Eager, vivacious, passionate, 86-years-young, Farrukh Jaffar
Running 86, ‘Peepli Live’ actor Farrukh Jaffar is in the best phase of her acting career. She made her debut with ‘Umrao Jaan’ (1981) and became a household name with ‘Swades’, ‘Peepli Live’, ‘Barefoot to Goa’ and ‘Sultan’.Updated: Jan 24, 2019, 16:05 IST
Running 86, ‘Peepli Live’ actor Farrukh Jaffar is in the best phase of her acting career. She made her debut with ‘Umrao Jaan’ (1981) and became a household name with ‘Swades’, ‘Peepli Live’, ‘Barefoot to Goa’ and ‘Sultan’.
Fondly known as Ammaji, her last release was Aamir Khan’s ‘Secret Superstar’. She recently shot her first film as protagonist, ‘Mehrunissa’, where she plays the title role. Her next film, ‘Lunchbox’ director Ritesh Batra’s ‘Photograph’, is being premiered in international film festivals and she is set to shoot for two films — Baba Azmi’s ‘Mee Raksam’ and another film that stars Pankaj Kapoor.
HT City traces her journey from the “first female Vividh Bharti announcer on radio” to becoming a lead actor at 86.
The octogenarian walked slowly from her room with her stick and settled on her cozy sofa. Next moment, she flashed a beaming smile. She fired the first question, “Kahan se hain aap?”
Answering the same query she said, “I have lived in ‘Naya’ Lucknow all my life, away from the Old City — Hazratganj, 40-odd years in Lawrence Terrace and now Gomti Nagar…tab to yahan kuch bhi nahi tha!”
She joined radio in 1963. “Don’t know why people address me as the first female radio announcer. I was the first when Vividh Bharti station began in Lucknow. Along with Parveen Talha and one Sinhaji, we were selected in the first lot. I worked till 1966 and then in AIR Urdu in Delhi till 1970. I was the senior-most announcer there but Delhi ‘humko raas nahi aai’.” Jaffar was an A1 category announcer even though she had no formal training.
Due to personal reasons, she left it all. “Kuch gharelu masle the…So, I had to go my mother in Chakesar (Jaunpur) to sort out things in my nanihal (maternal grandmother’s house).” She left radio and got busy with family and life.
Her husband was a freedom fighter and journalist. He switched to politics and was MLC for two terms. They have two daughters Mehru Jaffer (an author) and Shahein.
PLAYING UMRAO JAAN’S MOTHER
The role landed in her lap from nowhere. “We had a help Purdil Kaka who used to talk in a ‘dehati’ (rustic) dialect. He called family members with names like ‘karia’, ‘bachwa’, ‘banmanus’ and so on. At a private gathering, someone asked ‘Farrukh bi, woh aapka mulazim kaise bolta hai?’ and I started extempore in his typical style (mix of Bhojpuri and Jaunpuri dialect). Muzaffar (Ali), who was also there, was listening to it from the balcony, and he came and offered me the role.”
“It was like someone has thrown a bomb on me! In my family, even the men did not watch films and he was asking me to work in one. Thankfully, my family is very progressive and has always supported me in whatever I have done. I liked the role and agreed to work.”
The actor wrote her own dialogues which were inspired by life. “Bas, jumlon ka her-pher kar ke bolna hota hai. Woh ek samay tha, ek junoon tha…ab bhi yehi kafiyat rehti hai ki script ho, dialogues hon, aur hum boltey rahen (It is just a play of words. That was a different time and passion…but even today, the hunger is for scripts, for dialogues, and that I continue to mouth them)!”
She also acted in TV shows ‘Husn-e-Jana’, ‘Adha Gaon’, ‘The Shawl’ and ‘Neem Ka Ped’.
Some 23 years after her debut, she made a comeback with ‘Swades’ (2003), ‘Peepli (Live)’, ‘Amma Ki Boli’, ‘Barefoot to Goa’, ‘Parched’, ‘What Will People Say’, ‘Sultan’ and ‘Secret Superstar’.
“I have always tried to improvise with dialogues on the spot. I infuse a slice of my own life experiences in them and my directors have been kind enough to accept the additions,” she says.
Having worked with the three big Khans she says all of them (Shahrukh, Aamir and Salman) have been very sweet to her. “During ‘Sultan’, during the marriage scene of Salman and Anushka, I blessed him saying may he get married soon, to which he said with a laugh, “Aisi bad-dua mat dijiye…kabhi-kabhi bola hua sach ho jata hai (Don’t curse me like this…sometimes, words spoken do come true).”