What makes Jackie Shroff interviews a genre: Good mix of worldly wise and frank talk with a sprinkle of cuss words

Jackie Shroff remains deliriously unafraid of these pitfalls, always speaking straight from his heart in trademark tapori language, without anyone taking any offense. The fun lies exactly in hearing a popular celebrity speak without any trace of self-consciousness.

BH Harsh November 28, 2021 11:25:57 IST
What makes Jackie Shroff interviews a genre: Good mix of worldly wise and frank talk with a sprinkle of cuss words

When the going gets tough, we turn to our favourite guilty pleasures. But when entertainment is concerned, is there even any guilt to what gives one pleasure? In our new series Pleasure Without Guilt, we look at pop offerings that have been dissed by the culture police but continue to endure as beacons of unadulterated pleasure.

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It all started back in July 2012 as someone uploaded a blooper reel of an old PSA video, featuring a celebrated film star who was mouthing off expletives for five minutes straight as he struggled to say his lines accurately. It shocked us, made us laugh, but most importantly, showed us a celebrity who was as uninhibited as they came. He seemed like one of us.

Nine years later, ‘Jackie Shroff interviews’ is a whole genre in itself. There are countless videos of the 64-year-old actor on YouTube, often with the keyword ‘Tapori’ or ‘Funny’ in the title, with him rambling off or imparting life lessons in an almost stream-of-consciousness manner about topics far too distinct to be grouped under one umbrella.

From patriotism to pollution, Shroff will talk about so many non-cinema topics that you will forget he is a film star. These interviews are available in all shapes and sizes — be it four-minute clips from the promotional events where he praises his contemporary directors and colleagues with all the genuineness, or languid 40-minute sessions where he gets philosophical recounting his early days in the Teen Batti area, and the values his mother taught him. He is equally at home when talking about an old Lata Mangeshkar song as he is while praising art-house films from the '70s. In the midst of it, he will suddenly sprinkle an old anecdote with an eerily accurate mimicry of Dev Anand.

What makes Jackie Shroff interviews a genre Good mix of worldly wise and frank talk with a sprinkle of cuss words

Like any good orator, Shroff is always handy with the strangest and most imaginative of analogies and metaphors, aided by a photographic memory. He will compare the image-building of a celebrity to the feeding of a goat on the eve of Eid, without batting an eyelid. He will compare playing a supporting role in a director’s dream project to babysitting someone’s child for a while with due care and concern.

Off late, Shroff has been sounding like a zealous activist even, making a special point to talk about the lack of environmental sensitivity among the general public, especially during festival times. In one particular interview with Mohd Syed Irfan, Shroff finds some way to incorporate his feelings about trees and nature in every question. Later on, he branches out on a monologue about the importance of interacting more with other people than their smartphones, and in the same breath, he preaches about preserving water while brushing your teeth. (Not so surprisingly, Anupam Kher on his show once playfully compared him to a monk while Karan Johar quipped on his show Koffee with Karan how Shroff sounds like a farmer, given his penchant to talk about water harvesting and seeds.)

Amidst all this, what Shroff has been doing is quietly subverting our expectations from celebrity interviews. Aided by his flair for streetside lingo, Shroff plays against our ideas of how a wise, learned man should sound like. The appeal of his interviews lies in the fascinating fusion — of the swag, those glamorous outfits and scarfs, the hybrid Bambaiyya language, and the most world-wise opinions and thoughts. Thanks to him, the words ‘Beedu’ and ‘Bindaas’ have become part of popular lexicon. And yet, when looking for the right word to describe someone, he will seamlessly shift from Bambaiyya to Urdu. When he speaks in English, he layers it with a thick anglicised accent, consciously making a point to underline the ‘acquiredness’ of it.

What makes Jackie Shroff interviews a genre Good mix of worldly wise and frank talk with a sprinkle of cuss words

In a society where celebrities are increasingly proud of their individualism and Western values, Shroff continues to talk lovingly about the importance of family and children. When talking about the success of his son Tiger Shroff, Jackie sounds like an incredibly liberal father who shows no signs of wanting to have any control over his son’s career. He often speaks with great warmth about his parents, longing for the days where he lived with his family in a 10-by-10 chawl, where everyone was well-aware about the smallest of each other’s problems.

In the same interview, he will also stand for the filmmakers’ right to return the National Award as a form of protest. And just when you begin to think of him as an ordinary, well-meaning human being who only accidentally became such a popular actor, Shroff will throw in insight that shows his great understanding of the craft, and the emotional intelligence that is always at work. Through all of it, he remains a multi-faceted personality who cannot be contained into one box, setting his own rules of communication.

One of my favorite bits is from an interview held at the MAMI Mumbai Film Festival in 2014 when Vidhu Vinod Chopra, a filmmaker as self-serious as they come, is waxing eloquent about the climax of his 1989 film Parinda, and how much thought went into it. And suddenly, he prods Shroff to talk about it. After an extended pause, Shroff sighs as he begins his account with “Subah ka chaar baj chuka tha..” (it was already 4 AM) — and the audience erupts into thundering laughter, the sophisticated movie-going folk aghast at the demolition of the self-seriousness of it all. However, Shroff goes on to share the memories of the film with great respect towards Chopra’s artistic passion, even reminding him of an improvised lighting idea of a particular scene which Chopra himself had seemed to forget about.

What makes Jackie Shroff interviews a genre Good mix of worldly wise and frank talk with a sprinkle of cuss words

His interviews possibly stand out because they coincided with the YouTube revolution which led to an increased fascination to see the off-screen persona of celebrities. Though Twitter offers a perception of closer proximity to the film stars, their tweets and messages making them seem less mythical and more accessible, the bridge of language allowed the celebrities to maintain a certain image and stay in control. Hence, when speaking in person, the biggest of them are often, understandably, found wary about what they say and how they say it, fully aware of the possible slip-ups. There is a reason the Rapid Fire sessions from Koffee from Karan became such a matter of controversy, because of their potential of making celebrities more impulsive, and hence prone to scandals.

Shroff remains deliriously unafraid of these pitfalls, always speaking straight from his heart in trademark tapori language, without anyone taking any offense.

The fun lies exactly in hearing a popular celebrity speak without any trace of self-consciousness.

 At the music launch of his 2014 film Happy New Year, when asked about Shah Rukh Khan, Shroff closes his eyes on stage as he tries to recount his first memory of the actor. As Shroff describes specific visuals in random order of their first meet, some amongst the team begin to laugh — but Shroff remains focussed, eyes closed, fiddling with his hair, as he tries to recount what he first observed about SRK.
What makes Jackie Shroff interviews a genre Good mix of worldly wise and frank talk with a sprinkle of cuss words

His easy-going demeanour often garbs a lot of anger and contempt for the modern obsession with mobile phones and voyeurism. He often criticises the ways in which we stay obsessed with others’ lives, prone to constant gossiping. And yet, he uses his language and demeanour in such a manner that the media always seem happy to have him around, and can’t seem to get enough of him. Perhaps this is why his rare hostile behaviour with the press also isn’t blown out of proportion.

It is amazing that in this day and age, Shroff has remained unscathed by the cancel culture. For someone who has his heart perennially on his sleeve, it is indeed an astounding feat that Shroff has never really found himself mired in a controversy on account of any of his statements or social media posts (though I do remember one of my friends being hugely scandalised by the way the actor sometimes uses the word ‘aurat’ to refer to his wife).

Sometimes I try to make sense of my love for Jackie Shroff interviews, and I am reminded of the place Hindi films once occupied in our lives. Maybe these interviews satiate that yearning for an uncomplicated place where we would go for some harmless fun and some learnings once in a while, even ignoring some of its problematic aspects. Meanwhile, there is nothing objectionable or excessive about Jackie Shroff interviews — except for that, sometimes, they are too much fun.

And if some of them arrive with a few cuss words sprinkled upon them, I frankly don't give a damn.

Read more from the Pleasure Without Guilt series here.

BH Harsh is a film critic who spends most of his time watching movies and making notes, hoping to create, as Peggy Olsen put it, something of lasting value.

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