Meezaan, Sharmin Segal on marking their acting debut with Sanjay Leela Bhansali-produced Malaal
Both Meezaan and Sharmin Segal say they are eager to see how Sanjay Leela Bhansali's filmmaking style meets Mangesh Hadawale's idea of romance.
Two fresh faces and Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s protégés — Meezaan Jafri and Sharmin Segal — will make foray into Bollywood n June. As the day of their debut release Malaal inches closer (5 July), both the actors can feel the jitters. “There’s restlessness in us to get the movie out there as soon as possible,” says Meezaan, son of senior actor-dancer-comedian, Jaaved Jaaferi . “It feels as if time is not passing,” adds Sharmin, niece of Bhansali.
Both of them subconsciously soaked in a lot from the environment they grew up in but the final decision of taking up acting as a career came much later while they were in college. Incidentally, Meezaan and Sharmin have known each other for a long time as both have been in school together since the 11th grade. “As I was growing up, I never thought I would become an actor some day as I was always inclined towards sports and music. I used to play the piano, guitar, and sing in school. Then, I played football, and basketball at the state level,” says Meezaan, who bears a striking resemblance to Ranveer Singh.
“My grandfather (comedian Jagdeep), father, uncle (Naved Jafri) were all in showbiz. The family grew up watching Boogie Woogie (dance reality show co-judged by Jaaved with Naved, director) and everyone else’s films. I often saw dad rehearsing, or dubbing, or shooting. Somewhere, you do get attached to it subconsciously and start absorbing. But you don’t understand or realise what is going on. But all of that helped me so much when this random opportunity came my way," says Meezaan.
Sharmin wanted to become a doctor until she went on stage to perform in a college play. “I never felt any film connection even until the time Sanjay Sir started directing Guzaarish and Ram Leela. I was busy doing my own thing, I was studying biology and from the age of 11 to 17 I wanted to become a doctor. But while doing college plays I started enjoying acting. I was a bit chubby and while doing a play in college when students started making fun of me I didn’t feel like they were laughing at me, it felt as if they were laughing at my character. It was then that I wanted to continue acting and play different people, different characters. I told my mother and her immediate response was, ‘Look at your size. First lose some weight, groom yourself, and learn to do make-up,'” says Sharmin.
She continues, “And I had a conversation regarding my launch with Sanjay Sir only after I returned from America after doing an acting course. Before that, he saw me lose weight; he saw me as an assistant director on Bajirao Mastani and mentored me on sets at some level. I didn’t have anything specific in mind but Sanjay Sir and Mangesh Sir (Hadawale, Malaal writer-director) had already met and discussed everything. Sanjay Sir did the script reading with us, but first he wanted to know the director’s view on us. Mangesh Sir auditioned us and understood where we stood as actors and that is how Malaal happened,” says Sharmin.
Besides their launch, the actors are also excited about the amalgamation of the director’s simplistic interpretation of love and Bhansali’s grand scale and larger-than-life approach to filmmaking. “Mangesh sir is very good with emotions and if he could bring them out with a bull and a child in Tingya (2008 Marathi film), it would be interesting to see how he has handled a boy and a girl falling in love. I wanted to see the scale that Sanjay sir is known for in the midst of that emotion. Hopefully, we have managed to achieve some middle ground between the two,” says Sharmin.
However, it was a “random circumstance” that landed Meezaan into Bollywood. “Sharmin was my classmate and also my best friend. She was handling costumes when she was assisting Sanjay sir Bajirao. I had come for summer holidays from the US where I had gone to study business. One day, she desperately called me to try the costumes meant for Ranveer as he wasn’t available and she wanted someone with the same height and built. I was a bit scared because I had heard so many things about Sanjay sir. I was at my best behaviour trying not to disappoint him. But that day changed my life when he told me that I should become an actor and that he wanted to launch me. He didn’t know my family background and knew me only as Sharmin’s classmate, and when I told him that I was Jaaved Jaaferi’s son, he was like 'Oh my god!' That day, I did the costume trial and left. I came down, sat in my car quietly for 15 minutes trying to process what had happened. It came as such a shock to me. It was all so random that even my dad was wondering when did I go and meet Bhansali sir. He thought I was planning something behind his back,” says Meezaan.
Malaal is about the love-hate relationship between the debutants, who hail from contrasting backgrounds and fall in love as neighbours in a Mumbai chawl. And to prep up for his role, Meezaan, who plays a lower middle class Maharashtrian boy would visit chawls every day. "I would go to these Marathi-dominated areas of Parel, Sewri, Dadar...I would be at train stations at 7.30 in the morning watching people going to work. I wanted the feel of the local train, go to chawls and talk to people in Marathi, try and merge and blend with them and once they started accepting me as one of their own that was when my job was done,” he says.
While Sharmin worked with Bhansali on Bajirao Mastani, Meezaan assisted the director on Padmaavat. Sharing an anecdote from the sets of Padmaavat, Meezaan revealed how he appeared as a stand-in Khilji for two scenes in the film when Ranveer wasn’t available. “Sanjay sir told me that I should do it. The next day, I was asked to memorise all of Ranveer’s gestures and lines," said Meezaan, further adding, “But Bhansali sir never told me that I resemble him. It’s maybe because of my long hair, beard and built that people feel so.”
Further, Meezaan revealed that one of the best pieces of advice came from Ranveer. “We were shooting 'Binte Dil' and I was sitting in a bath tub with him. While everyone was setting up the shot, he and I were chilling. He asked me about my plan. I told him that Sanjay sir was launching me. I also told him that my dad was angry because I left film school in New York mid-way, and Ranveer said, ‘I have also made drastic decisions in my life but because of that I am where I am today. And never regret anything in life, always be extremely confident. Tomorrow, when you are acting in a film, think of it as a do or die job. That is when you will give your everything.' That hit me hard. You have to live everyday as your last day,” says Meezaan.
After seeing his dad go through ups and downs in his career, Meezaan says he is well prepared to face any eventuality. “I have lived with all of that and somewhere, I have learnt from his mistakes as well. He has been treated well and he has been treated badly as well. He is an extremely talented artist but he has not been given his due. Somewhere, the politics of the industry comes into play but I have learnt from his mistakes and will make the most of it,” he says.
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