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“I am lucky fame sought me out”

Amrinder Gill launched his acting career with a small role back in 2009, with director – cinematographer Manmohan Singh’s Punjabi film Munde U.K. De. Already an established Punjabi singer, he was bombarded with film offers there on. Elated with the success of his latest film, Angrej, the actor tells Rohini Nag about his journey

You started your acting career with director Manmohan Singh’s Munde U.K. De in 2009. How has your journey been so far?

It’s been fantastic. I started my singing career in 2000 and made my acting debut in 2009. I am one of the very few artistes who have learnt about the business while being part of it and with no previous experience in the art of filmmaking. It was a secret childhood dream. I had been offered many films but at that time I was not sure if I wanted to get into films as my singing career was my priority and it still is. But when Manmohanji offered me a small role in his film, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse. He is one of the pioneers of the Punjabi film industry and only a fool would pass up an opportunity to work with him.

Even though I had a small role in the film, my work was appreciated and this further gave me the confidence to think of acting as a serious career choice. After that, Manmohanji signed me as the main lead in Ik Kudi Punjab Di, and it is a huge confidence-booster to have someone like him believe in you. From then on, my acting and singing careers moved forward concurrently. I couldn’t have asked for more. People spend years trying to get an ounce of fame but it all happened in the blink of an eye for me. I am lucky that fame sought me out and I didn’t have to seek it. I guess it also happened because I have never turned down projects. Luckily, all of it turned out to be good work. I am also fortunate to have forged successful relationships with people in the industry.

Seven years and 10 films, with most of your releases being two-hero projects… Was that a deliberate choice?

(Laughs) Is it? I didn’t realise I had done 10 films already. Each industry follows a trend and, as Punjabi films evolved, there came a time where most films had two heroes. It was not deliberate on my part. I signed whatever came my way and the films that I did had good content and I believed in them. Now, once again, trends are changing as the audience taste in films is changing. It is our duty to serve the audience while keeping their expectations uppermost in mind. After all, it is their love that makes us what we are.

Just like you, many top Punjabi actors started their careers as singers. Do you think it’s a concious move to turn to films?

We got into films when the face of Punjabi cinema was changing and to get the audience’s attention, we needed faces that they already connected with. As singers, we had our own fan base, which helped bring the audience to cinemas. Now a lot of new faces entering the industry are not singers. It was just a phase back then. This trend started in Hollywood and in old Hindi films. There was a time when Hindi cinema was building its foundation and a lot of films had singers turning actors. I am talking of the ‘30s era. In Hollywood as well, many singers have had flourishing acting careers. At the end of the day, it is all about being an entertainer and a performer, and connecting with the audience.

You are one of the top commercial actors in the Punjabi industry. What prompts you to sign a project?

The most important factor is the content of the film. The script and the basic thought behind the film is what intrigues me to sign it. The director and producer are secondary but if the content connects with me, and impresses me, and I think it will impress the audience too, I sign a film. We can never judge if the film will do well at the box office or not but it is our prerogative to present the audience with the best content that we possibly can. With Angrej too, it was the never-done-before concept that attracted me to it.

Angrej garnered an impressive response at the box office. What was it about the film that made you green-light the project?

As I said, it was the content and a never-done-before story. My character was also something I had never played. After my film Goreyan Nu Daffa Karo released in 2014, I received many offers for similar roles and I had to decide whether to do the same things again and again or deliver something out-of-the-box to the audience. So when this film was conceived, it instantly interested me as it is based in rural Punjab in the 1940s, the pre-Independence era.

The film is re-releasing this week in many metro cities too.

Touch wood! I am ecstatic. Thankfully, the audience and filmmakers have responded only positively. The box office is roaring with the film’s collections and I can’t be happier because it was one of the toughest films I have ever worked in. There was a lot that went into the film as we were making a film based in the ‘40s. I knew the audience would love the film but had never imagined it would do so well. I thank God for all the good wishes coming my way and I am grateful that my hard work has paid off. We are also thinking about dubbing the film and showcasing it on satellite.

Top Punjabi actors like Gippy Grewal and Diljit Dosanjh have veered towards the Hindi film industry. Will we see you doing a Hindi film too?

I don’t dismiss the possibility but, as of now, the ideas I am working on are all in Punjabi and set in Punjab and even overseas. If I am excited about an idea for a Hindi film, I will do it in future.

Is there anything you want to change or improve in the Punjabi film industry?

Our Punjabi film industry has found a strong foothold in the last five to six years. In 2000, Manmohanji started to work in Punjabi films and he brought about a revolution in the industry. Recent Punjabi content drew a phenomenal response from the audience, which is an indication of our growth as an industry. We are now making content-rich films and there is no doubt that the overseas market for Punjabi films is very strong. The storylines are much stronger and our concepts are much more universal than before. So things are changing, improving and growing gradually.

Any plans to turn producer or director?

No, not at all, I am happy in the space I am in right now. It is tough to juggle work in the entertainment industry as quality matters more than quantity. With my acting and singing careers, my plate is full right now. I feel a director’s work is the toughest as it’s his job to translate a writer’s story in to his vision and get the actors to present it to the audience with their best effort. A producer, who invests his hard-earned money, is another profession that needs time and patience. As an actor, I am still learning each day. I would need a lot more experience before I can try untested waters.

What’s next?

There are a few films I have been approached for but, right now, I am basking in the attention I am getting for Angrej. I will start shooting for my next in October and the film will be directed by my childhood friend Rajeev Dhingra and is being written by my good friend writer Amberdeep Singh. As I mentioned earlier, whatever I do next will be high on content.

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