Well played, Saeed Bhai! Tom Alter's tribute to Saeed Jaffrey

Updated: 19 November, 2015 10:59 IST | Tom Alter |

Veteran actor Saeed Jaffrey, who acted in over 100 Bollywood and international movies, died in London on Monday of a brain haemorrhage. Friend and co-star Tom Alter remembers him

Well played, Saeed bhai! This is the most English of ways to congratulate an actor on a job well done and Saeed Jaffrey despite being pure Lucknowi was an Englishman.

Saeed Jaffrey and Tom Alter have co-starred in six films
Saeed Jaffrey and Tom Alter have co-starred in six films

But despite this, the language of his heart — Urdu — was as impeccable as the language of his mind — English.

For him, acting was both an art and a passion. There is nothing else he really wanted to do in life. Whether he was in front of the camera or on stage or in real life, everything was a grand performance for Saeed Jaffrey.

I have had the pleasure of working with many, many fine actors, but there was only one Saeed Jaffrey.

Be it the twinkle in his eyes, the lilt in his voice or the mischievous grin on his face. The way he turned the dialogues into mushairas. Only Saeed bhai could do that.

I met him first during the shooting of Shatranj ke Khiladi (Tom Alter played Captain Weston, aide de camp to Richard Attenborough’s character General James Outram) The film not only introduced Saeed Jaffrey to Indian audiences, but also made them fall in love with him forever.

Who can forget that immortal line when he (Mir Roshan Ali) tells fellow nawab Sanjeev Kumar (Mirza Sajjad Ali), “Ama woh masjid toh Kanpur mein thi!”

Once, upon hearing my attempts to speak Urdu, he said with a great guffaw, “Mian, tumhari urdu to acchi hai, par yeh Punjabi accent kahan se aa gayi.” This was the quintessential Saeed Jaffrey — blunt, loving and humorous.

His personal life was full of both sunlight and shadows and he leaves behind him his daughters and his lovely wife Jennifer. We can all wish them joy as they remember Saeed and wish the god above all the best, because he now has to deal with the wit and wonder of Saeed Jaffrey.

(As told to Ayan Roy)

About Saeed Jaffrey

Veteran actor Saeed Jaffrey, who has acted in over 100 Bollywood and international movies, died in London on Monday of a brain haemorrhage. He was 86. Best known for movies like Satyajit Ray’s Shatranj ke Khiladi (The Chess Players) and western productions like A Passage To India, Gandhi and The Man Who Would Be King, Jaffrey was born in Punjab in 1929.

Including Shatranj Ke Khiladi, Jaffrey and Tom Alter co-starred in six films. Jaffrey has also done films with British stars like Michael Caine, Sean Connery and Daniel Day-Lewis. Perhaps the most famous film he played a role in is Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi, in which he played Sardar Patel. The funeral is expected to take place in London next week. 

First Published: 17 November, 2015 07:22 IST

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