It is not often that one sentence defines a life. Rarer still for that sentence to outlive its speaker. To noted film actor Jagdeep goes that honour. He with the memorable “Mera naam Soorma Bhopali aisi hi nahin hai” line fell silent one last time, breathing his last at the age of 81. He added value to over 350 Hindi films, including the iconic Sholay , where he made his presence felt with his diction and voice modulation. Such was the recall value of that one dialogue from Sholay that more than a decade after the film was released in 1975, Jagdeep directed a film called Soorma Bhopali in 1987, where he granted himself his wish of playing the pivotal role.
That was a rare self-conferred honour for Jagdeep. Otherwise, he stayed on the sidelines in film after film, lighting up a scene here with his comic timing, illuminating the canvas there with his wonderful expression. Not one to sulk over the little crumbs that came his way, Jagdeep dished out quite a feast. Many recall only Sholay among his films. The truth is that he did some wonderful roles in memorable films like Qurbani , Shahenshah and Phool aur Kante . Not to forget the Aamir Khan-Salman Khan rib-tickler Andaaz Apna Apna . He even tried his hand at horror films with Purana Mandir and Khooni Panja .
Though he has worked with everyone in the industry from Ramesh Sippy and Feroz Khan to the Ramsays, Jagdeep started his career in the haloed company of the likes of K.A. Abbas, Bimal Roy and Guru Dutt. As a child artist, he worked with them in films like Munna , Do Bigha Zamin and Aar Paar . Not to forget AVM’s Hum Panchi Ek Daal Ke , for which Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru sent him a personal gift. Somebody so groomed in his early years in cinema would have been expected to patronise neorealism cinema. Not so Jagdeep. He added a touch of the popular to what he learned with these icons of neorealism cinema to craft his roles in mainstream fare like Bhabhi , Khilona and Gora aur Kala . Around the same time, in 1968, he starred in his first hit, Brahmachari .
Then came Sholay . And Jagdeep was destined to be a one-film wonder, who, in reality, did hundreds of parts in hundreds of films. Many were hits, some flops. But none came close to Sholay. Much like Jagdeep. There were comedians before him. There will be comedians after him. But there was only one Jagdeep.
He leaves behind his sons, noted actor Jaaved Jaffery and Naved.