Sunil Grover aka Gutthi
What’s it like playing a woman on national TV?
I was playing Gutthi in a few shows before Comedy Nights With Kapil. I always knew the character had potential. I was just waiting for a platform to showcase her. When Kapil Sharma approached me, I jumped at the opportunity. But we never realised that the show or the character would become sensations.
Who is Gutthi?
I try to get into the psyche of any character I play. I come from a small town, Dabwali, in Punjab, and even though I lived in Chandigarh for a few years, I studied and grew up in Dabwali. The place was swarming with ‘wannabe’ girls (I am always attracted to wannabes). I’d observe them all the time – girls are more interesting than boys, anyway. And they are more interesting to play than any other kind of women. Gutthi is one of them.
Gutthi, audience, audience, Gutthi, Kapil, Kapil, Gutthi … and Juice Me... have become part of people’s lingo!
I thought of introducing everyone just before I was to go on stage once, I did it the second time too. But when I missed it the third time, the audience started asking for it. So, now it’s a regular trope. When wannabe girls can’t say ‘excuse me,’ they say, ‘juice me.’
Any reservations about playing a woman?
I am an actor. It’s my job to play different characters. Sunil is part of Gutthi and Gutthi is Sunil. Gutthi sleeps with Sunil every day, she goes to the bathroom with him, they bathe together. I am not insecure about Gutthi. That’s how it is.
Gutthi has a Facebook page dedicated to her. When did you realise she had hit the jackpot?
Only when I went to the finale of Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa Season 6. That was the first time I’d moved out of our set, and the moment I entered, the audience and participants started screaming. There was a frenzy after I did my ‘Gutthi, Hrithik, Hrithik, audience’ introduction, and everyone was waiting for what Gutthi would say next.
You have to love women to play one so well!
I think of them all the time. They are more interesting than men, more appealing and warm. I believe that women are meant to rule over men. Men won’t even bathe or dress up if women aren’t around. Also, we always say, ‘meri maa kehti thi’, but never ‘my father would say’. The basic software in all of us has been installed by a woman. Baaki aur mat bulwao, kuch luchi baatein bhi nikal jayengi!
How long does Sunil take to dress up as Gutthi?
Gutthi takes 20 minutes to half an hour. Sunil takes a lot more time because unlike Gutthi, I need to be aesthetically just right – the creases in my pants, the right combination – and that takes time.
What has been your family’s reaction?
They have suddenly become very busy. All my relatives and their friends want to meet me, so they keep calling my family. My family is like, additional pressure ho gaya hai tumhari wajah se. It’s funny but people recognise me as Sunil too. I went to a chemist recently and there was this old couple, and they recognised me and wanted a picture. I asked the man if I could keep my hand on his wife’s shoulder, and he said, ‘Aap to family hain’. Isn’t that adorable?
Strappy kameezes, ribbons… do girls in small towns dress like that?
Wannabe girls usually wear sports shoes with anything, even suits. They pick things from other people, but don’t know how to carry them off. And that’s what makes Gutthi fun and adorable. Even the introduction that I do, I remember a girl in Dabwali doing it. The team and I decide Gutthi’s clothes together, based on the theme of the episode. Since Ranbir Kapoor is young and unattached, I dressed up as a bride in that episode. To attract Anil Kapoor, I dressed as Madhuri Dixit.
Ali Asgar aka Dadi
You were hesitant to play a woman…
When I was offered this role, I had just decided to stop playing female characters, as I was playing them so regularly. But in life you have a plan, but life turns out to be something else. More than me, my children were starting to point out, ‘Why aren’t you doing something else?’ At one time, when I was doing Comedy Circus, I played a female character in 14 out of 17 episodes in that season – saas, bahu, gaonwali. When I resisted, the writers said, ‘bhai, you do it so well’. So there I was! And then I was doing it everywhere. As an actor, I was enjoying it as I was getting to play many roles, but I was certainly getting typecast. Plus, my family didn’t like it. I had decided that even if I stop getting work, it’s fine, but I won’t play a woman any more.
You did start playing the lead in Jeannie Aur Juju...
That helped. But a lead character is restrictive. Salman Khan can do comedy as well as Johnny Lever but he’s restricted because he’s a hero. I was feeling constrained, so when the offer to play Dadi came, I took it. I figured, it’s just 26 episodes, so it will get over quickly. I never realised it would become a hit from the first episode. In my 25 years of acting, I have never seen anything become an overnight hit. Even Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki, in which I acted, didn’t click with the audience immediately.
Dadi loves her drinks, likes to flirt. A dadi made in heaven, isn’t she?
I was just told to play a grandmother. Subtle or loud – I wasn’t given any specific brief. But I was tired of seeing grandmothers in movies and serials jo sirf ‘potey ka muh dekhne ke liye zinda hai’ and ‘tijori ki chabi de kar marengi’. No, no, this dadi will live her bonus life fully. She will drink, flirt and do full aish. She will enjoy every moment of her life. Even if her knees are gone, she will dance. I wanted to make her zinda dil and alive.
Is your grandmother like that?
No. My maasi is (except for the flirty bit). She’s not as old as the Dadi I play, but she’s just as zinda dil. I try and emulate her harkats.
Dadi is a household name today.
I know. But between shooting for a daily and Comedy Nights… I don’t get time to even enjoy the success. At one time, I was at a traffic light, and people got me out of the car, and asked me to do the Dadi step. I was scared, but I realised Dadi’s popularity.
How tough or easy is it to play a woman?
Acting is acting, whether you play a woman, child or any other character as a man. For every role, I think, what would that person do and how would she/he react? Of course, I am no Aamir Khan, I don’t wear a sari at home and walk in a salwar suit all day to get into the skin of the role. But it’s more spontaneous, and that’s the fun part. If you give me heels to wear, I wouldn’t know how I’d walk in them, so I would ad lib and that odd bit would create fun and humour.
Are your children still unhappy about you playing a woman?
No. Thankfully, they haven’t reacted negatively to me playing a female character this time, that too of a Dadi. Their teacher tells them, ‘your father’s doing good work’. So, I am safe.
The famous Dadi step…
Is the break-dance step. This is the one Western dance move old-timers know, and the only one I know.
Quick Change Artists On The Big Screen
Men playing women on Indian TV is turning out to be a successful gimmick, but Bollywood has always had actors who shaved their legs, put on wigs, slapped kilos of foundation to cover their six-‘o’-clock stubble and sashayed around in saris and skirts. Some women, er, men that we remember:
Kamal Haasan in Chachi 420
Played Laxmibai Godbole, a middle-aged Maharashtrian woman, complete with bordered saris, bindi, sindoor. He was so convincing that some innocent souls in the audience didn’t even realise Chachi was actually a man! The highly professional make-up was a first for Bollywood.
Amitabh Bachchan in Lawaaris
Bachchan disguises himself as different kinds of women – tall, short, dark and fat – in the song Mere angne mein, tumhara kya kaam hai. But there was never any doubt that it was the Big B playing all the women – a true drag act.
Aamir Khan in Baazi
Played an inspector who goes undercover as a sexy woman while investigating a case. He also did a sizzling item number (Dole dil dole) in a bar. Aamir waxed his chest and legs for the song, to fit into the revealing black dress, with its thigh-high slit.
Riteish Deshmukh in Apna Sapna Money Money
Riteish plays a conman, who dupes people by getting into different disguises. He brought all the Bollywood-style thumkas and nakhras to his performance when he disguised himself as a woman. (Actor Chunky Pandey commented on how attractive he looked).
Govinda in Aunty No. 1
He pretended to be a fake maharani, and had two men falling in love with him. Govinda looked like a drag queen, but being Govinda, he could pull it off with fabulous comic timing. (You could spot the stubble in some scenes!)
Shreyas Talpade in Paying Guest
Three friends can stay as paying guests only if they are married (the oldest cliché in a Bollywood comedy), so Shreyas plays the wife – and very convincingly too – to one of his friends. He wore sarees so beautifully that apparently his own wife couldn’t recognise him! Shreyas said that it took him hours to get ready and that he finally understood what it felt like to be a woman.
Rishi Kapoor in Rafoo Chakkar
Rishi witnesses a murder and is chased by the killers. To escape from them, he disguises himself as a young girl. He was as fashionable as Neetu Singh, in his mini skirts, leggings, and artificial cleavage.
From HT Brunch, November 3
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