After an explosive debut in the critically acclaimed
, Jimmy Shergill has played a romantic hero, a college student, a neglected sibling, a duty-bound army officer, a rejected lover and a power-hungry landlord to list just a few of his roles. In the capital for the launch of a new film venture, the actor chats with us over a cup of coffee at the Imperial Hotel and tells us why he enjoys being different
You made a dream debut with Gulzar’s
Maachisalmost 20 years ago. How did that happen?
I had just completed my acting classes with Roshan Taneja, but had no practical experience in filmmaking. I met Gulzar Saab with the help of some family friends, but I never thought I would get to act in the film. At the most, I thought I would assist him in direction.
Gulzar Saab told me to read the script and meet him the next day. When I did, he asked me which character I liked the best. I liked them all, but chose Jimmy because that’s my nickname too. (My name in the credits appears as Jasjit Shergill, my real name.) He told me to grow my hair and beard because I’d be playing Jimmy. It was a complete shock for me. That’s why
will always remain special.
Many other youngsters debuted at the same time either in
Mohabbatein, your second big film. How connected are you with them?
I am in touch with almost everyone who acted in
. I meet Tabu on and off and talk to her quite regularly. Chandrachur Singh has a production house, making the kind of movies he likes. He also goes back to his old school sometimes to teach. Vishal Bharadwaj who was a music director then is now doing so well as a director. Uday Chopra, who debuted in
, has a big production house in Los Angeles now.
Do you feel that you have got your due as an actor?
Many years ago, Gulzar Saab told me, ‘Never let the fate of a film become your fate. If it’s a hit, don’t lose your head. If it has not done well, don’t lose sleep over it. Just keep working.’ That’s exactly what I have done. I’m not the kind of guy to ask for favours. I pick the best of whatever is offered to me and try and portray that character honestly.
You have given some intense performances in movies such as
A Wednesday, Saheb Biwi Aur Gangsterand
Bullet Raja.Do you look at yourself as an intense actor?
It doesn’t make a difference how I look at myself. What’s important is how filmmakers look at me. They see me as a person who can pull off intense roles, so that’s why I’m offered those roles. I would love to do light-hearted films, but they must have some substance.
I’d been thinking of taking a break from intense roles which can be emotionally draining, and someone came to me with a light-hearted film. I had a great time shooting for it with Vijay Raaz and Sanjay Mishra. The film is called
Gun Pe Done
, the story of two Bollywood strugglers and it will be released soon.
I feel that sometimes in life, you have to do something that will bring you out from a certain kind of mood. Similarly, I have enjoyed doing 2-3 children’s films too. I love kids and want to do as much as possible for them. One of the film is an adventure film with a message about the environment at the end.
Then there is a film by Kunal Kohli called
. It’s a period film based on a true story. The film talks about the mill workers union strike that happened in the 80s, It’s a gangster movie, where I play a local Marathi gangster guy. I had not played such a role earlier. It was just 10-12 days work, but it was nice to learn Marathi and play the bad guy. This kind of work also relaxes you a little as you are not playing the lead protagonist here.
You have worked with some of the best directors in the industry. Is there anyone else you are keen to work with?
I want to work with Gulzar Saab again. That’s where I started from. Aditya and Uday Chopra are both very good friends and I’m 100 per cent sure that if there is something for me some day, they will call me.
You’ve been acting in Punjabi films, and producing them as well. How are they doing?
I do only one Punjabi film a year, and I have produced four Punjabi films. But I have stopped production because it is a full-time job. I can’t shoot for a Hindi film in Lucknow and also give my attention to the production of another film in Punjab. Filmmaking can stay under control even if you are not around, but at the time of release, you have to give it a lot of thought and time.
I was doing Punjabi films since 2004-2005 till 2009, when
Mel Kara De Rabba
released and Bollywood took notice. Since then, stars of Punjabi cinema have become really big. The progress has been slow but steady.
Then last year, Harry Baweja’s
released. An animation film which went up to more than double of what we have done as box office. This proves that if you make a film that people want to watch, then you surely have an audience. I have always been saying that we need to make more issue based and character driven films in Punjabi too and that’s what I keep telling the producers.
Tell us about your new Hindi film,
The film is a celebration of humanity, based on real life incidents from the Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013. It is a beautiful story. When I read the script for the first time, it brought tears to my eyes.
Why do you say Delhi is special to you?
Well, because apart from having lots of family here, it is in this city that I first met my wife Priyanka. I love Delhi in the winter. Since most of my relatives are in the Chattarpur area, I go there to enjoy the farm life, sit in the sun and enjoy some great food.
From HT Brunch, May 17
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