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Meezaan Jafri made quite a noticeable debut with Malaal, and had everyone rhapsodising about not only his acting chops, but also his fit frame. Hungama 2 made the audience see him in a different light, and the actor plans to keep the surprises coming.
Meezaan Jafri is carrying forward the legacy that his late grandfather, Jagdeep Jafri, and his father, Jaaved Jaaferi, created. Just two films old, Jafri is already an audience favourite. During interviews for his debut film, Malaal, Jafri was all humble. Two years later, on the call for this interview, I was anticipating if he still is the same person. Jafri’s fitness goals are unmissable. If you happen to check the actor’s Instagram, it’s frankly motivational to see how hard he works at being this chiseled. The actor loves to work out more than anything, and fitness is more like a lifestyle for him. He manages to stay consistent with his exercise routines, he says. We delve into details with the actor on Senior Jaaferi, workout routine, fitness myths, his dreams. Over to Jafri.
You were initially studying business, but shifted to film direction. And finally, you got into acting. What led to the switch?
I did not really know where I was headed, to be honest. My father (Jaaved Jaaferi) always wanted me to get a degree to have something to fall back upon. I was always into the arts, however, my father told me that I can pursue my interests only after I finish my degree in business. I did as he advised, but when I started studying business, I realised that it is not my cup of tea.
When I came back for one of the holidays, I had the most difficult conversation with him to let me do something in films. He then advised me that there was no point in learning acting, and told me to pursue a craft that I can fall back upon. That’s how I landed upon learning film direction. I later got to meet Sanjay Leela Bhansali through Sharmin Segal. She asked me to come help her out with some costume trails on the sets of Bajirao Mastani because Ranveer Singh was not available. That is where I met SLB for the first time and after days, he called me into his office to discuss how he wanted to launch me. I then took that decision to leave college, and worked on Padmaavat with SLB. Then Malaal happened and the rest is history, I guess.
You acted as Ranveer Singh’s double in Padmaavat. Being on the sets with him must have been a learning experience.
Yes, there were a lot of times when Singh was not available, and they needed some extra shots. For a newcomer, imagine being on the sets of an SLB film. I had never faced a camera, it was all so new. I think it prepared me for everything. It was a great experience without which I don’t think I would have gotten anywhere. It was a one-on-one class with Sanjay Leela Bhansali, which was my only acting school.
Did working with Sanjay Leela Bhansali as an assistant before your debut help with your debut?
It just prepared me. It helped me remove all these inhibitions about being in front of the camera. When Malaal came my way, I knew it was going to be extremely difficult, but it was fun. The whole experience of Padmaavat prepared me for anything that I will be doing in the future. I don’t get scared or intimidated by anything anymore.
Jaaved Jaaferi is known for his comic timing, his dance. Which qualities of your father do you see in yourself?
His humility, his voice, and a little bit of his dancing skills. I can never dance better than him. And of course, acting skills. Since I grew up in a family of actors and watching my father or grandfather’s work, I felt I was just training my whole life, unknowingly. I have been lucky actually, because anything I can do today is because of that.
Apart from acting, fans are always raving about how fit you are. How do you remain consistent with your workouts?
I work out every day. If I am taking a break on Sundays, I am playing football. My fitness has nothing to do with my work. I have always been fit. I work out because I enjoy it. I like being fit. That has somehow also weaved into my work life, so I have always just ended up being fit.
You unconsciously act as a role model for many. If you were to give any tips to your fans. What would you say?
This is a topic that is very fragile, but I still would address it. I see a lot of people taking a lot of supplements, steroids, and other such products. I genuinely would just request everyone, especially the youngsters, to not go down that path. It is something that will give you great results for a year or so but in the long run, it will completely destroy your body, your mind, your life. It takes a toll on you. The problem also is that youngsters are influenced by other people. I am always trying to guide people because I have also seen deaths happening because of the same reason in recent times. I advise everyone to try and stay natural.
The pandemic also changed the way we work out since we were not allowed to visit the gyms. How did you keep yourself fit during the lockdown?
Luckily, I was at my friend’s farmhouse. We had like a mini gym over there, and we were working out together. We would do swimming, running, etc. My fitness routine did not really change. My siblings, however, were stuck at home, so they would take advice from me on home workouts. Yoga, skipping, dumbbells, we all tried to adapt to everything we all could do.
Who were your fitness role models when you were growing up?
Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Scott Adkins. I liked them because their overall fitness is not about having aesthetically good-looking bodies.
Does the paparazzi culture and being an actor put any kind of pressure on you to always look good?
100 per cent. Yes, it does. I think it is not a pressure on me because I am working out every day. I am okay with it.
Your look in Malaal was something everyone was talking about. What was your fitness routine for your debut film?
Before Malaal, I was working out heavily but when the shooting process began, it became really tough for me to work out. You get so exhausted and you do not get time to work out. Shooting and working out at the same time is a different ball game altogether. I was also very stressed, so I was eating very little, but the character required me to look lean, so it helped. When my body shots were there, that was last minute, so there was no time to prepare for it. I did a few sit-ups and push-ups before the shot, and that helped.
People tend to go easy on exercise once they achieve their goals. Did you have such a phase too?
No, I have never had that phase. I have always worked out my entire life. I exercise every day, I play football every day, I go to the gym every day. I play basketball. Fitness is something I kind of have always been into. But of course, there are times when I am on a vacation or something, I take that gap when I do not work out at all. But I get back to it as soon as I am home.
During the last interview, you had told us about your love for food. How do you balance being fit and not missing out on eating your favourite food?
I have to sacrifice eating my favourite food. Everywhere I go, my friends are eating all sorts of cuisines that I love to eat, but I think you have to be mentally strong, and keep yourself away from the temptations. Right now, I am on a diet, so I get to cheat only once in two weeks, and that also is one meal.
You are two films old. You worked on different genres of films already. Is that a conscious decision you made to keep yourself away from being stereotyped?
Yes and no. I want to stay away from being stereotyped but at the same time, I want to explore more and challenge myself more, and show the audience what all I am capable of. I have been lucky to get films in different genres, so I am going with the flow.
What kind of projects are you looking out for now? What matters more for you: A good director or a good script?
I really want to do a good drama film. I would also love to do romantic comedies. A good script matters to me more than the director.
Any future projects planned for you?
Hopefully, I am doing a thriller soon. A rom-com after that. Some projects have not officially been announced but two-three films are in the pipeline. The audience will see me in a different light.
Photographer: Vivan Bhathena