There are only a few fortunate people in the world who get to do what they really wish to do in their life. Veteran actor, Jawed Sheikh, for whom acting is his life, is one such man. With an imperishable desire to become an actor, the then teenager stole money from home to get on a train to Lahore to make it big in Lollywood.
“I stole Rs. 100 from my father’s pocket and got a train ticket to Lahore. When my father got to know I had stolen money, he knew I was running away from home. He sent his friends to the bus and tanga station, while he came to the railway station to find me,” he recalls. “I was sitting in the train, enjoying the ladoo I had bought for Rs. 2 and was happy that I was going to become an actor. The next thing I know was my father’s hand on my shoulder, he grabbed me and took me back home.”
Sounds like a Bollywood flick, doesn’t it?
“If that train had left, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” he quips.
The star, who used to skip school to watch movies and shootings, started his career as an extra in both TV and films. “I was watching the shooting of a film when someone from the crew took me to Sheikh Hassan, the director, for a part in the film. They took me along with some other boys to Manghopir for shooting and we were made to sit on camels along with some girls. Before the camera started rolling, we were forced to cover our faces with a dupatta. It was only later that I realised that we were playing girls,” he chuckles. “It was in the same studio that I auditioned for Dhamaka and became a hero,” he says with a sense of fulfilment.
Like any father, his father was against his desire to pursue a career in acting. “When my first film flopped, he told me I didn’t have a chance but when I proved myself, he was very proud of me. He would proudly tell his friends that I was his son,” he says with contentment.
Talking about his favourite co-star and inspiration, he tells us, “Nadeem Baig is my favourite co-star. I used to be his fan when I was young and he was the reason I came into the industry. When he used to stay in a hotel in Karachi, I used to go see him and take pictures with him.” Fast forward 10 years and the fan was working with the man who incited the desire of becoming an actor in him. “It was an honour for me to work with him and he used to be very happy that I made it to the industry,” he remarks.
From playing the hero in his heydays to impersonating fatherly characters in his senior years, he has never been away from the limelight. “I am still the centre of attention, even more now. I have worked as a hero for 25 years. There are a lot of actors who have worked for that long in the industry, but they are not working anymore.” Jawed Sheikh believes his versatility has allowed him to maintain his position in the industry. The actor who has played the father to actors like Shah Rukh Khan (in Om Shaanti Om) and Ranbir Kapoor (in Tamasha), always has something different to his characters. “I was offered different roles and I moulded myself with time. I have played the hero, father, villain, old man, rangeen characters – I have done almost all the characters a male actor can think of.” Sheikh Sahab is still one of the most sought-after and versatile actors. Talking about his seamless transition into roles, he mentions, “When I am offered a role, I conceive it and work on it to bring out the best on screen.”
With 200+ movies as an actor and seven movies as a director to his credit, the maestro believes a good film is a collection of a strong plot, enchanting music, and talented actors.
“Our industry has started flourishing and we are slowly getting on the track. Young film-makers are highly professional and organised,” he lauds the new talent.
“More people are going to cinemas to watch movies now. There was a time when film-makers were concerned that no one’s going to watch their movies because big-budget Indian movies were running in our cinemas but now they know that if a movie is good, people are going to watch it,” he comments on the booming film business.
The maven, who has spent 40 years in the industry, has seen the highs and lows of Pakistani cinema and believes a lot has changed over the years. “The change comes with new people. I personally think a lot of change has come because more girls are entering different departments of the field now. When I was working in Lahore, there were no women on the set, except, of course, cast members. That has changed now – there are women who work behind the camera and that has changed our industry in a good way,” he establishes.
Jawed Sheikh, one of the most prominent Pakistani actors, has worked in India alongside stars like Shah Rukh Khan, Akshay Kumar, Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif and Shilpa Shetty. Bollywood, he thinks is “big and well-organised but our movies are slowly catching up and we are now working on a similar level as them. When our drama is better than India, our films can be better too,” says the optimist.
Commenting on the recent ban that halted the exchange of artistes across the border, he says, “Bollywood wants to work with Pakistani actors. We go there because they invite us and this happens all over the world because art has no boundaries. Exchange of art and artistes promotes love and friendship between two nations.”
His upcoming movie Wujood, ‘a violent love story’ has an Indian female actor in the cast and the director-producer says, “It is a gesture of goodwill. We wanted a foreign female actor for our film, so we decided to cast someone from India. It’s a message to India that our doors are open for them. Why close doors for Pakistani actors in India, they have nothing to do with politics.”
While his work occupies most of his time, he makes sure he strikes a balance that is required for a fulfilling life. “I have different spheres in my life and I make sure I balance all of them. I have work, family, friends and my responsibility towards Allah and mankind and I don’t miss out on anything,” says the man who is all set to go on multiple tours across the world for his upcoming projects.
The father of two talented actors is happy and proud of his children’s success. “I have a friendly relationship with both my children. I have always told them that I will never request anyone to give them work. Whatever they are, they have achieved it on their own,” he said with a warm heart.
He signs off with life’s lessons that his father taught him: “Don’t lie and don’t fear anyone but Allah. If you don’t lie, you haven’t done anything wrong, and when you haven’t done anything wrong, there’s nothing to fear about.” •