Jimmy Sheirgill is as honest off-screen as he has been towards his several memorable characters on-screen. There’s certain conviction in each word that he utters that lacks any sort of animation.
The actor with guy-next-door looks has dabbled in a variety of genres, from romance to action, thriller to comedies, in the last 20 years of his career. However, many still feel that the talented actor has not got his due. In this interview, Sheirgill talks about his long journey, lessons, passion for Punjabi cinema and why he didn’t inherit ‘arty’ talent of his iconic grandmother Amrita Sheirgill. Excerpts:
The joke that Jimmy Sheirgill doesn’t get the girl in his films finally ended with your latest movie Yeh Toh Two Much Ho Gayaa.
(Laughs) Some of my recent films where I didn’t get the girl were shot around the same time. So it turned out to be a marketing gimmick organically. In fact, the makers of Happy Bhag Jayegi played along this trick starting from the trailers where my brideto- be runs away on the day of marriage. But we knew this joke would come to an end with Yeh Toh Two Much Ho Gayaa in which I finally get the girl! Plus it’s an actionpacked film that I’ve done after a long time since 2011, due to a back problem.
Unlike any other Bollywood star, you have been committed to Punjabi cinema religiously. You also joined hands with Eros International to produce movies. What draws you to regional cinema?
I was introduced to Punjabi cinema by Manmohan Singh ji in 2005 with his movie Yaaran Naal Baharan. I have known him since the beginning of my career. He was the cinematographer for Maachis and Mohabbatein. With Yaaran Naal Baharaan, I got to spend time in Chandigarh and Himachal Pradesh and be closer to the regions I have grown up around. So I developed an emotional bonding with Punjabi Cinema. This film was also a watershed moment in Punjab with the audiences returning to the region’s cinema. Then I decided to do at least one Punjabi film every year. Since 2011, I have been producing films too in collaboration with other production houses.
How’s content faring now in Punjab?
It has gotten really good in the last two years in terms of content as well as business. There have been some good indie movies too which have lured the audiences. I think things took a turnaround with Mel Karade Rabba which was a sweeping hit at the box office. The movie created several records worldwide, even outnumbering several Bollywood movies that released around the same time. What is possibly lacking in that region is a governing body to support cinema, like we have in Bollywood. It helps get things organised.
You’re completing 20 years in the film industry. How has the journey been?
It’s been a satisfying ride. With time, one commits mistakes and learns from them. A lot of times we get excited by the scripts but when we look at the final output, or even in the middle of the shooting, we realise it is not what it was set out to be. In the last two decades, I have worked with some of the most talented actors and film-makers of the industry. I started with Maachis, where I had the opportunity to work with Gulzar sahab. But the real ‘film awakening’ happened with Yash Raj Films’ Mohabbatein. It is then when I learnt the details involved in the process of film-making; the way scripts are chalked out, movies go on floor, the importance of production values, et al. Besides the technicalities, I got to work with icons like Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai. I am also glad to be a part of content-driven movies like Haasil, A Wednesday, Munna Bhai series, and both parts of Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster and Tanu Weds Manu.
You are a descendant of iconic painter Amrita Sheirgill. Do you paint as well?
No, I don’t paint. My father is a sculptor and collector. Our house has many of his pieces but I have not inherited this knack of painting from my family.
What do you like to read?
Scripts… I don’t have time to read books but I love reading scripts (chuckles). I have a huge pile of scripts collected in the last six months. Since I am a student of cinema, I love understanding the ideation of stories and how they are chronicled on the screen. I don’t like narration and generally ask for hardbound copies of the scripts.
Your characters have mostly stood out in multi-starrer films. How do you choose these scripts?
It happens because of my commitment to my job. Even if there are ten seconds to perform, I take my work really seriously. Your performance is ultimately a reflection of your sincerity towards your movie. Like in Bang Bang, my appearance is very short, but it still required a lot of effort as that one scene covered many locations.
Your fans think you haven’t got your due in the industry. Do you think so?
I take it as a huge compliment. At least people do not criticise me saying, ‘Hero banta hain, acting aati nahi’ (He is a hero with no acting skills). I take my job really seriously and don’t wish to let my fans down.
Any special memories with Railways?
Indian Railways has been a part of my life since childhood. We would take trains to commute to different cities. Initially, to travel to Bombay and back, I usually used to go by a Rajdhani until and unless there was urgency and only then I would take a flight. Recently, I have wanted to travel in Konkan Railways from Mumbai to Goa. I have heard it’s really mesmerising as it passes through amazing coastal lines and picturesque landscapes.
Text: Karan Bhardwaj