You must have seen Bollywood actor Deepak Tijori in all the 90s Bollywood movies like ‘Aashiqui’, ‘Khiladi’, ‘Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar’, ‘Sadak’ or ‘Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa’. Even though he was not in the role of hero in these films, but he gave equal competition to the heroes of the films with his acting. Very few fans would know that Deepak Tijori is Gujarati in origin.
Today i.e. August 28 is Deepak Tijori’s 62nd birthday. On this occasion, Bhaskar had a special conversation with Deepak Tijori. Here are the excerpts of the conversation with him-
Deepak Tijori’s father was a Gujarati Vaishnava while his mother was a Parsi Irani. Deepak Tijori is the youngest of three brothers in the family. Deepak Tijori says- My great grandfather and grandfather were residents of Mehsana. Our original surname was ‘Tijoriwala’, as my great grandfather’s original occupation was making safes and that is how we got this surname.
How did Tijori derive from Tijoriwala? Responding to this question, Deepak smiles and says, ‘I was given the nickname ‘Tijori’ instead of ‘Tijoriwala’ in school and college and since then this nickname has stuck with me. However, my father did not like this ‘Tijoriwala’ nickname at all and would often say angrily that ‘I have ruined my nickname i.e. ‘Tijoriwala’. But, I retained the Tijori surname.
Deepak interestingly says, ‘I grew up in a Gujarati environment. My grandfather had seven sons and daughters. So I’ve been in such a big family with all of their families. As a child, my mother taught me Parsi and I learned Gujarati language from my family.
Deepak Tijori says about his family, ‘No one in the family was in the field of acting, but the mother was fond of acting. Before marriage, mother wanted to work in films. You will be surprised to know that my mother did a radio play with Balraj Sahab (Sunil Dutt). At that time everyone used to call Sunil Dutt as ‘Balli’.
My father’s family was very conservative. Because of this, he stopped working in films for his mother. Father said to him- ‘I will make a film for you, but you will never work in the film. After the father’s order, the mother left her dream incomplete and focused all her attention on the family.
However, from the heart, mother always wanted that one of us three brothers should go in the field of acting. That’s why I had some love for films since childhood. I also started playing in school and college. At this time mother always encouraged me. I used to dance too. ‘After coming to college, we used to bunk classes and go to learn dance.’c
Talking about college life, Deepak says, ‘Paresh Rawal, Firoz Khan Abbas were my seniors in college and Aamir Khan, Sharman Joshi were my juniors. Ashutosh Gowariker used to study in the college next to me. During college, we all worked together in ‘Amateur Theatre’.
While working in inter-college plays, I realized that this is my passion. I used to play hero in college, at that time I thought Bollywood would be great, but when I took my first step in the real world, I realized that things are never what we think. When I stepped into the outside world after college, I realized that the ‘heroism’ I did in college has no meaning here.
‘When everyone used to praise my plays in college, I used to think that I would get a direct entry in films. But like when we go looking for a job, people ask how much experience do you have?
Same happened with me too. During this time many people told me that you should first join acting school. But I used to tell them that I have done hard core theatre. However, later I realized that one would get entry in films only after having a certificate from an acting school.
Talking about the reality of how difficult it is to step into the industry without a godfather or an identity, Deepak says, ‘During the struggle, the stars were visible in the day itself. Because, it was a completely different world. Whether you will be able to survive in this industry or not, it is known when you take your first step here.
The big question here was how to take the first step, because there is no place to set foot here. I read about the struggles of all the actors, got inspired by them and decided, ‘If they start with small roles, I will do the same. Although the mother was not happy with it.
He also started feeling that the film industry is not the right place for me. She always used to say that you should study further and get a degree. So I did post graduation and then law. Even after this, when I kept trying for films, I used to say that if I wanted to act then why did I waste so much money in studies?’
Talking openly about the financial condition of the house, Deepak Tijori says, ‘Our financial condition was not good at that time. Father’s income was not special. That’s why the responsibility of the house fell on the elder brother. Along with this some responsibility also fell on me. I started working at night at Hotel Sea Rock front office in Bandra. Did night duty here for about a year. I used to go to the producer’s office in the morning after going to college to get a job in the industry. I too used to hand over my salary to my mother like my elder brother. This is how our household expenses used to go.
Deepak says- After this I worked as a space selling (sales representative) in Cine Blitz magazine. Instead of working for a magazine, I worked for an advertising company. When I went there, the people from the agency, especially Alkaben and Bharat Dabholkar, one day asked me to do modelling. I was ready to do this work and this is where my modeling journey started.
‘While modeling, I realized that I could no longer do anything else. I had to go from agency to agency to sell myself as a product. I asked my mother, ‘What if I leave my job now?’ When the mother expressed concern about the expenses of the house, I explained that ‘I will get three months’ money for the work I do.’ This will not cause any problem in the house. After getting my mother’s approval, I completely entered the field of modeling.
‘Suddenly one day I got a call from actor Avtar Gill. He said, ‘Bhatt Sahab (Mahesh Bhatt) is looking for you, so try to meet him. I immediately went to meet Bhatt Sahab and he offered me the role of the actor’s friend in the film. With a very sad face I said to Bhatt sahib, ‘Okay. I’ll roll it. Bhatt sahib got angry with my behaviour. He said to me- ‘Why are you talking like this?’ So I spoke my heart. Will you make me a little actor? He assured me that the role I am giving you is not small.
On bonding with the cast of the film, Deepak says, “We all were comfortable with each other. No one had any kind of attitude. I easily got attached to Rahul Roy. I am still in touch with Rahul. We talk to each other on the phone and meet often.
‘Casting director was not the trend in my time. The heroes used to decide who should be taken and who should not be taken. I was supposed to play Govinda’s friend Deepak in David Dhawan’s Coolie No. 1. The character was named after me. However, then for some reason the film was given to actor Harish and even the name of the character in the film was not changed.
Worked with Aamir in ‘Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar’ and ‘Ghulam’. So I was not the first in ‘Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar’. 70 per cent of the film was shot with other actors and then there was a fight between the actor and the director, Bhatt told me, ‘You are going to meet Mansoor Khan.’ I had already auditioned for this film, but then I was not accepted. Bhatt sir then told me, ‘Aamir has suggested your name and now you do this film.’ Something similar got the role of ‘Charlie’ of ‘Ghulam’. Here also Aamir had given my name. Then I realized that there is a strong bond between the hero and the producer.
When Deepak Tijori was asked, ‘Do you ever feel that you are just trapped in the image of the hero’s friend?’ So he accepted with a smile that ‘Yes, I felt very bad, that’s why I stopped working in films. After working like this for 10 years, I took a break. After that we made a film ‘Pehla Nasha’. It featured Shah Rukh, Aamir Khan, Saif Ali, Pooja Bhatt, Raveena Tandon, Sudesh Barry.
The film was the directorial debut of Ashutosh Gowariker. The film was inspired by a Hollywood film and was way ahead of its time. Maybe that’s why it didn’t work. I tried to change my image with this film, but the film itself was a flop.
I tried to shed my image till the year 2000, but failed. After that I became a TV producer and then a director. Worked as a TV producer for two years. I produced TV shows like ‘Saturday Suspense’, ‘Thriller@10’, ‘Dial 100’. The show also won TV Awards. However, when the serials of Saas-Bahu started, I retreated.
Talking about his directorial debut ‘Oops’, Deepak Tijori says, ‘I made this film 20 years ago. What was shown in this film was the story of real life. This film was also way ahead of its time. The film was not obscene, but the content was such that it was promoted as having sex and adult content. I was very new to directing so I didn’t know much about marketing and by the time I realised, it was too late.
‘I had sent the English version of the film for the National Award. You will not believe that when some people went to the screening of the film in Delhi, they were surprised to see the film. They thought what they had seen. He was not at all negative about the film. There all were Bengalis of 60 to 65 years. Generally Bengalis are ahead of time and their cinema ideology has also been ahead of ours.
Those people enjoyed watching the film but it was very shocking for me, at that time Rahul Bose and Konkona Sen’s ‘Mr and Mrs Iyer’ was in the English category. There was a clash between these two films. I was told that ‘if your film gets the National Award, we will send a message to filmmakers to make films like this’. Maybe that’s why this film didn’t get the award. Just this one thought canceled the award. Later the film was released.
“People call ‘oops’ a flop, but that film was not a flop. The film was sold in all territories. One emotional thing to say about this film, I went to a friend’s office for lunch, their CEO told me Called in the cabin and said I liked this film very much. Men get so busy in their lives that they are unable to give time to the women of the house. They keep sending them gifts and money. You have shown the pain of women in the film. And thank you for that. Loved the depth of your film. It was really emotional.
Deepak Tijori has worked with every big star. Describing this experience, he says, ‘In my time there was no bigger star than Amitabh Bachchan. Dilip Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan are two of my mother’s favorite actors.
She always wanted me to work with her. But, working with Dilip Kumar was not possible. Did two films with Amitabh, ‘Mrityudata’ and ‘Department’. I only wanted to work with Amitabh Bachchan in this film. They are the institute of acting. It was a pleasure working with him.
‘Looking back today, after 2000, I did many films only because of relationships. I did this to benefit my friends at that time. However, now I am doing films with different roles as an actor. Everyone has a job now because of the digital platform. Now I will not play the roles that I have played earlier. I will do such characters, which suit my age and personality. The film ‘Ittar’ talks about a middle age love story.
Four to five people associated with this film are National Award winners. I am also doing another film ‘Tathya’ with the director of ‘Ittar’. I am the director and producer in ‘Tipsy’. This thriller film is based on the lives of five girls. Currently reading some scripts. I just want to do a lot of work. Now is the best time to act. I want to do films like ‘Koshish’, ‘Khilona’ with my all-time favorite hero Sanjeev Kumar.
Many of the Gujarati films we are doing right now are very beautiful, after watching ‘Hellaro’ I was very surprised that such a good film has been made in our language.’ Now my interest is in working in Gujarati. Now films are being made here on different subjects. Now even technically good films are made in Gujarati. Viewers are now turning to theaters to watch Gujarati movies.
Gujarati audience is proud that we also have cinema. I always wondered why Gujarati industry is lagging behind. Marathi people are earning so much money by making films, why are we not doing the same? We have so many plays in the theatre, so many stories and scripts that we don’t need to take anything from others. I am very happy with the way Gujarati film is progressing.
Talking about Casting Couch, Deepak Tijori says, ‘Casting Couch is 100 percent. It’s not like that. But this does not happen with everyone. It is not that it is only in Bollywood. If we talk about the corporate industry, then the same thing happens there too. It’s universal, it doesn’t matter to people who can take care of themselves. Just like when we are born we don’t know how this world is, we learn slowly. So it is like that you come into the world and either you become better or you become worse. What you choose is up to you. There are two sides to this, the good and the bad. You don’t need to go to the bad side. If we know that there is a pit here, we will not go to that side. Such situations come in everyone’s life, then it depends on us which path we choose.
Talking about his birthday celebrations, Deepak Tijori says, ‘I am not a party animal. I am not a social animal. I am a very normal vegetarian and boring guy. Doesn’t touch alcohol and cigarettes. I celebrate birthdays with count’s friends. My daughter always comes to feed me cake and that moment is most precious to me.