Pride of Punjab



HE MAY be known for adding weight to Bollywood projects with his amazing acting ability, but Jimmy Sheirgill has al­so helped resurrect Punjabi cinema with a series of memorable performances.

He has returned to the Punjab annual­ly since 2005 to take on challenging roles that have not only expanded the horizons of the cinematic industry there, but help it to grow. He continues that strong bond with Daana Paani, a drama set in 1962 about a soldier returning to a vil­lage after war who isn’t all he seems.

This is the latest film from writer Jass Grewal and director Tarnvir Singh Jagpal, who had previously delivered acclaimed film Rabb Da Radio. Eastern Eye caught up with Jimmy to talk about Punjabi Cin­ema, Daana Paani, acting and more…

You are a versatile and very talented actor who does diverse films, but how do you select your projects?

Firstly, thank you so much Asjad. I think the most important thing for me is the script and then obviously comes your character. Some­times you are really excited about a particular story or the character you are asked to portray because you are doing it for the first time or have done it before.

How much has doing Punjabi films enriched you as an actor?

I did my first Punjabi film in 2005, which was Yaaran Naal Baharan with Manmohan Singh jee. I have tried to keep myself busy with Hindi movies since the begin­ning because I love working, but that is when I decided every year I will take out time for a nice Punjabi movie. So I regu­larly took time off from Hindi cinema and travelled all across the world from north America to UK to Australia, almost like knocking on people’s doors to say our Punjabi films are no way less than any Bollywood movie because the quality is nice and go watch them. The audience started realising and watching.

What was the turning point?

Probably in 2010 when Mel Karade Rabba came out, which got a lot of attention. Then we had Dharti, which I tried to make totally different. So I have done Punjabi cinema because I am passionate about it. It also gives me time to re­turn to Punjab to be with relatives and friends. I got to see the whole of Punjab, going to such re­mote places to shoot where I had never been. I am very happy how Punjabi films are do­ing right now. I feel given a little bit more time, we will come up with even more interesting concepts.

What attracted you to Daana Paani?

I have known Jass Grewal from be­fore and today he is almost the num­ber one writer of Punjabi films. I have known Tarn for a very long time and his first assignment was with my production. Then he moved on and direct­ed Rabb Da Radio, which did so well. It also happened to be one of my favourites.

I was pleasantly surprised when they came to me. I was expecting some­thing run of the mill, but after Rabb Da Radio they came up with a new concept told in a unique way. I loved the concept and admired that these guys were genuinely trying to do something different. I thought if I don’t support them, who will, so I came on board.

The trailer for Daana Paani is very intriguing and your character seems mysterious. What can you tell us about the film?

All I can say is that I am playing an ar­my officer and the story is based in the early 1960s. It is not about any war or anything like that. The war is in the backdrop. It is about what the thinking of peo­ple there in that community was at that time and how this story can happen with the army officer. It is very layered and interesting. The story is about the hero. He doesn’t have to be­have out of the box or show that he is a hero.

The trailer is visually very nice and has lovely moments. What is your favourite moment in the film?

The whole film is about moments. When the film finished, I asked the director I really wanted to know how you the trailer will be cut because it has so many angles and moments. You could go into the backdrop of the war angle or family dynamic of ro­mantic story, which is very un­said. The love stories that hap­pened in those days were very different; there was no touching or singing of songs. This film is full of beautiful moments, but very emotional.

The film looks like it will have cross-genera­tional appeal. Who are you hoping connects with it most?

Everybody, and that is why we are saying it is a family film. This film is for everybody as you can see from the trailer. The elders are very much part of the story and so are the kids, including that small little girl you see in the trailer. They are a prominent part of the movie. Apart from the hero and heroine, the other characters of all ages are just as important, if not more so.

The dialogues in the trailer have a poetic quality. You must have en­joyed that as an actor?

You have put it so rightly, Asjad. I think more than be­ing dialogues, they are po­etic. Even when a per­son is asking you your name, that has a nice quality. All credit goes to the writer and director, who both have a very bright future. I have worked with so many peo­ple, but this director pleasantly surprised me. I told him on the last day of the shoot you have shocked me and are one of the finest directors I have worked with in any Punjabi movie. This guy is brilliant and it shows in his films. Watch Rabb Da Radio, which was an amazing directo­rial debut. I think Jass and Tarn are brilliant.

You have played a lot of characters, but do you have a dream role?

I just go with the flow. I pick up the best of what I am offered. I do prefer doing lighter films that are not too taxing on your mind. I get offered very intense roles and do enjoy them, but some­where they drain you out. I like happier, fun films. I am just talking about my personal feel­ing and preference. When I perform, I like those lighter characters more than intense ones.

You are a very versatile actor. What, according to you, is the secret of a great performance?

I still don’t think I am at a level where I can say what a performance is and what it is not. I just give my best. There are a lot of films you learn from. Some taught me how to laugh, some how to cry, and so on. While you are doing a particu­lar film, you get taught so much and I learned a lot from this film. So right now I am just enjoy­ing that learning phase without thinking about it. I just do things and move on.

What films do you enjoy watching?

I like watching thrillers, suspense and action. I am also hooked on these Danish and Norwegian tele­vision serials. I really like the Amer­ican serials too, which are very in­teresting. I enjoy TV series more these days because I think the best writing is happening in them. Wheth­er it is Netflix, Amazon or whatever, you get to watch so much interesting stuff, which is better than peo­ple flying around the sky in films, which technically goes be­yond, but forgets about the story and performance.

Why should we watch Daana Paani?

More than that, I would ask those who haven’t seen it yet to watch the trailer on YouTube and decide for yourself if you want to see the film or not. I feel people will decide if they will watch the film after they see the trailer. I’m not stupid enough to think people will go watch it after I tell them to.

If you feel the film is worth watching after see­ing the trailer, please do. I have tried to support something which I felt was out of the box. We need people to do that in Punjabi films. I think it’s a clean, lovely family film. Yes it will make you emo­tional at times, but with a smile on your face. I am proud of this film.

  •  Daana Paani is in cine­mas on May 4