From being condiments that enhance the flavour of the dish (in this case films), these artists now find themselves amongst the main ingredients. No longer ‘supporting actors’, comedians are a dependable lot for Punjabi filmmakers — who know that their punch lines, signature gestures and facial nuances will prove foolproof in drawing audiences to theatres — even when all else fails. Meet the six new ‘heroes’ of Punjabi cinema, whose jokes and trademark styles are the most liked entities on entertainment portals and social networking sites.
Professor of comedy
Born in Doraha, district Ludhiana, 53-year-old Jaswinder Bhalla is a PhD in agricultural science. He currently serves as a professor in Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, and an actor in Punjabi films.But, his brush with acting wasn’t by fluke, Bhalla tells us. As a student, he would perform comedy skits that would be staged at universities across the state. His professional innings, however, started in 1988 when Bhalla portrayed the role of Chacha Chatur Singh in an audio-video skit called Chhankata, along with co-actor Bal Mukund Sharma. The popularity of the series — 27 in all — was so high that it continued to be made until 2009.
Now that there are an increasing number of Punjabi films being made, the comedian says he is especially choosy in selecting roles. "I always pick roles after ascertaining the character that I am offered. I also make it a point to discuss in detail with the director, the kind of comedy and dialogues he or she demands from me and which I will essay on screen, because I am strictly against cheap and vulgar comedy. I endorse visuals and dialogues that can be enjoyed by an entire family together," he says.
Recent films: Apart from the character of Chatur Singh, an old villager, that Bhalla got to play for over two decades, he has been seen in almost every film made in the region in the last two years, from Carry on Jatta, in which he played Advocate Dhillon, to Mel Karade Rabba, Jihne Mera Dil Luteya, Jatt & Juliet, Daddy Cool Munde Fool, Lucky Di Unlucky Story and Jatt & Juliet 2.
Say it right: ‘Advocate Dhillon ne kala coat avein nai paa leya’, Bhalla would say in last year’s laugh riot Carry on Jatta. But, he has other dialogues that he finds equally hilarious, including ‘Saada patola sathon oala’ (Mel Kara De Rabba) and ‘Je Chandigarh dhai ju, pinda warga ta reh ju’ (Jatt & Juliet).
Upcoming projects: Viyah 70 Km, Chak De Phatte 2, Carry On Jatta 2, Asi Pendu Ni Dilan De Maare and R.S.V.P Bollywood calling: “I am getting offers from Bollywood for films, serials and TV reality shows, but they are under consideration since my hands are full with Punjabi film assignments.”
Humour in uniform
Delhi-born and brought up BN Sharma’s tryst with acting is so fascinating, it could inspire a film’s script. Ever since he was a child, he says, he would be eager to participate in school plays, compose tunes or play the flute bought from a street vendor. These were tiny gestures that point towards his love for art, Sharma would like to believe. When in school, he participated in a play called Haji Pir Di Mazar and earned a gold medal for his act. But, upon his return home, he was scolded by his father for taking part in a play. When convinced that his love for acting would remain the bone of contention between his parents and him, he left home and shifted base to Chandigarh in 1976.
In City Beautiful, Sharma enrolled in the police service as a constable, where he served for 25 years. While still in service, Sharma turned his attention to theatre. In 1985, he was offered a negative role in the TV serial Jeb Katre, aired on Jalandhar Doordarshan. After that, he worked with Late Jaspal Bhatti in his hugely popular TV shows Flop Show and Ulta Pulta, followed by a film, Mahaul Theek Hai, in which he played Billu Bakra, a character name he continues to remain synonymous with.
From his first Punjabi film Baisakhi, Sharma has come a long way, having done almost 80 films so far. More recently, he’s being referred to as ‘Shampy da daddy’, a character he played in Jatt & Juliet and its sequel. The actor says, “For me, 2011 film Jihne Mera Dil Luteya was the game changer. After having done the film, I turned into a full-time comedian.”Sharma says his criteria of picking projects are simple. "I pick films that challenge me as an actor. At this stage of my career, I want to be experimental."
Recent films: Jihne Mera Dil Luteya (2011); Pata Nai Rabb Kehdeyan Rangan Ch Raazi, Taur Mittran Di, Mirza — The Untold Story, Pinky Moge Wali, Jatt & Juliet, Carry on Jatta, Burrraahh (2012); Singh Vs Kaur and Jatt & Juliet 2 (2013)
Say it right: “I like to stamp my individuality on every character that I play. For instance, in the film Jihne Mera Dil Luteya, I added the phrase ‘Kade Vi Nai’ at the end of every sentence. And, I said it in a way that made the audiences love it. But, my most famous dialogue has been, ‘PK Palta ta kade peekey nai paltaya,’ from Jihne Mera Dil Luteya.”
Upcoming projects: Fer Mamla Gadbad Gadbad (release on July 12), Naughty Jatts, Jatt Airways and nine other films are lined up for release.
Bollywood calling: “Though I have done some Hindi films such as Gadar—Ek Prem Katha and Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Sathiyo, at this stage of my career I am not interested in doing Hindi films. Now that Bollywood actors such as Akshay Kumar and Jackie Shroff are stepping in Pollywood, why should we dream of Bollywood?”
Comedian in the lead
Gurpreet Ghuggi, 41, is from the relatively recent crop of funny men produced by Punjabi cinema. Born in Khokhar Fojian, district Gurdaspur, Ghuggi, who considers Chacha Raunki Ram (known as Punjab’s father of stand-up comedy) as his mentor, began his career with tele-films and TV shows aired on Jalandhar Doordarshan. His first hit television show was Ghuggi Express, aired on Zee Alpha Punjabi, that was scripted by him. Recently, he was seen in comedy reality show The Great Indian Laughter Challenge that marked his first big stint on national TV. He also participated along with his wife Kuljit Kaur in reality show Hans Baliye, where they emerged winners.
Though he has done numerous Punjabi films, Ghuggi is perhaps the only actor from the region with the most Hindi films to his credit, having been seen in Namastey London, Race, Speedy Singhs and Khiladi 786. “I got deluged with film offers after the success of Carry on Jatta. But, I am now selective about my work and have decided to do only two or three films a year. I pick roles that offer me the scope to practise clean comedy,” he says.Of late, Ghuggi has played parallel leads in Punjabi films including Jatts in Golmaal and Carry on Jatta. He is now focussed on his home production, upcoming film Paaji in Trouble, produced by his banner Round Square Production in association with Grazing Goats Picture (Akshay Kumar’s production).
Recent films: Carry on Jatta, Yaar Pardesi and Ajj De Ranjhe (2012); Lucky Di Unlucky Story and Jatts in Golmaal (2013)
Say it right: “I avoid adopting a signature style because despite it being the easiest way of making audiences laugh, also reflects on an actor’s laziness in reinventing himself,” says Ghuggi. However, he does have a few favourites, including the character he played in the film Munde UK De (2009). “I played a UK-born and brought up boy and the kind of comedy I performed in that film remains closest to my heart.” On the other hand, the most difficult role of his career, the actor points out, was playing both father and son in the film Jag Jeondeyan De Mele (2009).
Upcoming projects: Heer & Hero and Paaji in Trouble. Three more of his films are going on the floors soon.
Bollywood calling: “Working in Bollywood is very time consuming since they need almost 160 days at a stretch from an actor. However, one Punjabi film gets completed in about 40 days. But, though I prefer to work in Punjabi films, I might do a Hindi film soon.”
If gestures could kill
From being a bhangra dancer, Binnu Dhillon, 37, found his way into TV and later films. Introduced to acting by writer-director Gurbir Singh Grewal, Binnu made his debut in TV with the serial Parchhawain in 1998 and went on to do a dozen soaps such as Jugnu Hazir Hai and Jugnu Mast Mast.
In fact, Binnu boasts of ample variety in his job profile. From tele-films such as Khara Dudh and Khich Ghuggi Khich, he has done commercially successful Hindi films like Shaheed-e-Azam and Dev D, apart from almost every Punjabi film made in the last two years.
In 2010, Binnu ventured into theatre and directed a play, Naughty Baba in Town, which was staged in the US, Canada and Australia besides India. But, it was Carry on Jatta that propelled him to fame. “Carry on Jatta was the film that changed my career graph. People liked every dialogue and
gesture of mine in it. Earlier, I had mostly done negative roles which were also appreciated. In the film Munde UK De, I played a grey character with a comic touch, which was the most challenging,”
Recent films: Mel Karade Rabba (2010); Jihne Mera Dil Luteya and Dharti (2011); Mirza — The Untold Story, Taur Mittran Di and Carry on Jatta (2012); Tu Mera 22 Main Tera 22, Singh Vs Kaur, Lucky Di Unlucky Story, Rangeelay and Jatts in Golmaal (2013)
Say it right: “More than the dialogues, my hand gestures in Carry on Jatta made me famous. Many online entertainment sites such as Troll Punjabi are using my photos along with my now famous hand gesture as their profile pictures and numerous jokes on Facebook are based on the same.”
Upcoming projects: “I am ready with the script of my second play, Carry on Babeyo, which will be directed by me. I also have Naughty Jatts, Best of Luck, Viyah 70 Km and Jatt Airways lined up for release.”
Bollywood calling: “I am getting Hindi film offers, but haven’t decided anything yet. I want to be sure of what is right for me at this stage. I am also being approached to do comedy reality shows on TV, but then they demand a lot of time, which I don’t have.”
On a song
Singer-turned-actor Karamjeet Anmol hails from Gandhuan, a village in district Sangrur. From performing with his school friend, comedian-politician Bhagwant Mann in shows such as Jugnu Kehnda Hai, Jugnu Mast Mast and Jugnu Hazir Hai (for which he was also the playback singer) Karamjeet graduated to doing films — his first being Chak Jawana in 2010 with singer-actor Gurdas Maan.
The actor has been a part of many recent Punjabi hits such as Jihne Mera Dil Luteya, Carry on Jatta and Jatt & Juliet; Hindi film Dev D and a Hollywood production named West is West."My character of Karma in Jihne Mera Dil Luteya was highly appreciated by the audiences. Then came Natha in Jatt & Juliet and Taji in Carry on Jatta, both of which garnered acclaim," the actor recounts. He now chooses films depending upon the role offered to him, so that there is something different portrayed each time, he says.
Recent films: Jatt & Juliet, Carry on Jatta (both 2012), Jatts in Golmaal (2013)
Say it right: “All the characters that I played so far had different styles. But, in Jihne Mera Dil Luteya my character Karma had this signature style of adding ‘Hud Hud Dabaang’ before speaking anything. I think that caught the audiences’ attention the most.”
Upcoming projects: My upcoming projects are Paaji in Trouble, Best of Luck, Mighty Jatts, Punjab Bolda, Fer Mamla Gadbad Gadbad, Jatt Airways and Putt Jattan De—Jatt Boys.
Bollywood calling: “I haven’t got any Hindi film offer so far. But, I am very happy doing Punjabi films and have my hands full with them.”
Small package, high volt
Born in Dhuri, district Sangrur, Rana Ranbir is based in Patiala. Though an integral part of Punjabi cinema, the actor owes allegiance to theatre, to which his loyalty is unshakeable. A master’s in theatre and television, Rana was awarded a gold medal for his play, Mitti Da Moh. He has also adapted and directed many plays, Aala Afsar being his maiden project. His first solo performance on stage was based on a story by Punjabi writer Paash, which had been translated
The actor was introduced to TV by Gurbir Singh Grewal, where he was first seen in the show Parchhawain. He went on to be a part of many television productions including Loha Kutt, Mirza Sahiban and Kehar Singh Di Maut.Rana’s first Punjabi film was Dil Apna Punjabi, followed by anchoring a popular road show called Excuse Me Please, which happened to be written by him. He then turned scriptwriter for Punjabi films including Munde UK De, Ik Kudi Punjab Di, Kabaddi—Ik Mohabbat and Ajj De Ranjhe. The actor even has to his credit a book of Punjabi poetry, titled Kin Min Tip Tip.
Rana considers his character of Lakad Chab in the film Dil Apna Punjabi as his claim to fame. "It made the audiences wake up to an actor called Rana Ranbir," he says, adding, "Of course, Shampy in Jatt & Juliet and its sequel has brought unparalleled fame to me."
Recent films: Taur Mittran Di, Jatt & Juliet, Carry on Jatta (2012); Bikkar Bai Senti Mental, Lucky Di Unlucky Story, Rangeelay, Daddy Cool Munde Fool and Jatt & Juliet 2 (2013)
Say it right: “My favourite dialogues have to be from my films Jatt and Juliet and its sequel, in which I played Shampy.”
Upcoming projects: Sada Jawai NRI, Carry on Jatta 2 and Nabar, a National Award winning film, which is to be released in September. “I am particularly excited about my role in Nabar, where I play a struggling theatre actor,” says Rana.
Bollywood calling: “I have done a small cameo in Hindi film Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya, directed by Mandeep Kumar. Right now, I am not doing any Bollywood project. Also, I feel that the Punjabi industry has a lot to offer. I was offered to do reality show Comedy Circus, but that kind of comedy didn’t suit my taste,” he says.