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“The audience tends to stereotype you no matter how differently you approach a character” – Jimmy Sheirgill

He is one of the most versatile actors to have worked in the Hindi film industry and one of the most popular faces in Punjabi cinema. Ever since he made his debut in Gulzar’s ‘Maachis’ in 1996, Jimmy Sheirgill has proved his mettle as an actor time and again by delivering memorable performances in several films across different genres. In this exclusive interview, the actor talks about his new film ‘Family Of Thakurganj’, striking a balance between doing films in Hindi and Punjabi cinema, being more active as a producer, the desire to work with Gulzar again and collaborating with Aanand L Rai on a thriller like ‘Strangers’.

Actors often get stereotyped in a particular image. That has never happened with you.

I am glad I got to play a variety of characters in my career but I think the audience tends to stereotype you no matter how differently you approach a character. People have been comparing the character that I am playing in ‘Family Of Thakurganj’ to my character in the ‘Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster’ series and in the two ‘Tanu Weds Manu’ films even though there are no similarities as such. They have not seen the film but they are making this assumption based on the trailer. The only similarity is that probably this one, too, is a dialogue-heavy film. As the audience is extremely observant, as actors we have to make sure each role comes across as different from the other. If people like a particular performance, they remember even the names of the characters. They remember Karan from ‘Mohabbatein’, Raja Awasthi from the ‘Tanu Weds Manu’ series. This is a commercial film but at the same time, it is set in a realistic space.

You have been one of the biggest stars in the Punjabi film industry and yet, we do not see you doing enough films there.

I have always been selective about doing Punjabi films. I do one film every year or in 16-17 months. This year, I got a little late due to my commitments in Mumbai. My last Punjabi release was in June last year. We have almost locked the script of the next film and we will start shooting in September.

Is there a particular reason why you are selective about doing Punjabi films?

The thing is that I am working in two different industries at the same time and it gets difficult to manage my schedule at times. Every year, I reserve 2-3 months to do cameos for my friends in Mumbai (laughs). I have done a cameo in ‘Judgementall Hai Kya’ too. Shailesh R Singh (producer) is a friend of mine and I have worked with him in ‘Tanu Weds Manu’ and ‘Madaari’.

A lot of these smaller parts have also got a lot of attention. The role you played in ‘De De Pyaar De’ recently, too, got a lot of appreciation.

Yes, I got a lot of appreciation for the role and I had a great time shooting for the film as well. As an actor, it is my duty to do complete justice to a role that I have been assigned to play. I try to do my best regardless of the length of the role.

You have produced a couple of Punjabi films in the past. Would you like to produce Hindi films as well?

Yes, I would love to produce a Hindi film. In the recent past, I have been busy with a lot of projects as an actor, so I did not get enough time to develop a project as a producer. Hopefully, I will produce a Punjabi film next year and then, get into producing Hindi films as well.

You started your career with ‘Maachis’ which was directed by Gulzar. How was the experience of working with a legend like him in your very first film?

I always say this that I could not have asked for a better. To get to be directed by someone like Gulzar saab and getting the opportunity to play a complex, layered character in your first film was no less than a blessing. Even though he has not made a film in a long time, I hope he directs a film again and I get the opportunity to work with him.

Do you think you have got due as an actor?

I do not really think very deeply about these things. I would not be in this profession if it did not make me happy. I am grateful for all the opportunities I have got so far.

Your character from the ‘Tanu Weds Manu’ series is one of the most popular you have played so far. You first worked with Aanand L Rai in his debut film ‘Strangers’.  It would be interesting to see the two of you collaborate on a film in that space again.

I would love to do a film like ‘Strangers’ with him again. Please ask him to make something like that again and cast me in it.

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