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Jagdeep – Profile (1956)


Some years ago the burly Sheikh Mukhtar made a film titled “Annadata.” He needed to shoot a scene in it in which striking workers return to duty.

For the scene, a table was placed in the foreground, with the artisans’ tools on it. Long lines of workers came up to it, picked up their tools and turned to go into the factory.

Mukhtar was watching the scene. One by one the men moved in, faced the camera which took close-ups of them, lifted tools from the table and went off. But most of them did so in a wooden fashion.

“Then,” said the Sheikh, “I saw a tousled lad in the ranks come up. He joyfully picked up his tools, kissed them and ran out of the camera’s field of view.

“That single, unrehearsed action lifted the whole scene and made something out of it. It came out of the boy’s own mind, and I knew he had the makings of a fine actor.”

That boy was Jagdeep.

“Annadata” was not Jagdeep’s first picture, but this bit of acting made the incident significant and the attention it drew remained long after the moment, and the film, had passed.

Young Jagdeep is no pretty boy, nor will he grow up to be a matinee idol—which, perhaps, is all to the good. In a slowly but steadily coming era of thespians who are interpreters of drama rather than handsome- looking figures and little else, there is a high place for artists who live the parts they act.

Now an adolescent, Jagdeep has shed his boyhood and, with it, the rough edges to his earlier acting.

Born in Datia state, near Jhansi, he comes from a typical middle-class family with its large number of children. He has many brothers and sisters. His father died when he was only seven years old.

His five brothers found jobs and went to different places. Jagdeep, along with his widowed mother, sought his fortune in a big city and came to Bombay.

Their financial condition was precarious and so Jagdeep worked by day and went to night-school after his working hours. He became a Jack of all trades, taking any kind of task that came his way. He sold fruit, cutlery and other things in the street and was, in turn, waiter in a restaurant, errand-boy and handcart-pusher. Ambitious, he wangled his way from one profession to another.

But all the time he dreamed of only one thing—to become a screen actor and, sitting in a darkened auditorium, to see himself on celluloid.

In due course Jagdeep struck up an acquaintance with an assistant-director, which got him “in” with the “Afsana” unit. That was the film in which he first appeared and spoke a few lines as a school darwan in a scene showing schoolboys.

The appearance got him a role in “Aasmaan” as the villain in his youth, the adult character being played in the picture by Anwar Hussain.

After that, Jagdeep was a regular frequenter of the studios, meeting producers, directors, anybody who could help him on in the profession he had chosen. Thus “Annadata,” in which he played the shoeshine boy, came his way, and also “Do Bigha Zamin” with a similar role.

The Bimal Roy film was a sensation and young Jagdeep’s characterization made headline news. Everyone recognized that a master had arrived among juvenile artists.

Since that day, he has played roles in many films, among them “Footpath,” “Dhobi Doctor,” “Bhai Saheb,” “Danka,” “Laila Majnu,” “Munna,” “Chalis Baba Ek Chor,” “Aar Paar” and “Railway Platform.” And confesses Jagdeep, “Among those who have helped me, Dilip Kumar stands first.”

A versatile artist, Jagdeep asserts that he loves to play varied roles—as many of them as possible. He has even played the role of an old man in one of his films. Now mature, he promises to develop into an actor of immense capabilities (This profile was written in 1956).

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