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'Who decides what good comedy is?'

Veteran comedian Jagdeep aka Soorma Bhopali of Sholay talks to Sonam Savlani on why comedy is no laughing matter.

india Updated: Jun 13, 2007 16:35 IST

Has Ram Gopal Varma approached you for the role of Soorma Bhopali in the new Sholay?
No he hasn't. I haven't seen him, haven't met him or spoken to him.

What do you think of the Sholay remake?

I'm not upset about that. (Laughs) Lekin, Taj Mahal sirf ek baar banta hai.

Why haven't you been doing movies lately?
New directors respect the old actors.. often that becomes a barrier. They have a complex about my seniority. When I worked with Guru Dutt, everyone on the sets was treated an equal. I had to slap Guru in Aar Paar.. an assistant director came up to me and said, "Why did you slap him so hard?" Guru fired that AD. That's how sincere actors and directors were. There's immense groupism today.

<b1>Why haven't you produced or directed movies after Soorma Bhopali?
I've let my kids (Jaaved and Naaved Jaaferi) take over. We had hired a few writers but our financiers withdrew.. then Boogie Woogie came along and they got busy with television.

Surely after Bhabhi (1957), you must have wanted to do more films as a hero.
There's a joke that I often crack at myself.. that I was the hero of the black-and-white films and a comedian of the colour ones. I was offered Junglee but I couldn't do it. With colour films like Jigri Dost and Khilona, I shifted to comedy and got stuck there.

Aren't your kids planning a musical with you?
They haven't even narrated the story to me yet.. I'm always there for them.

Many actors feel the word ‘comedian' is demeaning.
I have no problem with that word. My only regret is that the government doesn't recognise the contribution of comedians. Mehmood and Johnny Walker.. and many others.. were deserving of so many awards.

Once, I wasn't given an award because that year, the organisers thought that no comedian's performance was award-worthy. Tell me who decides what good comedy is? Comedy is sometimes associated with hamming.. by that yardstick should Charlie Chaplin be considered a ham?

Whom would you consider good comedians today?
Paresh Rawal and Boman Irani.

You have two wives. Does that ever create trouble in your household?
(Laughs) It's not against the law in Islam to marry twice. My family is comfortable with that.. there's no problem at all. Salim and Javed remarried. (Ha ha) So, why take away my right to a second marriage?

Weren't your children against your remarriage?
Very much.. but that's their problem.. not mine.