Born a Jaaferi, a natural at acting and performing, presenting Meezaan – the new star-kid, at his humble-most.
What was it like to grow up in a family filled with such eminent Bollywood personalities?
Obviously, it’s an honour and I am extremely grateful to be born in the Jaaferi household where you have veteran actors Jagdeep as your grandfather and Jaaved Jaaferi as father. The minute you are born you’re learning, you’re adapting; somewhere subconsciously, everything starts sitting in your mind that you don’t even realise how much you may have absorbed from their experiences along the journey. Whether it was accompanying my father for his shoots or rehearsals – I see all of that unfolding itself in front of me as I put it together. It is magical, especially for my father and grandfather to see their teachings come to life with me.
You have pursued Visual Arts as your academics, how did your walk on the path of stardom begin?
When I finished my academics in International Business, I went straight to Pennsylvania to pursue Business Studies on my father’s suggestion of laying a strong foundation. After almost a year, I realised my heart didn’t lie in it. I gathered the courage to share this with my father in a difficult conversation over a summer. I had to really let it all out and tell him that my passion magnetises me toward films. Listening to which, he supported my choice and advised me to pursue direction and editing as my majors from New
York. During a break when I was home, Sharmin [Segal] who was my classmate then, asked me to double for Ranveer Singh’s costume trial due to his unavailability. I met Sanjay [Leela Bhansali] sir who mentioned about giving me the absolute launch, and that was it. That is when the dream opportunity knocked at my door. My walk to stardom began with him as my mentor who convinced me of my path as an actor; what more can one ask for?
You share a royal legacy of what may be known as a family with art running through its veins. How has that shaped you as a person?
I happen to be the third in the generations of art in my family. I have grown up sharing perspectives with the best in cinema, developing a very strong attachment to films. People tend to believe that my household must be very filmy when actually it is not. It is much more than that. Discussions on sports and current affairs have surrounded us ever since our childhood. I am the one in the family whose bitten by the film-bug most deeply. I cherished performing as a child and watching films the first show every friday as an adult. Cinema has shaped the confident-introvert person in me, into an entertaining-performer who is all-willing to share his thoughts through art.
During the times when your father began, Bollywood favoured more of rustic heroes. Do you think that equation has changed?
The heroes that came during that time had more masculine aspects exhibiting through their voice and charisma. Amitabh Bachchan, Jackie Shroff or even Salman Khan are such examples. Now, the times have definitely changed. It doesn’t matter anymore if the hero is rustic or polished as audiences expect him to perform well through his character.
Golden advice from your father and grandfather when you chose to act?
My grandfather has always been someone who believes in ‘Live and let live’. So he’s never interfered in whatever we chose, rather extended his support. My mother has been the same pillar. However, my father had a different perspective with a much deeper meaning in life, pertaining to his protective-parental reflex for all he had seen in his career – ups and downs. Before my first day of the shoot he said, “Meezaan, you are going to enter a new part of your life which is going to be a long journey. You know what you have to do but do not ever forget the value-system that your family has brought you up on. Always remember your roots and be respectful to others. Treat them as your equals. Humility will take you a long way.” So today, yes, I owe everything to my loving parents.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali films are a talent bootcamp with a brilliant screenplay. How has it moulded you as an actor after having assisted him in direction?
Yes, of course Sanjay [Leela Bhansali] sir is a tough taskmaster which is why he gets excelling performance from his actors. The way he directs a film, the way he understands you, his perspectives, surprise you of your own abilities. When I assisted him on ‘Padmaavat’, for a year and a half it became my real film school. What I learnt on-the-job under him was equivalent to four years of university teaching. Coming back in between my college, to work with him, was one of the best decisions of my life. Imagine the faith he had placed in me that he made me speak in place of Ranveer Singh with an audience of six hundred people. That was an eye-opener.
Do you feel any pressure at the moment? Do you have any expectations with your debut performance?
No and yes. I know a lot of pressure exists because Bhansali Productions is my launchpad. I also have to live up to the audiences’ expectations for the family name I carry. However, I am not absolutely drawn under pressure simply because I acknowledge its existence and understand how it must inspire me. I handle it in a very contained manner because by nature I am calm. I do not overreact easily. Infact, sometimes I may not react at all (laughs). The audience has already appreciated ‘Malaal’ and me as an actor, dancer and a performer – fulfilling my mission for which I am truly grateful.
Do rumours of being linked with female friends bother you, even when you have just stepped in the industry?
These rumours began about some time ago. The fact that rumours exist in the very vicinity of the entire entertainment industry is not unknown to me. Five years ago when I had decided to step into this place I knew such stories are going to be a part and parcel of the process. And the audience is inquisitive by nature. If they want to know about me I wouldn’t go showing my hand to the clicking paparazzi. At the same, it is unfair to the person who is being linked for they may choose not to share their private space always.
How challenging was it to work in front of the camera than behind?
I have always seen my father work in front of the camera. Honestly, it came easier than expected because I was accustomed to only that. I never thought I would work behind the scenes. But both the aspects are absolutely diverse and difficult. With ‘Malaal’ I realised how important it is for an actor to have a control over his emotions at the call of a cut or action. Sometimes, stepping out of the character takes time and that is extremely challenging. Assisting on a Sanjay Leela Bhansali-set, you enter another world altogether. It is a world inside one. A thousand people working individually yet in togetherness. Either way, learning is an eternal process.
‘Malaal’ proves your mettle as a hardworking artist. What are your driving forces?
I am glad to hear that (smiles modestly). My driving forces are of course my parents. The hard work that parents do in bringing their children up – the hardships and the challenges all eventually form a spine of encouragement to deliver your best in life. Of course, my hunger to do more, to do better will also always act as a catalyst.
So what do you plan to do now that you have actually become an actor?
People keep asking me how does it feel to be an actor when actually it doesn’t feel any different (laughs). I plan to keep acting for the rest of my life – I love the sets, exploring and showcasing my abilities on the big screen, keep entertaining.
You have stayed low-key, unlike other star children. What explains Meezaan the best?
I want my work to speak for me and not my images from outside a restaurant or shirtless image posts. I am glad that people know me for my work now. What explains Meezaan literally is ‘balanced’ and that explains me well at work and personal levels.
Fave Cuisine: Thai
Fave Childhood Memory: Weekends at my masi’s house.
Fave Quote: “He who has magic doesn’t need tricks.”
Fave Film: ‘Deewar’ (old), ‘Usual Suspects’
Song On Loop: Sultans of Swings by Dire Straits and Main Yahaan Hoon from ‘Veer Zaara’.