The jovial and everyone’s favourite, Milap Zaveri, completed 20 years this year in Bollywood. Two weeks back, he celebrated his birthday and on this joyous occasion, Bollywood Hungama exclusively spoke to him about his journey. For the first time, the writer-director opened up about his fascinating journey in Bollywood and a lot more.EXCLUSIVE: Milap Zaveri, for the FIRST TIME, opens up about his journey; reveals he was offered young Bheem’s role by B R Chopra in Mahabharat
Could you tell us about your family and how you got interested in movies? Also, were you born and brought up in Mumbai?
Yes, I am from Mumbai. My grandmother’s father was Tribhuvandas Bhimji Zaveri. My father is also in the jewellery business. I grew up in Bandra for most of my life, at Perry Cross Road. It was always understood that I’ll eventually enter my family business. But I was crazily obsessed with movies. My grandmother, whom I called Ba, also loved movies, especially the ones starring Amitabh Bachchan. She would keep showing me his movies. We had video cassettes of 5 movies which we owned while growing up. These movies were Sholay (1975), Jai Santoshi Maa (1975), Vidhaata (1982), Daku Hasina (1987) and Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1958). As far as I remember, Subhash Ghai’s Vidhaata was the first film I ever saw. Then later, my dad bought video cassettes of films like He-Man And Masters Of The Universe, Herbie Goes To Monte Carlo (1977), Laurel & Hardy etc. I grew up watching these films again and again while growing up. Besides Amit ji, I was also a huge fan of Jeetendra sir and Mithun Chakraborty sir. I would hope somebody would get a Stardust or Filmfare magazine home so that I can read film-related news and interviews!
My parents, during the holidays, would allow us to rent movies and watch. It was decided that me and my younger brother Meet would choose our favourite films in turn while renting. He would always want to choose a Hollywood film. I had a setting with the video library guy. Whichever film my brother would ask for, the guy would tell him ‘Yeh film nahin hai’. So, eventually, he’d be forced to watch a Hindi film that I wanted to watch (laughs)!
In school, I was very fond of dramatics. I acted in plays. Both my Hindi and English teachers felt I was very good at writing essays. Once when I acted in a play, my English teacher told me, ‘You’d be a better writer than an actor’!
After 10th, I joined Jai Hind College and during Classes 11 and 12, I used to go to my father’s office after attending lectures to learn about the jewellery business. I was terrible at it and I hated it. Then in FYBCom, I joined the Social And Dramatic Union (SDU). This was a time when Jai Hind couldn’t come up with a Hindi play for Malhar Festival. They were toying with the idea of translating Tennessee Williams' play, Steps Must Be Gentle. I was sitting with them. I took the play and started translating it for time pass. My senior, Dhiraj Mirchandani, who was directing the play, read my translation and told me that it was damn good. He asked me to translate the whole play and Jai Hind finally could stage a Hindi play in Malhar.
This episode gave me confidence. Jai Hind College also had an inter-class dramatics competition every year. There, I wrote two original plays for the first time and that year, I won Best Writer and Best Actor. One play won the award of Best Play and the other won Best Director. Nishikant Kamat and Naseeruddin Shah’s nephew, Salim Shah, were the judges. Nishikant had just started working in the industry and he was also an ex-Jai Hindite. I got encouraged by it.
How did your family react to the fact that you wanted to pursue a career in films and not enter the family business?
My father was totally against it. He was worried. And I am talking about 22 years ago. I was 18 then and the image of a film writer was such that my father felt that yeh jhola leke ghoomega! He threatened to throw me out of the house. He stopped my pocket money. I used to walk to Bandra station to take a local train. I won’t call this time like a proper struggling period. After all, I still had a home and a lot of things were taken care of.
It was only after the release of Kaante (2002) that I finally saw my father was so proud and relieved. He’s now my biggest fan. He goes to watch my film at Gaiety-Galaxy. He sees all shows of the day on Friday, Saturday and Sunday! Even my grandfather was proud when Kaante was released. He passed away sometime later.
So nobody from your family had anything to do with films?
My grandfather, Mohanlal Zaveri, was also from my jeweller family. He was interested in acting. In fact, he acted in two movies. He had done a cameo in Raj Kapoor’s Awaara (1951). There’s a scene where Raj Kapoor sir goes to a jewellery shop. My grandfather played the role of the salesman in this scene! Then he worked in V Shantaram's Teen Batti Char Raasta (1953), in which he had a proper role. He was one of the brothers in the film. Screen magazine had that time put him on the cover with the headline ‘V Shantaram’s new discovery’. V Shantaram was very upset because my grandfather was not the lead hero! That was the only connection we had with films.
Did your grandfather shoot for more films?
No. Those were the only two films. It was more of a hobby or passion that didn’t materialize.
You said you had acted in plays. Also, recently, you tweeted your pictures from your portfolio. Did you get any film offers?
As a child, I was very fat. Once, Mr B R Chopra offered me the role of young Bheem in Mahabharat! My grandfather knew the screenplay writer of the TV show, Satish Bhatnagar. The Chopras saw me somewhere and felt that I was perfect for the part. However, my father didn’t let me do it.
More Pages: Awaara Box Office Collection
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