‘Gullak feels like your story or the story of someone you know.’
‘The stories are heart-warming, joyful. You laugh at them.’
‘It’s like a drug that gives you happiness.’
Jameel Khan has taken on minor roles in the movies since the late 1990s.
But what has really put him on the map was his digital debut series Gullak, which got him critical recognition and widespread adoration.
The magic continues in the show’s third season.
Jameel tells Rediff.com Contributor Mohnish Singh, “You would be surprised to know I had initially rejected the role… After reading a few pages I felt it was like TV. The writer then asked me to hear him out. He narrated the entire story to me, and I felt it was great, something I should not let go of.”
Gullak is enjoying its third season. How do you feel about it?
I am excited because the audience has been very kind and loving. They have showered us with a lot of love and appreciation for the first two seasons of the show.
We have received an overwhelming response from the critics too.
Expectations are higher this time around, and so is the responsibility.
When a show becomes a success, you try to outdo yourself in the next season.
That pressure is still there. But I think we have done a great job in Gullak 3.
Do you feel OTT platforms provide a better scope for an actor to showcase his acting skills as compared to films?
Even in films, whether it is a character artist or the main artist, there are only those precious two-three hours to tell his story.
Here, you get 10 or 20 hours to play the character.
The writer gets ample time to improvise the character.
Initially, they used to wrap up the scenes or the characters as they were not able to show them. Now, they are able to showcase this side of the story.
Our lives are full of colour.
The life of a middle-class person is full of stories and experiences.
The world is full of middle-class people, and OTT is something the entire world watches.
Superstardom, which was confined to films, is now visible on OTT platforms too. Now, every good actor can become a star. Do you agree?
I don’t know. I mean, I don’t know how stars are perceived.
Every person cannot be a Shah Rukh Khan.
The stardom of commercial cinema is larger than life.
Like in OTT, there are stars who used to be on television and some who are still there. As a result, OTT has its own set of celebrities.
I feel on OTT, people value talent more.
Now there is a great scope for talent.
There is scope for telling different kinds of stories.
Perhaps there isn’t much scope in cinema because you face different kinds of challenges in economics and returns.
OTT is beyond that pressure.
If the content and the story are strong, it will find its place on the OTT platform.
When you were offered to play Santosh Mishra in 2017, what attracted you to the role?
You would be surprised to know that I had initially rejected the role.
Yes, that is surprising…
Yes, I had rejected the show after reading a few pages because I felt it was like TV.
The writer then asked me to hear him out.
He narrated the entire story to me, and I felt it was great, something I should not let go of.
The delightful thing about Gullak was that it was very relatable. It felt like your story or the story of someone you know.
If you observe the characters of Gullak, their lives, experiences, and their emotions are very raw and real.
You have experienced them.
It also has some lovely punches.
The stories are heart-warming, joyful.
You laugh at them.
It’s like a drug that gives you happiness.
That, along with its simplicity.
It’s not fake, it’s very honest, genuine and real.
It is inspired by life.
Do you feel that after the success of Gullak, the roles that came to you were strong and well written?
What happened was the opposite (laughs).
After the success of Gullak, people brought me crap.
They felt they could convince me.
When I was struggling, I did not pick up any crap. So how could I do it now?
If I made a wrong choice by mistake, that’s a different story.
But I never deliberately chose (a bad script), nor do I intend to.
Even when I was doing only theatre or when I had no work and no money, I did not deliberately choose something bad.
Today, I am getting work. But I keep praying to God that my choice and destiny is good to me, that I choose good work only.
I live my life with great integrity.
If I make a promise, it’s more than a contract for me.
I am not a person who will go back on my word, even if it causes me harm.
My wife always tells me that I do social work. I feel I am made for it.
I feel I was not made for this kind of world.
But God has taken care of me so far, and He will do so in future too.
How was your journey from Bhadohi to Mumbai?
It was a great journey.
I was born and brought up in Bhadohi. Initially, it was a small town, then it became a district.
Gullak is set in the same milieu.
Since I belong to that part of the country, I relate to my character.
Though my schooling was in an English high school, the environment and the people who were around me were from middle class families…
It all started in Bhadohi, then Nainital, Aligarh, and then Bombay.
There was a time when I used to stay in a one-room kitchen in Mumbai. I used to walk two kilometres in order to save five rupees on bus fare.
But it has been a wonderful journey.
God has been kind.
Did the struggle make you lose hope ever?
No. My father supported me from the beginning.
I won’t say he gave me permission to come to Mumbai.
He just said, ‘Whatever you are about to do, do it with all your heart.’
He also said, ‘Even if you don’t make it, you can always come back and join our business.’
So that was very comforting, as I had something to fall back on.
There were days when I didn’t have money to call him.
Then when he came to Mumbai to meet me, he asked how I was managing work without a phone.
He gave me money to buy a phone.
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