Ahead of his 75th birthday on April 7, to be celebrated over three days, Jeetendra on his insecurities, co-stars Rekha and Sridevi, and being a 'modest businessman'
Meena Iyer (MUMBAI MIRROR; April 3, 2017)

Is it true that 200 people are to fly to Jaipur to ring in your 75th birthday in a three-day celebration?
This question should be addressed to Shobha (wife). She is the one who is insisting that I celebrate my 75th birthday. I don't believe in birthdays. I think every day of your life should be happy and satisfying. In fact, I hate being reminded of my birthday because I think it says that your 'mandatory overs' are over.

So you are just going along with her wishes?
I told her that I will not participate in any way so she took the complete onus of organising things. I do not even wish to know what she has planned. I told her let us have a regular bash in Mumbai. I can spend one evening with the people I care for and love. However, she wants to do it over three days. So be it. My high is that my nine month-old grandson Laksshya is coming with me. Earlier, Tusshar was supposed to take him to Hyderabad where he is shooting Golmaal Again. Now, he has agreed to let Laksshya accompany Shobha and me to Jaipur. That is my birthday gift. I will get a week-long vacation with my baby. The other high is that four of my childhood friends, with whom I spent my adolescence, are flying in from Denmark and the US. Shobha and I, my friends and their wives were all dating around the same time. So we go as far back as 56 years. How Shobha is going to manage such a large affair beats me.

Is it true that you haven't touched alcohol in 15 years?
I gave up alcoholic drinks, cigarettes and tobacco 15 years ago. In my youth, I did everything possible to ruin my health. But when I turned 60, I gave it all up. When people compliment me for looking fit, I tell them to do the same. I am also genetically blessed. Today, I am inspired by Salman (Khan) and Hrithik (Roshan) who have perfect bodies with six-pack abs. Even my son Tusshar is so fit.

People say you obsess over your looks...
An actor's shop runs on his looks. So, in my opinion, one must obsess. Heroes are the result of so many people's hard work. I always say that if you see the salary line up, the lyricist gets paid the least, the composer a little more, the playback singer gets paid higher than both while the actor who just moves his lips to their songs on screen draws the highest remuneration. We are fortunate and if we do not put our best face forward, it would be foolish.

Why have you quit acting?
As an actor, I had my limitations and I was fully aware of them. There is nothing I miss about acting. Besides I colour my hair black at home. Why, then, should I go to a studio and colour my hair white to play someone commensurate to my age?

But your contemporary Amitabh Bachchan is still at the top of the acting game.
I admire Amit. I don't think the word 'chalega' exists in his dictionary. He is so committed and such a good actor. For that matter my friends, Rakesh Roshan and Rishi Kapoor, who are younger than me are also good at what they do. Rishi was amazing in Agneepath and Kapoor & Sons while Guddu has made some huge box-office hits in the last two decades. I am so proud of them. But that is their calling, mine is different.

Your friends say that you are an astute businessman...
I must tell you that for 20 years, I have not earned a single penny. I am a jobless actor. Shobha and Ekta are the ones running the show. My only contribution is that I have invested the money that they have earned. And touchwood, those investments are bearing fruit.

Do you ever take stock of the empire?
Money is not everything in life. But only someone who is wealthy can make such a statement. For the guy who doesn't have money accumulating wealth is of foremost importance. Our business is speculative in nature. So, one must always have a Plan B. Besides, I am not an Ambani, I'm still a modest businessman.

You did 40 odd movies with Rekha and 15 films with Sridevi. Are they your favourite costars?
I have no favourites. Rekha calls me 'Ravya' instead of Ravi. I may have done around 39 films with her. We share a good relationship. As far as Sridevi is concerned, I admired her when she was a newcomer and I admire her even now. Do you know that she wasn't the original choice for Himmatwala? It was supposed to be Rekha. But somehow Sri landed the role and the rest is history. She's a fabulous dancer. I was a totaram (parrot), I would just parrot my steps and keep doing rehearsals. Sri got her steps down pat the first time around but she'd patiently rehearse with me. Her dedication should be applauded.

They say you did 60 films in five years because you were insecure?
I did 60 films over a period of eight years and I admit to being very insecure at the start of the 1980s. I'm the guy who started out from a chawl in Girgaum. Here, I must add that when we installed a Crompton ceiling fan in our room, the entire chawl came to see it! I was bad at studies and if I had not made it in films, I would have had nowhere to hide. Twice in my 40-year career, I have been jobless and penniless. Once was between 1972-'74 and again after the debacle of my home production Deedar e-Yaar (1982). Having hit these two lows, I worked like a maniac for almost a decade down South doing every remake that was being made. My discipline and modest popularity suited the producers. And completing movies in 40 days straight suited me.