When Punjabi superstar Gippy Grewal decided to foray into Hindi films, he could think of none other than Smeep Kang to helm the venture. Grewal and Kang had worked together on four Punjabi films, and now they are excited about their upcoming Hindi movie, Secondhand Husband, which also marks Kang’s debut in the Hindi film industry. The movie also features Dharmendra and Tina Ahuja. We were invited to spend a day on the sets, for a peek into this rib-tickler
Comedy is a sure-shot recipe for a successful film, and when you have Punjabi superstar Gippy Grewal marking his debut with comedy king Govinda’s daughter Tina Ahuja, you have everything you need for a rib-tickler that everyone will enjoy. That’s exactly what the makers of Secondhand Husband are hoping for.
When you walk onto the sets of the movie at Kamalistan Studio, you might as well be in Jalandhar, Punjab. There is also much hullaballoo as an edgy Smeep Kang, the film’s director, discusses a scene with Gippy Grewal. Calm yet anxious, Grewal is all set to deliver his next shot in the excruciating Mumbai heat. “This week, we will wrap the entire shooting of the film. This is our last leg and, in a way, most of us are foraying into Hindi films together. So we are nervous but in a good way,” says Grewal.
The actor then escorts you to meet the crew. Introductions are in order and you shake hands with Kang and cinematographer Manoj Shaw. It’s a warm but brief welcome as everyone is keen to take their places on the sets.
Suddenly, there’s pin-drop silence as Dharmendra, who plays a pivotal role in the film, walks onto the sets. But today, he is not shooting; he’s here to meet Grewal. The air is rife with enthusiasm, synergy and anticipation. The veteran actor takes his seat near the monitor. “Gippy is like family and I love his films. When he told me about his Hindi debut, I told him I wanted to be a part of the film too. I have worked with Gippy and Smeep in a Punjabi film Double Di Trouble, so I know how they work and I am very comfortable working with them. Tina is a sweet child; she is a natural in front of the camera. I am sure people will love her in the film,” he says with his trademark charming smile.
We chat with newcomer Tina Ahuja, who is just about ready for her shot. “I was drawn to this film as I had seen Smeep sir’s film Carry On Jatta and felt it was one of the best films I had ever seen. I told my friend that I wanted to meet this director. He told me he was planning to make a Hindi film and I was finalised for Secondhand Husband.”
Ahuja confesses she was very nervous to work with Dharmendra “as he is my father’s favourite and is a legend in every sense”. The budding actor says, “My first scene with him was in a car and I kept on going back and forth from my vanity van to the sets as I was very nervous. I prepared for the shot and just as we were to begin, Dharam ji suggested that I do the scene in a different way. I was scared as I had already prepared for it. But he is the sweetest co-star to have and he made me very comfortable.”
The ambience on the sets is very warm. “The same team works with us for our all Punjabi films. So you could say this is a debut for all of us. Being Punjabi, it is in our nature to be amicable and so you can see our team is very jovial,” laughs Kang.
It’s time for lunch and while everyone is heading for a bite, Grewal greets Dharmji and asks if the shot was perfect. “I wanted to make my debut to Hindi but with the kind of films I am known for. I didn’t want to upset my Punjabi audience only so that I could make a Hindi film. When we decided to make this film, we were looking for an actress who would do justice to the part as there is a certain kind of simplicity to the character. Luckily, we got Tina to be a part of the film and it is her first film too. And with Dharam ji being a part of our film, we are just very lucky. He is a great actor and even a greater human being.” says Grewal.
Dharamji’s presence on the sets is like a cameo. He chats with Grewal and the team for a few more minutes before he leaves. “Times have changed. Earlier, we never had to promote our films and now after the film is ready, you need to promote it. I think things are better now, they are more systematic. I am looking forward to promoting this film as it is a family entertainer and a film that I believe in,” says Dharmendra, before leaving.
So what made Kang choose Secondhand Husband as his launchpad along with Grewal, for Hindi films? “Like every regional film director, I too wanted to foray into Hindi films. I am grateful to Gippy for giving me this opportunity. He is a wonderful actor and he understands the kind of films I believe in. Secondhand Husband is a family film. It has clean comedy and I am very happy with the way each actor has played their part.”
Kang adds, “Dharamji is exceptional to work with and, as a director, he let me have my space and was very supportive of what I wanted out of his character. Tina is a fabulous actor and she understands comedy. It is very important for an actor to know where to draw the line when it comes to subtle comedy. It is art she has inherited from her father.”
On his co-star, Grewal says, “She is beautiful and a very talented actress. Before starting the shoot, I had assumed she would take time to warm up but she arrives two hours early so that she can get ready before the shoot.”
Next, you’re escorted to Ahuja’s vanity van for a brief chat. “It was solely my decision to take this project and when I told my father that I was doing this film, he said he believed in my choice and that was it. This is his kind of film where comedy comes naturally. In fact, it was my cousin Krushna Abhishek who helped me with the character. He told me that I should just let it come naturally and I did just that. I connected with the character as I believe every girl is a princess in her own right and that’s how my character Gurpreet is. She is extremely naïve and sweet.”
But, she adds, the biggest challenge about playing this part was that her character required her to gain weight. “I play a typical Punjabi girl who is pampered by her family, and I couldn’t play that kind of character without looking a little plump. But I have to lose weight for the promotions and it is much harder than gaining weight,” she smiles.
The schedule is tight and there’s little time for chit-chat. There’s a knock at the door and it’s back to the sets. There’s no break till the day is done. Once the schedule is completed, Grewal is in the mood to chat some more.
Ask him what the USP of this film is and he pauses before saying, “This is the kind of comedy that works in the Punjabi film industry. The only difference here is that it’s in Hindi, which caters to a wider range of people. When I heard the story, I knew this should be my Hindi debut film as the flavour of the story is Punjabi but with the kind of humour that appeals to all kinds of people. Smeep is the kind of director who usually has a lot of characters in his films but each character has a crucial role.”
Quiz him about how the film was conceived and how it is shaping up and Grewal says, “Our producer Amolak Singh Gakhal is from the US and met me via some common friends and said he wanted to produce my next Punjabi film as he was a huge fan of my work. I was a little apprehensive at first as we get a lot of interest from outside the industry, people who want to produce, but not many are legit. I told them that I am planning to make a Hindi film and he said he would love to producer it. He was on board just like that even though he had no knowledge how film production works.”
Grewal adds, “After he saw some rushes of the film, he was very happy with the way the film had shaped up. He wanted to go all out to give our film the best utilities that a Hindi film would need. I think it was after that that they actually thought of filmmaking as a business and not just a one-time thing. So right from our distributor, Anil Thadani of AA Films, to our Publicity Designer Himanshu Nanda, our team is only growing stronger.”
Produced by Amolak Singh Gakhal under his banner Gakhal Productions, Secondhand Husband also features Rati Agnihotri, Geeta Basra, Gurpreet Ghuggi, Sanjay Mishra, Vijay Raaz, Mukesh Tiwari and Deepshika Nagpal. The hours whiz by and soon it’s time to wrap. Tomorrow, everyone will be back at the studio. But that is another story!