Film director Gurbir Singh Grewal is an adventurer to the core. "I never repeat a mistake. I make a new one every time," he quips. His upcoming Punjabi film, Saadi Wakhri Hai Shaan, scheduled to release worldwide on October 12, is another adventure in his chequered career.
He claims it's a 'wakhri' (different) film, poles apart from the rom-coms and sitcoms of contemporary Punjabi cinema. "It is a complete entertainer with a social message, having all the nine rasas that characterise a classic work of art," says the 59-year-old, without spilling the beans.
According to Grewal, the film owes its freshness and verve to the fact that its producer-writer-lyricist Inder Roop Ghuman (a qualified doctor) and music director Dilpreet Bhatia (a qualified computer engineer) are both passionate first-timers. Most of the actors are also young and not-so-experienced, including Sangram Singh and Mandy Takhar. "Saadi Wakhri Hai Shaan is about pursuing and realising one's dreams. That also sums up the story of the people behind the film," he explains.
Grewal feels that the public doesn't go to watch Punjabi movies just for laughs. His first feature film, Jimmy Sheirgill starrer Mannat (2006), narrated a tragic story set against the backdrop of terrorism. And yet, it was appreciated by both the masses and the classes. It took Grewal eight years to find a producer for Mannat. "It's tough to get financial backing for offbeat, meaningful films. I was lucky that Anuradha Prasad of BAG Films took the risk of funding my venture."
Not many know that Grewal has several acclaimed TV serials to his credit, such as Neem Ka Ped (1991), which had Pankaj Kapoor in the central role, and Eho Hamara Jeevna (late 1980s), based on Dalip Kaur Tiwana's classic novel.
Grewal's film journey has been anything but smooth. Hailing from Raikot (Ludhiana), he did BSc in physics from Delhi University. Bitten by the film bug, he went to the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune, from where he completed a course in sound recording in 1975. He did government jobs for a decade or so, but his heart lay behind the camera. Eventually, he quit as director of Films Division, New Delhi, in 1986, and started making TV serials and documentaries.
Post Mannat, he directed a 'hatke' Hindi movie, Coffee House (2009), with Ashutosh Rana and Sakshi Tanwar (Priya of TV serial Bade Achhe Lagte Hain) in the lead roles. The film, which featured a wide range of characters whose meeting point is a coffee house, had the distinction of being screened in the Indian Panorama category at the Cannes film festival.
His recent Punjabi venture, Yaar Pardesi, starring Gurpreet Ghuggi and Claudia Ciesla (a Big Boss-3 participant), failed at the box office. "Besides being the director and writer, I was also a co-producer. There was nothing wrong with the movie, but I failed to handle the nitty-gritty of promotion, distribution and release," he says candidly.
However, Yaar Pardesi is now history for the Patiala-based Grewal, who takes success as well as failure in his stride. And no matter what its fate will be, Saadi Wakhri Hai Shaan is a gamble he's proud of.