Sholay’s ”Soorma Bhopali” Jagdeep dies at 81

PTI, Jul 9, 2020, 7:52 AM IST

Mumbai: Veteran actor Jagdeep, whose paan-stained grin and mischievous eyes as Soorma Bhopali in “Sholay” made him popular across generations, died on Wednesday at his residence. He was 81. The actor had not been keeping well, producer Mehmood Ali, a family friend, told PTI.

“He passed away at 8.30 pm at his residence in Bandra. He was not keeping well because of age-related issues,” Ali said.

Jagdeep will be laid to rest at a cemetery in south Mumbai around 11.30 am on Thursday, he added.

The last of the comic icons in the tradition of seniors Johnny Walker and Mehmood, the actor had a prolific career that lasted beyond 400 films and many memorable roles.

Jagdeep, whose real name was Syed Ishtiaq Ahmed Jafri, started his journey in cinema with the 1951 film “Afsana”, which marked filmmaker BR Chopra”s directorial debut.

It was a riches-to-rags story for child Jagdeep, whose family’s fortunes declined after his father’s death and the Partition.

In interviews, he recalled how his mother, once used to servants and other luxuries, raised him while working as a cook in an orphanage.

Young Jagdeep was eager to help her and at the age of six or seven, he landed on the sets of “Afsana” after being spotted on the streets of Mumbai.

The role promised him three rupees as a fee, which was doubled when the young actor got to mouth a dialogue.

Recalling his father’s journey in cinema, his actor son Jaaved Jaaferi once said Jagdeep was destined to be a part of show business.

“My father was a child when he was looking for a job after Partition. When someone asked him if he wanted to work in films, he said all he needed was a job. He was chosen from the streets to star in a film as a child actor. He was destined to be in the industry, it was fate,” Jaaferi had told PTI in a recent interview.

After “Afsana”, Jagdeep kept picking up big and small roles with directing greats like KA Abbas in “Munna”, Guru Dutt in “Aar Paar” and Bimal Roy in “Do Bigha Zamin”.

He graduated to a lead star over the years with “Bhabhi” and “Barkha” but it was Shammi Kapoor-starrer “Brahmachari” in 1968 that started him on his journey as a comedian, whose comic timing, big smile, unique voice, and facial expressions made his presence mandatory in films thereafter.

Jagdeep had a prolific career, but it is his role as Soorma Bhopali in the 1975 blockbuster “Sholay” that became truly iconic thanks to the Bhopali lilt in the Salim-Javed dialogue, “Hamara naam Soorma Bhopali aisei nahi hai”. The role became so popular that ”Soorma Bhopali” became a second screen moniker for the actor.

Though pigeonholed in comedic roles, Jagdeep knew how to make people smile through his performances be it the mainstream Bollywood movies, Ramsay Brothers” horror film “Purana Mandir” or in cult comedy “Andaz Apna Apna” where he played Salman Khan”s father, Bankelal Bhopali, perhaps a hat-tip to his “Sholay” role.

Actors Ajay Devgn, Manoj Bajpayee, Ayushmaan Khurrana, Sanjay Mishra, Johnny Lever and director Hansal Mehta took to social media to pay tributes to the great artiste who made everyone laugh with his roles.

Devgn, who worked with Jagdeep in his 1991 Bollywood debut “Phool Aur Kaante”, said he “always enjoyed watching” the senior actor on screen.

“He brought so much joy to the audience. My deepest condolences to Jaaved and all members of the family. Prayers for Jagdeep Saab”s soul,” he added.

“Thank you for all the memories that I have watching your films and performances in my childhood!! You will be missed by us all!! Condolences to the family!” said Bajpayee.

Lever, a famous comedian himself, remembered his first film “Ye Rishta Na Toote” in which he faced the camera with Jagdeep.

“We will miss you… May his soul rest in peace. Our prayers & deepest condolences to the family,” he tweeted.

Mehta said the veteran actor will always be “cherished and remembered with a broad smile”.

“I hope people get to see a film called ”Muskurahat” by Priyadarshan sir to witness his brilliance. It is one of my favourite Jagdeep saahab performances,” the director said.

Khurrana said Jagdeep”s contribution to the industry will always be remembered.

“Thank you for the laughs. Thank you for the memories,” he added.

“I love lots of movies because of you Jagdeep sir but I don”t like how you left us today #SoormaBhopali, you devoted (your) whole life to Hindi cinema. You are #Kaamyaab,” said Mishra.

Jagdeep also directed the movie “Soorma Bhopali” with his character as the protagonist.

He is survived by sons – actor Jaaved and producer Naved.

His grandson Meezaan made his debut as an actor with Sanjay Leela Bhansali”s production “Malaal” last year.

In an interview with PTI recently, Meezaan had called his grandfather a “Diwali firework”.

“He is so much like how you see him on screen: fun, energetic and positive. I had a lot of conversations about the film industry with my grandfather, who would tell me stories, his experiences of film shoots more than my father did,” the actor had said.

Jagdeep is gone but for countless fans he will forever be Soorma Bhopali, the raconteur of amusing stories.

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