When Cyrus Broacha tried to drown Naseeruddin Shah & Pankaj Parashar in a pool on Jalwa shoot

Director Pankaj Parashar speaks exclusively to on the 30th anniversary of his light-hearted crime thriller, Jalwa.

Mayur Lookhar

Dreams turn into reality, but not always do they pan out the way we envisaged them. Seasoned filmmaker Pankaj Parashar, who shot to fame with the detective TV drama Karamchand (1985), experienced that in the 80s when he made Jalwa — a crime thriller set in Goa. 

The film saw Naseeruddin Shah in his first out and out action role. Jalwa introduced us to new talents with Archana Puran Singh, Johnny Lever, news anchor Tejeshwar Singh and even funnyman Cyrus Broacha making his debut at age 12. 

The film celebrates its 30th anniversary on 23 January and on the occasion Parashar shared with us some great stories about the film.

Excerpts from the exclusive conversation.

We live in times where filmmakers even celebrate the first anniversary with a hashtag. As Jalwa completes three decades do you feel compelled to do the same or that won’t be needed? 
I don’t see any reason to remind people about Jalwa. Jisko yaad hai, toh yaad hai (those who’ve seen it, remember it). A Woody Allen film had this dialogue where one guy says that I’ve got a nice front view with the lawn of the pyramids. How does it matter 4,000-5,000 year later whether he has a view or not? We are here (earth) on a finite journey, so what will I get by reminiscing Jalwa?

While Hindi cinema had seen films on drug abuse before, never before had we seen a more purposeful, realistic and if I may say, a cool take on the subject. Your thoughts.
I had a friend from FTII (Film and Television Institute of India), who succumbed to drugs. I was very angry about it. I’d dedicated Karamchand to that cause too. More than a social message, it was personal anger.

After Karma, this was perhaps Naseeruddin Shah’s first commercial film. Was it easy to convince him?
(Laughs). It was he who convinced me. The story is very funny. While making Karamchand, I got a lot of calls from producers who wanted to sign me. We were supposed to do Tarzan 2 with Hemant Birje and Kimi Katkar. I didn’t like the concept of Tarzan. So we were developing a story as to how a plane, carrying smugglers crashes in the jungle and they meet this guy who’s born and brought up in the jungle. Anyways, I went to Krutika Desai’s house for a party to return a book. I was not even invited. Naseeruddin was sitting on the floor. He had no work then. He’d lost weight and was around 67 kilos. He asked me what I was doing. I told him I was doing Tarzan 2 and he said ‘Are you nuts?' I told him that I will do it my way. It won’t have Tarzan, but it will have thrill in the jungle. Naseeruddin left me stunned when he said he would love to play Tarzan.

Did he say that as a joke?
No, he was very serious. He was having rum in a steel glass. So, that explains it. I told Gul Anand (producer) that Naseeruddin has gone nuts. However, Gul found the idea very exciting. He said that’s news and Naseeruddin can play Mickey Mouse if he wants to. Gul then wanted Naseeruddin to beef up. Naseeruddin called to say that he’s joined a club, and even paid for my membership as he wanted both of us to build our bodies. I went just for one day and then I told Gul that let’s change the concept. Out went Tarzan, but we then thought on the lines of mixing Beverly Hills Cop and Commando. All these ideas wouldn't have been possible had Krutika Desai not shouted at me to return her book.

From a jungle to Goa. How did this transition happen?
I’d finished shooting 26 episodes of Karamchand. I needed a break and told Gul that I will do the film (Jalwa) only if it is based in Goa. He was fine even if I wanted to do it in Timbuktoo. Four of us — Kamlesh Pandey, Rajesh Majumdar, Gul and I went to Goa. We went up and down writing the story in the Jeep. 

How did you discover Archana Puran Singh?
It was no discovery. Archana was my friend. We’d actually signed Dimple Kapadia. However, she backed out at the last moment. She fought with Gul Anand over dues. Years later, when she did Banaras (2006) with me she admitted to having regrets over snubbing Jalwa. After Dimple rejected it,  Archana went to the producer saying that she’s ready to do the film even for Rs11. Singh told Gul how she’d worked with me in Karamchand. Gul then told me that we needn’t hunt around anymore. 

Then you had Doordarshan anchor Tejeshwar Singh…
(Interrupting) There were two more — one a 12-year-old Cyrus Broacha and then we had Farah Khan, who was one of the dancers. She got paid Rs1,500 and a bottle of wine, which she drank on the second day  She then went with a sound recordist riding a scooter, returned at four in the morning unable to find her room. So she slept in the corridor. Next day, she was hungover.

Coming back to Tejeshwar Singh. Was it just a mere coincident that a former Doordarshan anchor was given the character of DD?
It was Gul’s idea to cast him as he had a deep voice and because he was the one who announced the Emergency (1975-1977). So, I decided to call him DD the villain. Singh had quit news anchoring after the Emergency. He was very happy when he got the film. He used to play tennis while filming. As a newscaster, Singh had the experience of facing the camera and I wanted him to have this deadpan expression for his character. We didn’t want him to overact.

When we read about the film online today, Jalwa is described as a film that is a remake of Eddie Murphy’s Beverly Hills Cop. Is that how it was? 
Yes, the basic line was Beverly Hills Cop, but I’d met the original Hollywood director Martin Brest at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Gul Anand and I had gone to the American film festival. I told Brest that I had made a similar, but a better movie than him. He asked me what I did, and we told him that we made an anti-drugs film, put in some songs, and dancing on a cliff. Brest laughed about it.

But did he ever see the film?
I don’t know.  We never met after that.

In the age of social media, do you think today a filmmaker can take such liberty and inspiration from the West now?
No. Today you can’t use an original to a greater extent because the world is small.  All of us are influenced by something or the other. Like Javed Akhtar says, originality is hiding the source. Shakespeare too has done it. When a journalist told me that you have copied Beverly Hills Cop, I told her that look if I’m playing a Raag Yaman (I used to play sitar). I’m not copying it but I’m playing my Raag Yaman. So, whether you like the logic or not, the thing is how you interpret it. Chaalbaaz (1989) is a great of example of it. It was inspired by Seeta Aur Geeta (1972). 

Ramesh Sippy (director of Seeta Aur Geeta) was my neighbour. When I went to him to inform him that I’m remaking Seeta Aur Geeta, he said that I did not need to change or meddle with the original. Invariably, Sridevi will bring her own skills, while I will put my own music, etc. I call this a variation of a theme.  

Another thing which struck about Jalwa was how perhaps for the only time we saw comedian Johnny Lever getting killed in a movie. Why would you do that?
Though he had done two scenes in Love 86 (1986), Jalwa was his first film. Initially, he had just one scene in my film. We’d booked the entire two-star hotel and Lever requested to stay behind and watch the shoot. As we travelled in buses, Lever used to do mimicry. That was my first experience of Johnny Lever. I didn’t know what he was. So, I freaked out. I said this guy is brilliant and so we added more scenes of him. It was he who scripted the Ashok Kumar mimicry scene. It was not in the original. 

We had great fun though shooting. It was like a picnic atmosphere. We shot the film in 29 days, shooting day and night. 

Finally, on a lighter note, do you regret your decision to give a break to the enfant terrible Cyrus Broacha?
(Laughs). He was like this even at 12. He tried to drown Naseeruddin and me into the pool. Cyrus was a champion swimmer in school. While Naseeruddin and I knew swimming, but we are not as skilful as him. He would go under water and pull our feet. He was a mischievous character then too. We chased him around the pool.

Once we went to Anjuna (famous beach) to take a sunset shot. He came along with us. There were two blondes lying nude on the beach. He looked at them from far and then as he neared, he looked down at the sand. He was too shy. But then looked up again. Naseeruddin and I cautioned him saying 'you are you under age and the police will arrest you'. He walked five steps only to find a policeman staring him in the face. We told the cop to catch him as he’s just 12. The fun didn’t stop there and in the next two days, we told him that the cops were still looking for him. He defended himself saying that the girls were shameless.