We all are acquainted with the stories of youngsters dejected by their poverty, moving out to City of Dreams with the intent to make it big in Bollywood. They struggle in their initial days to the extent of sleeping on a footpath, going without food on several occasions, getting rebuked from various production houses. Then one chance meeting with a bigwig of the film industry changes their destiny. Lady Luck smiles, and stardom strikes, and after that, the show continues till another successful star comes up with a similar tale. It is an endless authentic cycle.
Jamil Shah, a native of Bihar, also has had a similar experience. Hailing from a poor background, he, too, had dreams of reaching Mumbai. But interestingly, he never dreamt of becoming a star. Jamil’s only wish was to see the Bollywood stars closely and have some pictures with them. With this innocent desire as a 14-year-old teenager, he landed in Mumbai nearly two decades ago. But who knew what was in stock for him.
Today, Jamil has taken Bollywood by the toe. Yes, Bollywood now dances in his shoes. He has become a famous shoemaker who designs and manufactures dancing shoes for Bollywood celebrities.
But the journey to Mumbai was not so easy for Jamil. Before coming to Mumbai, he used to work in Delhi as a laborer. But he always longed to go to Mumbai. One fine day, he fulfilled his wish and reached his dream destination.
He wasn’t precisely skilled in the new city, so he had to settle for odd menial jobs. But everything seemed worthy to him as he started pursuing his desire to meet Bollywood stars. Unfortunately, one of his friends duped him by taking Rs. 25,000 and left for Bangalore on the pretext of arranging a meeting with Bollywood stars. This devastated Jamil. He had no other option but to reach Bangalore and search for his friend at his supposed address. Yet, he could not find him and had to stick to the IT capital with no means to go back. He worked as a security guard during his stay and did other jobs to save some money for his return journey.
Undeterred by his failures and setbacks, Jamil could make it to Mumbai once again. The driving factor was the same, to see the stars and dance with them. This time he started working in a leather accessories manufacturing unit at Dharavi.
“I always dreamt of seeing the stars with my own eyes. Dancing was also my passion. I also fancied learning a bit of English. I could not fulfill any one of them with my job at the factory,” Jamil said.
He continued his work in the leather accessories manufacturing unit, which made leather wallets and other articles.
His life took a turn when he saw a poster of choreographer Sandeep Soparrkar who imparted classes for various dances, including Latin, Italian, etc. Jamil was attracted to it and enrolled himself at Sandeep’s dance institute.
“I also wanted to get the feel of how these rich people danced at their parties. It was tough for me as I didn’t know English,” Jamil said.
Jamil displaying his range of shoes at an event
But all this did not make Jamil leave his passion for dancing, and he even performed on a dance reality show. And soon, his ultimate dream of meeting the stars came true.
“I got a call from Sandeep to visit his house with few pairs of shoes. I thought it was a routine affair and went there. But to my surprise choreographer Farah Khan, Kajol, Ameesha Patel, Sonali Bendre came by the institute. Sandeep introduced me as the one who makes dancing shoes. Everyone appreciated and soon I got orders,” Jamil narrated.
Since then, his number was passed on to many celebrities, and now he gets a routine call from them to design custom-made shoes. Today he makes shoes for most Bollywood stars, from Hrithik Roshan to Amir Khan, Varun Dhawan, Priyanka Chopra, Kangana Ranaut, Katrina Kaif, Aliya Bhat, Urvashi Rautela, Nora Fatehi, Ranveer Singh – the list is endless.
“Yes, I have now met most of them,” Jamil said with utmost happiness and content.
And not just Bollywood, Jamil is now known on an international level. His shoes have been appreciated by Shakira, who wore them during her India visit. Barbara Moore and Australian singer and actress Kylie Minogue all have been Jamil’s clients.
Now, at 40, Jamil proudly displays his pictures with celebrities wearing his shoes. His small manufacturing unit has grown with more than a dozen craftsmen, a showroom in Bandra, and his own house in Mumbai.
“I still feel that I could not study and hence I am ensuring that my two younger brothers study. I have achieved what I desired,” he concluded.
Would you like to try on Jamil’s shoes?
This story was first published in Life Beyond Numbers.