August 16, 2001, Chandigarh, India
The cop and the superstar
Brijesh Hirjee: A friend indeed!
The cop and the superstar
AMITABH BACHCHAN has done it again. For the 15th time in a career spanning three decades and 100-odd films, he has played a cop and come up trumps! ‘Aks’ is an unusual psycho-thriller in which the Big B plays a senior police officer out to nab a heinous killer.
‘Aks’ is also in line with the season’s series of hits that began with the super-success of ‘Lagaan’, ‘Gadar’ and ‘Mujhe Kuch Kehna Hai.’ It not only showcases Bachchan’s talent as an extraordinary actor but also re-establishes him as the star who has not lost his grip on the box-office.
"I play my age in ‘Aks’ ", says the 59-year-old matinee icon. "The character has his idiosyncrasies and ideologies that he is sworn to, until an untoward incident changes the courses of his life. In terms of content and my appearance, the role stands apart from those of the cops I’ve played in my previous films."
The last time Bachchan played a cop was three years ago, in ‘Bade Miyan Chhote Miyan’ — a laugh riot involving a pair of bumbling buffoons (Govinda being the other one) in double roles. Despite its highly exaggerated situations, the film brought Bachchan a reprieve from a series of box-office disasters.
Even otherwise, right from ‘Zanjeer’ in 1973, cop films have never let Bachchan down. Whether it is ‘Parvarish’ or ‘Ram Balram’, ‘Dostana’, ‘Mahaan’, ‘Inquilaab’ or ‘Akhri Raasta’, ‘Shahenshah’ or ‘Akayla’, the police inspector role has given him a boost every time his career has taken a downturn.
This is, however, not to dismiss such all-time hits as ‘Deewar’ ‘Amar Akbar Anthony’, ‘Sholay’, ‘Namak Halal’, ‘Sharabi’ and ‘Muqaddar Ka Sikandar’ which did not have him as the cop. The few flops he had in between could well have bogged him down, if it were not for those cop films.
"It is strange how such things happen," Bachchan acknowledges. "But that’s not how one views the context. One was relating to characters in a larger perspective, rather than narrowing a role to a situation or profession. The message of all my cop films was always bigger than the protagonist." Has that been a deciding factor for him while signing films?
"For any performer, it is important to define his creative ground rules," he replies. "There are many actors who find it difficult to go against their ideological, social or moral stand in their portrayals. In such cases, it is important they chalk out their boundary line."
Bachchan’s ‘boundary line’, for one, is nudity. For another, there can be no kissing scenes. "It’s not that I am moralistic or consider those who do such scenes to be less virtuous," he clarifies. "It is simply because I am very uncomfortable doing such scenes."
He mentions that there are several other "unspoken areas" he would refuse to tread when he feels his sensibilities as a human being are being offended. These, he says, are known to his directors and otherwise, he ensures are eliminated in the script and are taken care of in his contract.
Bachchan concedes that he is in a privileged position to make these demands and have his ways — but never at the cost of altering the screenplay or script. After all, he has been longer than most in films and it was not for nothing that he used to be called Bollywood’s ‘one man industry’.
Today, having won every conceivable award and honour, Bachchan can well call it a day. He is the only Hindi film personality featured at Madam Tussaud’s in London and even has a temple to his name in Kolkata.
But then, here’s man who still has miles to go. Apart from hosting the ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’, he is busy reviving A.B. Corp, his movie production company. He is also acting in films like Vipul Shah’s ‘All the Best’, Bharat Bala’s ‘Taj Mahal’ and Sanjay Khan’s ‘Maryada Purushottam.’
Brijesh Hirjee: A friend indeed!
After ‘Kaho Na Pyar Hai’ and ‘Mujhe Kuch Kehna Hai’, Brijesh Hirjee is on every producer’s wish list as the hero’s best friend, says Surabhi Khosla.
FROM Sprite commercials to a cameo in the decade’s biggest blockbuster ‘Kaho Na Pyar Hai’, from condom ads to bagging a meaty role in the superhit, ‘Mujhe Kuch Kehna Hai’, life has been a roller-coaster ride for Brijesh Hirjee.
One of television’s most-sought-after comedians now, Hirjee’s growth as an artiste has been remarkable. Acting with established stars, on the small screen, his big break came with the launch of Rakesh Roshan’s ‘Kaho Na Pyar Hai’ where he played Tony, the hero’s best friend.
The movie didn’t just catapult Hrithik Roshan and Amisha Patel into the glitzy world of super stardom but also brought Hirjee directly under the discerning gaze of established directors. From then on there was no looking back for this extremely talented young man. Offers started pouring in and soon Hirjee found himself playing the best friend in the Tusshar Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor starrer, ‘Mujhe Kuch Kehna Hai’.
Hirjee takes no credit for this sudden turn of fortune. He attributes it to God. "It was by God’s grace that Vashu Bhagnani saw ‘Kaho Na Pyar hai’ and liked my performance in the movie. At that time, he was about to start shooting for ‘Mujhe Kuch Kehna Hai’ and was looking for somebody to play the hero’s best friend."
The role seemed tailor made for Hirjee and for the second time in as many years, he became the devoted sidekick. Today, it would seem that he is the most ‘in-demand’ hero’s companion as he has been offered similar roles in ‘Kya Yehi Pyar Hai’, ‘Ashiquee’ and ‘Aap Mujhe Achhae Lagne Lage.’
However, he hastens to clarify that though his short stint in Bollywood has proved to be extremely repetitive, each character he’s played had a different shade and all the roles have been written keeping him in mind.
But, he says, "I am making a very conscious effort not to take on every role of a hero’s friend. I now want to become a bit ‘unfriendly’. If you notice, my roles in ‘Rahul’, ‘Tum Bin’ and ‘Aks’ are very different," says the star.
Is he happy playing the clown in all movies? Says Hirjee, "Though it comes naturally to me. I feel comedy requires far greater acting skills than any other genre. For me, a comical character seems to pose a bigger challenge and appears to have much more scope and depth than any other role."
He hastens to emphasise, however, that playing comical characters does not mean that he has shut his mind to other roles. "I take each role as it comes and put as much in it as I do in comedy. I am planning a long innings in films."
Does his entry into Bollywood signal an end to his career on TV? No, says Hirjee emphatically. According to him, he started his career with TV and has a natural bonding with the medium. Moreover, the small screen, he claims, gives him a wide range to portray an assortment of characters, which for the time being is not the case with movies.
His latest role on TV is that of a small time photographer in Manjul Sinha’s ‘Yeh Hai Mumbai Meri Jaan’. Hariprasad [Hirjee] arrived from Jaunpur to Mumbai to become a glamour photographer. He has worked very hard to shed his small town image, anglicised his name from Hariprasad to Harry and hates talking about his past and would rather make people believe that he is from the US and not from UP.
He is also playing Dracula in ‘X-Zone’, an egocentric accountant in ‘Janeman-Janeman’ and a brilliant entrepreneur in ‘Love Mein Kabhi Kabhi’.
The vastness of the canvas and range of possibilities that these roles offer prompt him to explore his acting capabilities further. Says Hirjee, "I love the challenge of getting into the mould of a complex role and experimenting with different characterisations."
Recently Hirjee was nominated for the best actor award on TV for the role of a murderer in the serial ‘Govind Aur Ganesh’. According to him, the nomination was a relief as it freed him from the shackles of being classified as a comedian. He is even doing an out and out serious role in ‘Bazaar’.
When asked about the role, however, he smiles a smug smile and says everyone was a little surprised. He admits, "It was a bit of a risk portraying such a complicated and intricate character but the challenged spurred me on. Honestly speaking, at first I was not very confident, since I had never played such a serious role, but my directors Rasika and Vandana motivated me a great deal and I have tried to live up to their expectations."
Hirjee says that it is life-like characters that excite him. And he adds, "I want to play roles that people can identify with. My characters should be in sync with the common man, someone everybody, including me, can relate to because if I don’t believe in myself then how can I convince the spectators."
And convincing viewers comes naturally to Hirjee. His earlier apprehensions about joining the film industry have vanished with an alacrity that amazes most people. "I always felt my ordinary looks and frail built would impede my career in films and TV. But after ‘Kaho Na Pyar Hai’, Ithink they have become my assets. Today the industry is looking for talent no matter what size it comes in!"
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