"Not too many people offer me light-hearted or comedy films. It's just some very close people who know me, offer me such roles." I would be lying if I say that I wasn't surprised when Jimmy Sheirgill made this revelation when I recently caught up with him. He's the same man who provided us with hearty laughs with his impeccable comic timing in films like Tanu Weds Manu, Tanu Weds Manu Returns, Happy Bhag Jayegi to name a few.
As our conversation moves ahead, I slowly realize that the actor's slow and steady journey in filmdom has a charm of its own. His films may or may not have raked in big moolah at the box office, but it's the actor's conviction in himself which has kept him relevant right from the first time when he appeared on screen, as a lanky lad with long hair and a middle parting in Gulzar's 1996 film Maachis.
Here's Filmibeat in an exclusive tete-a-tete with Jimmy Sheirgill where he speaks about his approach towards acting, clocking 25 years in Bollywood, his dream role and much more. Over to the man.
'I Have Always Done Everything With Utmost Honesty And Sincerity'
Q. To begin with Jimmy, it looks like you and cop roles go hand and hand. In the past, you have played one in films like Traffic and Madaari. Of course, every cop character that you played in the past had its own set of quirks and you always had something new to offer. When it comes to your upcoming film Collar Bomb, this time you are essaying a celebrated cop with a history. What was that thing about this role which made you say 'yes' to it?
A. This time, majorly it was the story. I thought that it was a nice thriller with a race against time kind of a situation. Obviously, the next thing was that my character is a cop and how we are going to make it different from what we had done it before. Luckily for me, the director and his entire team worked on a lot of details as far as this character was concerned which made it different. We tried that on the performance aspect as well. Let's hope that when the film releases on July 9, people will see the difference and like it.
Q. You have always mentioned that you share a great bond with the directors with whom you have worked with in the past, and there's always an emotional connect with them. Filmmaking is a collaborative process and it's important for the director and actor to be on the same page. This is the first time you are teaming up with director Dyanesh Zoting. Do you feel he brought a different side to you as an actor?
A. Absolutely, I think each director has his own way of looking at his characters. and that's the reason why I personally try to understand how a particular character is conceived, what's going on in their mind and what are their mannerisms. Somehow, I think this always helps in bringing something new to the table.
Q. There are some actors who don't read or rehearse their scenes because they believe it takes away the spontaneity of the character which they play. On the other hand, there are others who believe in coming to the sets all well-prepared. When it comes approaching your roles, which one out of these do you fall into?
A. I don't follow a set pattern. There are times when I would not want to be prepared for a particular scene and then there are times, most of the times, where I would like to be prepared for a scene. So, I don't have any set mantras. It all depends on the script and what kind of scene it is. That's the time when I decide how I want to approach it.
Q. You had once said that you started picking up strong roles because you realized that the shelf life of a lover boy was not long. Over a period of time, the audience too realized that there's more to Jimmy Sheirgill with the kind of roles which you picked up with films like Haasil, Munna Bhai MBBS, Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster and others. Nevertheless, you often hear people describing you an underrated actor. How do you react to it?
A. I take it as a compliment when somebody says that you are an underrated actor or someone who has not got his due. I feel that's a huge compliment for me.
Q. The biggest fear for an actor is how to stay relevant in the industry. You will be completing 25 years in the film industry in October this year. When you reflect back at your journey and the kind of roles in your filmography, are you satisfied with how things shaped up for you or are there moments where you wish that this could have turned out to be a little better?
A. No, I don't think I give much importance to these things because there's no use thinking so much about it. It's only going to trouble you. I think everyone is destined to have whatever they are destined to have and whenever they are destined to have it (laughs). Sometimes you get things easily, sometimes it takes time. I am very thankful to God for what he has given me. I have always gone ahead with times and done everything with utmost honesty and sincerity. I just look at the future. As long as the work keeps coming, I will keep working honestly and sincerely with the best of my ability. That's what is important for me.
'Never In My Wildest Dreams Had I Thought That I Would Get A Great Response For My Scene In Bang Bang'
Q. Every actor has a defining moment in his career when he/she realizes his potential. Which one was that for you where you completely surprised yourself?
A. That happened with me when I did a scene for Hrithik Roshan's Bang Bang. I knew the film's director Siddharth Anand for a very long time as a friend. He said that he wanted me to do a scene for that film. At that time, I was working on something else. It was speculated in the media that the makers wanted a particular look. I had longer hair and I told Siddharth that it wouldn't be possible for me to do Bang Bang as I had never done something with long hair, and that too an army officer's role. Somehow, he worked it out. I did that role and just thought that I had done it for a friend and moved on. I was doing some other stuff and suddenly that film released. The kind of response I received for that film shocked me because I never expected it, that too for just that one scene. Never in my wildest dreams had I thought I would get a great response for it!
'My Dream Role Keeps Changing'
Q. I was recently talking to Delhi Belly director Abhinay Deo and he told me that it's important for every creative person to hit the reset button to reinvent yourself. Speaking about you, you act and produce both, Hindi and Punjabi films which isn't easy feat. How do you replenish yourself because you are constantly on your toes when you do both these jobs?
A. For me, since the very beginning, I have basically done one movie which could have been like an intense film to doing some cop roles which is intense in its own way but not really draining like the other one. Suddenly after doing two-three films like that, I realized that I need to look for something light-hearted now. It's then when I have grabbed something like Happy Bhag Jayegi and then gone on like a holiday where I just had fun, rehearsed the lines and laughed with the director saying, 'Sir, go all out and ekdum slapstick karo." I am just having fun. That kind of shows on screen and people say, 'Arey arey kya kar raha hai.' Sometimes, you have that faith and enjoy doing light-hearted films. Then, I also had my Punjabi comedies where, too I had just gone and had fun. And then after doing all this, you get back to doing intense films. Not too many people offer me light-hearted or comedy films. It's just some very close people who know me, offer me such roles. That's why I have done films like Tanu Weds Manu or Happy Bhag Jayegi. These directors feel that I have a flair for comedy.
Q. After completing 25 years in the film industry, do you still have a dream role as such in your mind?
A. (pauses) Dream role..uhh I don't know ya. My dream roles keep changing (laughs). I try to challenge myself as an actor with every role that's offered to me. Speaking about my dream role, I really want to do a nice, relevant kind of comedy which besides the humour, also has a nice story to it rather than just slapstick or whatever. Some kind of light-hearted breezy role which I will enjoy doing and at the same time, the audience too will enjoy watching it. It should be something that's relevant in today's times.
'I Am Not A Big Fan Of Comedies But As An Actor, I Like To Explore That Genre'
Q. As an audience, what kind of films do you enjoy watching more?
A. I love watching thrillers, suspense dramas and mysteries. It keeps me gripped and I am just hooked to that show/movie. I am not a big fan of comedies when it comes to watching as an audience. But as an actor, I like to explore that genre.
Q. Do you think Indian cinema still has a long way to go when it comes to exploring thrillers or the genre which your upcoming film Collar Bomb belongs to?
A. Not really. With the advent of OTT, I think the audience has got a taste for all kinds of thrillers and dramas from all over the world. They have so much to choose from and they have been watching all this stuff on OTT. They are discovering a lot of different genres. Accordingly, some new, interesting subjects are coming up on OTT. It's a nice space.
'You Cannot Take OTT For Granted'
Q. Do you also feel that this is the best time to be an actor?
A. It is absolutely the best time. The more options you have, the better time it is because you have varied kind of stories and characters. There's so much of experimentation happening. People are doing unusual castings, not the typical stuff. They are experimenting with roles. That can only happen when you have many options. With OTT coming in the form of so many new platforms, you have more options to choose from. I might get one script where I might feel that I have done this kind of a story before and at the same time, somebody else might come up with something that I have never done before. So, I have the option of making a choice.
Q. At the same time, do you think that it also brings in new set of challenges for an actor because you need to constantly reinvent yourself and surprise the audience?
A. One has to adapt to that. Just like how we adapt from one project to another because of different teams, the same holds true here as well. So if you are doing something, your job is to do it honestly, sincerely and to the best of your ability and then leave the rest to destiny or whatever you choose to call it. If your work is good, the audience will like you. You got to give it your best shot. Like how you make a two-hour movie in a proper cinematic way, you got to give the same treatment to OTT as well. You just cannot take it for granted because it's for the small screen or OTT. The audience is not going to take any sub-standard kind of stuff. So, if that kind of stuff happens then it's only going to corrupt this platform.
Q. Lastly, what's next in the pipeline for you?
A. As of now, it's Collar Bomb. These Disney+ Hotstar PR guys have sent me a three-page NDA stating that I am not going to talk anything beyond that film (laughs). But yes, I have a couple of second seasons coming up of my shows that released last year. There are Punjabi films which are complete now and we are waiting for the theatres to reopen so that we can release them.