Punjabi cinema apparently can’t do without them. No wonder they figure in virtually every ‘Punjwood’ film released these days. Meet Shivendra Mahal and Harpal Singh, two seasoned actors who keep hopping from one character to another.
The two have worked together in several movies, including Jine Mera Dil Lutiya, Dharti and Yaar Annmulle (all released in 2011) and this year’s Pinki Moge Wali. Shivendra recently did a cameo in Manmohan Singh’s Ajj De Ranjhe, while Harpal made his presence felt even in a small role in Smeep Kang’s Carry On Jatta.
They both play Canada-based NRIs in Gurbir Grewal’s Saadi Wakhri Hai Shaan, set to be released on October 12. Separately, Harpal will be seen soon in Jaspal Bhatti’s Power Cut, while Shivendra is busy with Navaniat Singh’s Rangeelay (starring Jimmy Sheirgill and Neha Dhupia), among other movies.
How do they strike a balance between quantity and quality (of roles)?
The Kharar-settled Shivendra, who has been around for the past three decades, says, “I started off with a lead role in Patwari (1983) and later shuttled between heroes and villains. Of late, I have refused some NRI parts since I don’t want to be typecast. In the under-production Rangeelay, in which Jaswinder Bhalla and me play bachelor brothers, I’m trying my hand at comedy.”
Jalandhar’s Harpal, whose film career took off with Manmohan Singh’s Jee Aayan Nu (2002), says, “A decade ago, I couldn’t afford to be choosy about roles. Now, I’m in a position to be selective and prefer to reject characters which don’t challenge me as an actor.”
Both are excited about the boom Punjabi cinema is witnessing.
“Though most of the current films are youth-oriented, there are plenty of good parts for character actors,” says Shivendra, who was impressive as a scheming politician in Dharti. “Money-wise, too, things have improved considerably for us,” adds Harpal, better known as the amusing Prof Kakkar of Yaar Annmulle.
Do they get the fee they demand? “Yes, to a great extent,” Harpal says for both of them, but he hastens to add that they adopt a ‘flexible’ approach when it comes to obliging friends.
Both have rich experience of TV serials as well. While Shivendra played Lord Shiva and Parshuram in BR Chopra’s Mahabharat in the late 1980s, Harpal worked with his mentor, theatre icon Gursharan Singh, in Bhai Manna Singh during that decade.
Another thing the two actors have in common is that they are both Virgos. Talking about age, Harpal promptly says he’s 47, but Shivendra keeps us guessing with his “I’m-in-my-50s” reply.