The Actress Behind Gulabo Sitabo’s Fatto Begum: Looking At Farrukh Jaffar’s Memorable Roles

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Fatto Begum as the sweet and sassy owner of the Fatima Mahal wins the heart in Shoojit Sircar’s Gulabo Sitabo. Always armed with amusing comebacks and an infectious smile, she is undoubtedly one of the most adorable characters in the film. Sircar has a talent for casting just the right actors, from their capability to their roots, and is spot on this time as well. The role of the begum is played by Farrukh Jaffar, an actress who continues to charm even in her late 80s. She captures the rightful spirit of the lakhnavi andaaz (style of Lucknow), having lived all her life in the city where the film is set.

But Gulabo Sitabo is by far not Jaffar’s biggest, or only big screen appearance. Farrukh Jaffar’s career sprawls across several decades, her breaking role in Bollywood itself dating back to almost 39 years. Let’s go through the memory lane and trace the professional journey of this impeccable actress who demands all of the audience’s attention every time she is onscreen. And does so even in the presence of timeless superstars like Amitabh Bachchan.

Time in the Radio Industry and Role in Umrao Jaan

Farrukh Jaffar joined the radio in 1961. As a resident of Lucknow, she was selected for the Vividh Bharati Station when it was set up in the city. With the selection, Jaffar also became the first female Vividh Bharti announcer on radio. She worked there till 1966, and joined AIR Urdu in Delhi after that, where she worked till 1970. She then left her job due to personal reasons. Jaffar’s husband was a freedom fighter and journalist. He later switched to politics and was MLC (Member of Legislative Council) for two terms. They have two daughters Mehru Jaffer (an author) and Shahein.

In 1981 came Jaffar’s breaking role as an actress when she was called to play Rekha’s mother in Umrao Jaan. The role, she notes, landed on her lap out of the blue. “We had a help Purdil Kaka who used to talk in a ‘dehati’ (rustic) dialect. At a private gathering, someone asked ‘Farrukh bi, woh aapka mulazim kaise bolta hai?’ and I started extempore in his typical style. Muzaffar (Ali), who was also there, was listening to it from the balcony, and he came and offered me the role,” she said in an interview with HT.

Also Read: Age is just a number for this Bollywood diva – Happy B’day, Rekha

“It was like someone has thrown a bomb on me! Thankfully, my family is very progressive and has always supported me in whatever I have done. I liked the role and agreed to work.” Jaffar soon started to write her own dialogues for the films. During this time, she also starred in TV shows like Husn-e-Jana, Adha Gaon, The Shawl and Neem Ka Ped.

Later Works

Almost 23 years after her debut, Jaffar made a comeback to mainstream Bollywood once again. The audience might recognize her from her roles in Amma Ki Boli, Barefoot to Goa, Parched, What Will People Say, Sultan and Secret Superstar. She played memorable characters in Irrfan Khan’s The Lunchbox, Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s The Photograph, Raghubir Yadav’s Peepli Live and Shah Rukh Khan’s Swades. She has in fact worked with all the three Khans in the industry- Aamir Khan, Salman Khan and Sharukh Khan. And it doesn’t look like she is on her way to stop just yet. With her onscreen presence alongside Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurana, the actress continues to add more feathers to her cap. She is a living example that age is just a number.

Also Read: On Amitabh Bachchan’s Birthday, We Celebrate His Support For Women

Dyuti Gupta is an intern with SheThePeople.TV.