just dive in deep into that world. Narration is also an art and he says it in such a way that you start leaving with that narration. I was so involved in the narration that I was crying, laughing and many more emotions. I was so glad about doing this film. I met Sanjay sir after the narration and told him how beautiful the narration was and how well it went. I told him it is going to be extremely difficult but don’t worry I’ll make you proud.
Can you elaborate a bit about your character?
He is rude, aggressive, loud, shameless and does not seem to have any filter which is also a good thing about the character because he is pure at heart and says what comes to his mind. He is not a manipulator and thinks twice before saying. He is innocent and very soft at heart. He tries to put on a mask and pretends to be the aggressive man you will witness on screens. Only he knows what is going on inside him, which people won’t understand and that is where Astha comes into the play who understands exactly what is going on in his mind and heart. She looks at him for what he truly is and I think this is the reason for which he falls in love with Astha. His good characteristics are he speaks from his heart, he is extremely loyal to people he is close to and he is a devoted lover which you will get to see in the film. Shiva is an extremist. Another quality that Astha loves about him is he is fearless. He does not fear anybody. He has a voice of his own and he has a way of doing things in his own way.
Was it difficult for you to prepare for the character?
He is so different from me. He travels by train, I travel by car, He has financial problems, and I don’t have any and many more things. We both come from a different background and to get into the skin of the character I had to understand his culture totally. Everything had to be understood by me and it was challenging but I’m so glad that I got 1 ½ year to prepare for this. Usually people don’t get that time but I was very lucky that I got that much time to prepare myself for the character.
How was it working with Sharmin?
I knew Sharmin even before I knew Sanjay sir. It was like having a friend on set. We both were extremely comfortable with each other and what is better than having a co-star who is a friend. Because it is an extra procedure of trying to get to know the person if the co-star is not someone you know. We knew each other so well that we used to help each other and used to truthfully critic each other’s work. If on sets Sharmin did not like anything that I did she used to tell me and I used to do it again. I think apart from a work support it was also an emotional support.