Ask a 1990s kid about Jaaved Jaaferi and such is his impact on the now grown-up generation that not one person will come up with the same answer about the multi-hyphenate personality.
More than a household name, Jaaferi, is a part of childhood nostalgia of many.
"I was really lucky and blessed to be in projects which actually worked across time," he told PTI in an interview.
As an actor, Jaaferi made his feature film debut in 1985's Meri Jung, starring Anil Kapoor and Meenakshi Sheshadri.
It was probably the first time Bollywood saw a dancing villain, he said about his character Vikram Thakral who memorably grooved to Bol Baby Bol Rock n' Roll.
"In a way, I contributed to the shifting paradigm of the Bollywood dancing. Before me, there was Mithun dada, but when I came in 1985, it was was very different. Govinda came later and he was about the easiness, expression. Mine was more technical, which was what later Prabhudheva did," Jaaferi said.
As the small screen grew bigger in its reach and innovation, the actor, though he continued acting in films, also spearheaded the shift that came with cable television through Timex Timepass and Videocon Flashback on Channel V.
On one show, he would slip in and out of character of say, veteran actor Sohrab Modi, and to a random Maharashtrian man on the other.
"I used a lot of 'India' in these shows. In one show, I went from actors Sohrab Modi to Ashok Kumar ji, Shah Rukh Khan to anybody. Then I used the Sindhi, Maharashtrian, Bengali, so that hadn't happened then. Video jockeying was very western initially - 'Yo!' and all. So I said, let's do the opposite, make it 'oye', it's Indian. This is what I used in 'Flashback'. I also used Hinglish (blend of Hindi and English) which was groundbreaking."
Boogie Woogie, which came in 1996 with Jaaferi judging and hosting, broke new ground.
His brother Naved directed the show, which the latter created with actor Ravi Behl.
The Sony TV show, which ran for seven seasons, was a cult phenomenon and one of the first dance reality shows in the world.
"Nobody had thought that dance would reach such heights, that people from remote areas and villages would come to participate. Boogie Woogie was very different. There was no platform like this anywhere else. American show 'So You Think You Can Dance?' came in 2004, this came in 1996," he added.
In the meanwhile, his cameo in the 1998 film Bombay Boys happened, wherein he sang the self-composed song Mumbhai.
The track captured the irreverence and spirit of being a Mumbaikar, something he is synonymous with even today.
In 2003's Jajantaram Mamantaram, Jaaferi, 56, played an Indian Gulliver-esque character in the fantasy action comedy. The film was no box office wonder but is perhaps remembered for being the modern Indian retelling of Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels.
The actor again used his voice talent to connect the audience with Takeshi's Castle, a Japanese game show, which aired on Pogo TV in 2005.
His deadpan comic commentary, dubbed in Hindi, won him more fans across all age groups.
"The best compliment I got was from Javed Akhtar sahab, who wrote 'Meri Jung'. He said, 'Jaaved you have done to television what Ameen Sayani sahab did to radio'," Jaaferi said.
"Especially, 'Boogie Woogie' and 'Takeshi's Castle' lasted over so many years that a generation grew up watching them. When people say 'you have been a part of our childhood', I feel so blessed. One movie is something else, but to be there every week continuously for 10-14 years is... you get connected," he added.
The Maska actor said as an artiste one has to keep moving.
"You have to keep oiling the joints, otherwise, as they say, if you rest, you rust."
He said he still believes a lot of his potential is to be tapped but he is enjoying doing the roles he is getting to play.
"I can do so much more. I try to give something new to the characters. I try to become them rather than you see me in a different way. Whether serious or comic, I try to expand my territory," said Jaaferi, whose last cinematic outings include Bala and Jabariya Jodi.
An aware citizen, Jaaferi also contested the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from Lucknow as a candidate from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
"I stood up (for elections) because it was becoming about choosing between two options. Then I realised I'm not cut out for this (politics). You have to be thick-skinned. I'm an emotional person, creative. I say things which may not work. Sometimes I can't keep it inside. I am opinionated."
The actor said there has been a "certain polarisation within the industry" in the last four-six years.
"It can affect your work. So a lot of people don't talk about it as they believe it can affect their work. A lot of people on social media tell me 'you are an actor, you act, why talk politics?' But I feel as a citizen of this country -- actor, doctor or engineer, you have a voice."
"As long as you can vote, you can have an opinion - whatever it may be. I'm against the term 'ruling party'. You are a serving party, you serve people. Don't use words that tell people subconsciously that they are our rulers. They are answerable to questions, That's where I come from."
Jaaferi's upcoming projects include Sooryavanshi, Coolie No 1, Takht, among others.
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