He is a veteran of Punjabi cinema - be it playing the crafty Billu Bakra of Mahaul Theek Hai, the comic PK Palta of Jihne Mera Dil Luteya or the telephone lineman of Flop Show - theatre actor BN Sharma has played all his roles to perfection.
Currently basking in the success of blockbuster hits Jatt & Juliet and Carry On Jatta, the actor talks about his long innings in Punjabi cinema and the changing face of the industry.
Recalling his journey, Sharma says, "I always knew I was cut out to be an actor, since I was actively involved with acting in plays since childhood. My father, however, didn't approve of my passion. So, I had to leave my father's house in Delhi and come to Chandigarh in 1972, where I started doing a clerical job with the police department while continuing with Punjabi theatre."
It was then that producer Surinder Sahni spotted Sharma and offered him a role in the Punjabi soap, Jeb Katre (1985), which was telecast on Jalandhar Doordarshan. "It was with Jab Katre that I started doing negative roles. After that, I did Jaspal Bhatti's popular shows, Ulta Pulta and Flop Show, in which I played negative roles with a heavy dose of comedy," says the actor who's in his late 50s.
Sharma then went on to sign Punjabi films, which also included hits such as Baisakhi and Jigra Jatt Da, besides others. As of today, Sharma has been a part of 65 Punjabi films, about which he says, "I also got offers from Bollywood and have done successful films such as Gadar Ek Prem Katha, but it was Punjabi cinema that interested me, which is why I didn't pursue my career in Bollywood."
This year, Sharma won the award for Best Actor in a Comic Role at the PTC Punjabi Film Awards. Talking about his forthcoming films, Sharma lists, "Sirphire, Raula Pae Gaya, Pinky Mogewali, Singh V/s Kaur, Tu Mera Bai-Main Tera Bai, Power Cut and Yaar Pardesi are my upcoming films.
Interestingly, I don't get villainous roles anymore. All my recent roles have a dash of comedy, and I am thoroughly enjoying this phase of my career."
Sharma has spent more than two decades in the industry and has seen Punjabi cinema go from stagnation to resuscitation. "I have been a part of Punjabi cinema when just about anybody used to sell their land and make a movie just for the heck of it, which was the reason why the industry saw that phase of stagnation.
But now, thankfully, we have talented people who are genuinely interested in cinema; we have skilled technicians, generous budgets and scripts that engage the audience," says Sharma, adding, "I have recently shot for a Punjabi film in Toronto, whose producer is from down south. From what I know, Yash Raj Films are also planning to make a foray into Punjabi films."