Had he not chosen theatre, catastrophic situations of the ’80s might have turned him into an extremist. The past 26 years of his life on a theatre stage have provided Punjab with a talent whose contribution towards art is gratifying. A half-hour conversation with theatre artiste, play director, playwright and actor Hardip Gill revives two decades of the man’s creative journey. “I’m an average happy person who doesn’t have many expectations from life. Main taan ik sidha sadha theatre da faqeer banda,” is his disclaimer to the conversation.
After doing his graduation from GNDU, Amritsar, Gill joined theatre stalwart Gursharan Bhaji in 1987. “From Punjab to Canada, America, England, London and Pakistan, I traveled all over to do plays. Later, in 1991, when Kewal Dhaliwal passed out from National School of Drama, I joined him. In one of Kewal’s direction, play Loona, written by Shiv Kumar Batalvi, I had played Raja Salwan’s character for 12 continuous years,” says Gill, who won the Best Actor award thrice for Loona by Punjabi Academy, Delhi, in 2004.
In 1998, Amritsar-based Gill started his own theatre group, The Theatre Persons, with his wife, theatre artiste Anita Devgan, that currently includes a team of 40. Besides acting and directing, Gill has also written various plays such as Sikhar Dupehare Raat, Suchi Saanjh, Damru, Balidan, Nirman Marg Chale, Kala Ilam.
Though his connection with cinema is 15 films long — including Hashar, Mitti, Sikander, Punjaban, Pooja Kiven Hai and Pata Nahi Rabb Kehdeyan Rangan Vich Raji — Gill garnered maximum appreciation for his recent National Award winning Punjabi film, Nabar, in which he assays the role of a helpless father. “Rajeev, the director the film, is a good friend. When he narrated the script and role to me, I knew the character’s importance. Neither does one come across such roles often, nor is one lucky enough to be offered such characters. So, I just gave it my best.
In fact, the beard I sported for the film was not a part of the character originally. I decided to add that shade to the father myself; it took four to five months for me to grow it. Then, I had to lose some weight for the character, which I did. What made the movie special was also the fact that all the scenes in the film are natural. Though most of the scenes required tears, I didn’t use glycerin at all. The situation of the father was so heart-wrenching that I used to end up with tears in my eyes while enacting the role. Rajeev gave me some kurta pajamas a few months prior to the shoot to get me into the character,” recalls Gill.
But, he doesn’t forget to mention that films provide only recognition. “Rangmanch rooh nu sakoon dinda… something that’s not easy to describe in words.”