Connect with us


Jeetendra: “It was the South Indian filmmakers who vied with one another to boost my sagging morale”

To commemorate Jeetendra’s 82nd birthday, we reproduce this interview with the actor by Jyothi Venkatesh, which appeared 39 years ago in Frontline dt December 14-27, 1985)




By Jyothi Venkatesh

Jeetendra was born Ravi Kapoor in Amritsar, Punjab in 1942 to a Punjabi family. Ravi Kapoor was born in a business family that dealt with imitation jewellery. While supplying jewellery to V. Shantaram, he was cast as Sandhya’s double in the 1959 movie “Navrang.” He started in Bollywood in the late 1950s when filmmaker V. Shantaram gave him a chance as actress Sandhya’s double in Navrang (1959) but got his first big break when Shantaram cast him as hero in Geet Gaya Pattharon Ne (1964). Since then, he has appeared in almost 200 films.

Jeetendra turns 82 on April 7th this year. To commemorate his 82nd birthday, we reproduce this interview with JEETENDRA by JYOTHI VENKATESH, which appeared 39 years ago in Frontline dt December 14-27, 1985)

They called him the Jumping Jack. He was unruffled. He kept on jumping with his white shoes and cash jingled at the box office. Jeetendra has survived the onslaught of several new faces and today he is at the top in the Hindi film industry.

Jeetendra continues to churn out with alarming regularity box office potboilers. He is aware that most of his films are nothing but copies of his early ventures. Whether it is Tohfa, Mawaali ior Sarfarosh or Hoshiyaar, you see the same old young Jeetendra. Damn the actor, long live the star seems to be his mantra.

Also read: When Gemini Ganesan said, “In one way I think I have been the trend setter for extramarital involvements in the industry”

“There are some who are the director’s actors. There are others who are the producer’s actors. But I am the distributor’s actor because in the film industry it is the distributor who ultimately calls the shots. If tomorrow the distributors feel that I am a risky proposition at the box office, and decide not to buy films starring me, I will be doomed because no producer will come forward to make a film with me”, admits Jeetendra, who is aware that the critics have written him off as an actor. “If I am a bad actor, do you think I would have survived in this rat race for 23 years?” he asks.

Jeetendra had made his debut in V. Shantaram’s Boond Jo Ban Gayi Moti opposite Mumtaz many years ago. But even today he is trim enough to pass off as a 25-year-old, prancing around in the college campus with the Jaya Pradas and the Sridevis. “I will celebrate my golden jubilee after I put in 27 more years”, Jeetendra guffawed when I asked him if he planned to celebrate his silver jubilee in films after three years. “Must you remind me that I am 47?” he added jocularly.

Jeetu is a wizard at box office statistics. He has at his fingertip’s details of the collections of the films over the years. What is endearing about him is that when he agrees to do a film, he starts considering it as his own as though he himself is the producer, “I bought the rights of Jeevan Jyoti, a Telugu film, gave it to Mallikarjuna Rao, got him distributors for a few territories because after Yeh Desh the poor guy was down and out.”

Also read: Actress Madhurima Tuli: “People can pull you down, but you have to just move on in life” – EXCLUSIVE!

Jeetendra was the leading man of Yeh Desh. He realizes the plight of a producer who has lost money and unlike some others, doesn’t behave like a Shylock when it comes to recovering his dues. That is why producers down South keep on repeating him even though some of his films have flopped of late like Sarfarosh, Balidaan and Hoshiyar. “After making a film like Deedar E Yaar, I know what it is to lose money”, chuckles Jeetendra.

Why does he keep on working in Chennai- made Hindi films at the expense of the Bombay filmmakers? After Dharam Veer, he has not acted in a Manmohan Desai film. Till date he hasn’t worked with Prakash Mehra. After The Burning Train, no Jeetendra starrer has come from B.R. Chopra. “No.  I haven’t forgotten the Bombay filmmakers. It is the other way round. The Bombay producers consider me as a South Indian actor. After Dharamveer, Manmohan Desai has not approached me. Nor has Prakash Mehra. Why should they approach me when they had Amitabh with them? I was like an untouchable for the Bombay filmmakers. It was the South Indian filmmakers who vied with one another to boost my sagging morale.

“It was with Bidaai that I bounced back into the film scene when I was lying low after a series of flops way back in the 70’s. And recently I was without a job for nearly a year and a half after Deedar E Yaaar collapsed and virtually made me a pauper. It was the South which came to my rescue. Padmalaya signed me for a bigger sum than what I used to be paid even though the Bombay film makers thought that everyone would write me off.

Also read: Brahmastra actress Rashi Mal: ‘Music is my way of expressing things that I feel deeply about’

“If I had stuck to Bombay, you wouldn’t have been here to interview me, because hardly one or two films of mine would have been released in these years. Look at what is happening to films like, Bond 303 directed by Ravi Tandon with Parveen Babi as my leading lady, Madadgar with Sulakshana Pandit as my heroine and Dinesh Saksena as the director, Jaan Hatheli Pe with Hema and Rekha as my leading ladies, Sudesh Kumar as producer and Raghunath Jhalani as director and Locket with Rekha as the heroine and Tahir Hussain as producer. They are stuck in cans”

Jeetendra continues. “Madadgaar started with Sulaskhana Pandit , way back in 1975. Some people saw me years ago on the sets of Jaan Hatheli Pe with a beard and made Qaidi based on First Blood in which I sported a beard. Now Qaidi has come and gone and the same producer has also made Pataal Bhairavi with me. And still Jaan Hatheli Pe is incomplete. At times I am disgusted but then that is how one functions in Bombay. There is no discipline unlike in the South where one works with precision.

“My career was on an upswing when I committed one of the biggest blunders of my life. I produced Deedar-e-Yaar (’82) and it took me back by 20 years. It was made in Rs 2 crore, a huge sum at that time and I lost every rupee. The cops who had been stationed to control the crowds when the advance booking counters opened outnumbered the people queuing up. And to think that someone else was making the film initially but I took over the project. That’s destiny!

Also read: Ihana Dhillon on Je Paisa Bolda Hunda: “Handling acting and production together was challenging” – EXCLUSIVE!

Jeetendra confesses frankly that the debacle of Deedar-e-Yaar drove him towards the South. “The film units there are more organised and their way of working matched my inherent discipline. A film was wrapped up in 30-35 days. I knew when I’d get paid and could plan how to repay part of my debts. Rarely did I miss a deadline. And in seven years, I acted in about 60 films!

Jeetendra continues. “If the South Indian producers had not come to me after Deedar E Yaar, I would have been on the streets today. I was badly hit by the film which wiped out in one stroke the name that I had earned as a successful actor in the past 15 years. However, I feel in retrospect that director H S Rawail need not be blamed for the film’s dismal failure. I should curse my luck alone. Imagine that the film did not have even an initial draw even though Rekha and I were in the lead.”

Jeetendra has so far acted in 134 films and produced eight, including Aag Aur Shola which is on the sets with Sridevi as his leading lady and Mandakini and new face Ashish Chanana in support. Predictably it is also a remake of the Tamil hit Uyir Ullavarai Usha. “I have realized as a producer that it is safer to go in for a remake because you know that the masses have accepted it.”

How does he feel now that he has been placed in the no 1 slot, after the exit of Amitabh?  “There can be no replacement for Amitabh Bachchan”, he retorted without batting an eyelid. “Even today he continues to be the No 1 who counts at the box office. I do not rank anywhere near him in that respect. It will take another two or three years for the trade to forget him, if at all he decides to quit films. I do not think he will quit because once you are in and are wanted by the audience it is very difficult to throw away all that adulation. Ask me, I felt miserable when I was jobless. Money isn’t everything in life, you see.”

Also read: Mukul Chadda opens up about his film Fairy Folk co-starring wife Rasika Dugal – EXCLUSIVE!

Jeetendra does not want to take direction as some actors have. “Neither at this stage nor at later would I like to dabble in direction. Are you not happy with my success as an actor? It beats me why everyone is asking me whether I intend to take up direction. Why is nobody asking the Tatas or the Birlas or Dhirubhai Ambani why they are not venturing into film production?? One should do only what he is qualified to do. I am cut out only to be an actor though my critics may disagree with me.’ (Laughs)

A spate of Jeetendra starrers are scheduled to hit the screen in the next six months. “All of them are potential hits from the South”, he claims.” There is Sanjog directed by K Vishwanath for producer Mallikarjuna Rao, Swarg Se Sunder based on the Tamil hit Kulama Gunama with Jaya Prada in the romantic lead, Suhagan with Sridevi, Sada Suhagan with Rekha and of course my own Aag Aur Shola”.

Jeetendra should get the credit of having introduced or given a fresh lease of life to the maximum number of female faces, next only to Shammi Kapoor. Sridevi made a successful comeback with him in Himmatwala, after she flopped in Solva Sawan. Jaya Prada came on her own after Takkar and Lok Parlok opposite him. Radha came with Kaamyaab. And now plans are afoot to cast him with South’s Radhika as well as Farah. He keeps his eyes and ears open for talent.

“I have survived in the rat race by running around trees. When my innings ends as a hero, I will have no qualms in taking up character roles. Already I have prepared the grounds by doing the ropes of the father and the son in films like Farz Aur Kanoon and Pyaasa Sawan.

Also read: Flipsyde’s Dave Lopez on Allen Ling’s song Closer: ‘It’s a song you would want to get married to’

Talking about the phase in the 80’s, Jeetendra quips. “Way back in the 1980s, the Hindi remake of a Telugu hit usually was a blockbuster too, because both catered to an audience with a similar taste in cinema. That’s changed now. Today, we have different audiences for the multiplexes and single screen theatres, for the rural interiors and the urban metros, for India and the overseas. Rarely do we come across a film that cuts across the country and continents. There was a time when I was called the wizard of the box-office. I had the box office numbers at my fingertips, perhaps because those numbers were working for me. Today, honestly I am clueless about the kind of cinema people want to see. If I think a film will be a super hit, it turns into a debacle and vice versa. There are exceptions to the rule though”.

Jeetendra admits ruefully that he did miss out on his children’s growing up years. “If it hadn’t been for my wife Shobha who used to fly down every Friday with Ekta and Tusshar, to Chennai, so we could spend three days together, I might never have known my kids. In retrospect, I regret the folly. I had gone down South to make a quick buck. But I didn’t need to stay there beyond a point. I could have made the same movies in Mumbai too. It was stupid on my part, I realize now.

“Today, I’m so proud to see my children Ekta Kapoor and Tusshar Kapoor having made a success of their lives. I became an actor to make money. Coming from a poor family I had no option but to slog. Ekta didn’t need to work, yet she chose to follow the hard path and went beyond being just Jeetendra’s daughter. Same is the case with Tusshar. I loved him in Kya Kool Hain Hum and Life Partner. And Golmaal has become a brand name. My son is a better actor than me, only I was luckier,” Jeetendra signs off.