My first introduction to Saeed bhai was in 1982, when both of us were shooting in a village near Lucknow for a film called Aagaman (1982).
It was directed by Muzzafar Ali. I was a struggling actor back then, and I wanted to spend time with them. So, I pestered a production person to allow me to sit in Saeed bhai’s car. He was a senior actor, and ideally he should have gone alone in the car, but I made sure that I got to sit with him.
I was nobody back then, and he was someone who had done so many films in India and in British cinema. In fact, at that time, his TV show, Tandoori Nights, was very popular. So, for me, sharing a car with him was a big deal.
I still remember that he was wearing brown corduroy pants, and all through the journey, I pestered him with a million questions on various topics. He had worked with actors like Sean Connery and Michael Caine in the film The Man Who Would Be King (1975). The film had quite a few Hindi expletives. When I asked Saeed bhai if he explained their meanings to the other actors, he said yes with a big laugh.
That journey was a treat for me, because he didn’t treat me like a struggling actor, he treated me like a trained actor, and getting that kind of respect from your senior was really a morale booster.
His body of work is phenomenal, and he was very well-read. He also had an impressive grasp over Urdu. I met him last around six-seven years ago at a party in Mumbai.
But, whenever I met him, he was always the same to me. He used to tell me, “Miyan, journey ke maze lo (have fun on the journey),” while giving me tips to survive in this industry. I love his performances in Shatranj Ke Khiladi (1972) and Chashme Buddoor (1981).
(As told to Ruchika Kher)
(Anupam Kher has worked with Saeed Jaffrey in several films)