One of the most popular Asian actor in the United Kingdom for more than four decades, Saeed Jaffrey brought versatility to an array of film and television roles, including "The Man Who Would Be King" (1975), "The Jewel in the Crown" (ITV, 1984) and "My Beautiful Launderette" (1985). Born into a Punjabi Muslim family in Malerkotla, India on January 8, 1929, Jaffrey was the son of a physician with the Health Services of the United Provinces of British India. He developed an interest in acting at an early age, fueled in part by an appetite for Indian movies, and performed in numerous school plays. After earning both his bachelor's and master's degree from Allahbad University, Saeed relocated to New Delhi in 1951, where he worked as an English-language announcer for All India Radio. There, he met Madhur Bahadur, and began a long courtship that carried from India to England, where she traveled in 1955 to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). She refused his initial offer of marriage, after which Jaffrey traveled to the United States to study speech and drama at Catholic University of America. Madhur joined him after her graduation from RADA, and the pair married in 1958. They both studied at the Actors Studio while Jaffrey built an impressive resume of theater performances, including the original Broadway production of "A Passage to India" in 1962 - a role he would reprise in David Lean's 1985 film adaptation - and the touring production of "Brecht on Brecht" with Lotte Lenya. Jaffrey's affair with a dancer brought an end to his marriage to Bahadur, and he returned to London in 1965 to write and narrate scripts in Urdu and Hindi for the BBC. The position allowed him to appear regularly on UK television series, and he moved confidently into features with "The Guru" (1969), the second feature from director James Ivory and producer Ismail Merchant, who had initially met at Jaffrey's New York apartment in the early '60s. In 1975, Jaffrey earned his international breakout role as Billy Fish, the interpreter who aided adventurers Sean Connery and Michael Caine in "The Man Who Would Be King" (1975). The international success of the film led to major roles in features and on television, frequently playing charismatic figures which made excellent use of Jaffrey's mellifluous voice. He was a charming racketeer on "Gangsters" (BBC, 1975-1978), Vallabhbhai Patel, a founding figure in the Republic of India, in "Gandhi" (1982) and the Nawab of Mirat in "The Jewel in the Crown" (ITV, 1984). He also essayed what he called the "naughty uncle," a free-thinking, free-wheeling figure in features like "My Beautiful Launderette" (1985) and numerous Bollywood productions. By the late '80s and '90s, Jaffrey had settled into UK television roles on the sitcom "Tandoori Nights" (Channel 4, 1985-1987) and the long-running primetime soap "Coronation Street" (ITV, 1960- ), but remained a major film star in India. He was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1995 and continued to act until 2011; he suffered a brain hemorrhage on November 14, 2015 and died the following day at a London hospital, which generated tributes from acting and cultural figures around the globe.
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Made Broadway debut in "A Passage to India"
Landed first television role on "Amstrong Circle Theater"
Made international feature film debut in Merchant/Ivory's "The Guru"
Landed breakout role as Billy Fish in John Huston's "The Man Who Would Be King"
Made first appearance in an Indian film in Satyajit Ray's "The Chess Players"
Played Patel in Richard Attenborough's "Gandhi"
Landed supporting role as the Nawab of Mirat on "The Jewel in the Crown"
Cast as Uncle Nasser in "My Beautiful Launderette"
Became series regular on "Coronation Street"
Made final screen appearance in "Everywhere and Nowhere"