Diljit Dosanjh is a name to reckon with in the North. He has a slew of successful Punjabi films to his credit and has also belted out some chartbusters in the Punjabi pop and regional space. Elated about the success of his latest film, Disco Singh, here’s the ‘turban-ator’ of Punjabi films in a free-wheeling chat
Your latest film Disco Singh recently released at the box office with a good opening. What kind of response have you received for the film?
My previous film Jatt & Juliet 2 recorded the biggest opening for a Punjabi film when it opened with Rs 1.2 7 crore across Delhi and Punjab. Now Disco Singh released with the second-highest opening for any Punjabi film, at Rs 1.20 crore. I have every reason to be happy that the audience accepted the film. Despite the hits you deliver in the past, you are only as good as your last film. In fact, Jatt & Juliet 1 is the third-highest opener among all Punjabi films. So I am quite happy that opening-wise, all the three top positions belong to my films. I am really grateful to my fans for supporting this film.
I have always striven to achieve just one thing through my films and that is to entertain. I want to give every viewer their money’s worth. I think Disco Singh also gave the audience some really fun memories as it is meant for the family audience. It’s a light-hearted entertainer and full of punches. I am grateful to God that I have achieved so much so soon.
Collections dipped quite a bit after the opening and tradewallahs said it was because the audience expected the urban comedy you’re famous for but the film showcased you in a desi avatar instead.
The collections of any film are bound to dip a little after opening day. I am aware that there is a certain brand of humour they expect from me. But I can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again. I need to experiment with new subjects too, as I don’t want to be typecast. But the fact that the collections are so good proves the film was appreciated.
When the trailer launched, it had you playing Superman. Do you think that was responsible for the buzz around the film?
(Laughs) It’s basically a comedy, whose story revolves around a struggling singer who earns a living by performing at weddings and parties. He is a loser who has nothing going for him until, one day, a dreaded don gives him a task, which is to woo this beautiful girl. After that, his life undergoes a complete change. It’s an absolute laugh riot. The Superman bit was just a comic angle. So, yes, I guess incorporating that into the trailer worked in our favour.
Did you always want to be an actor? How did you start your journey?
I never dreamt I would become an actor. In fact, I belong to a middle-class family where academics was taken very seriously and it was understood that we had to study hard and then land a government job. But I swam against the tide and knew from an early age that I wanted to become a singer. I used to sing at every opportunity I would get, whether at family get-togethers or social outings. I also got a lot of praise for my singing!
One day, I turned up at the office of a music company and asked them to produce an album for me. Music albums were the in-thing then and I requested them to cut an album deal with me. That’s really how my music career began and it flourished quickly too. I have sung across genres, whether traditional songs, new-age pop music or regional songs. At that time, films were not on my radar.
But today you are one of the biggest Punjabi stars. In fact, business-wise, your film Jinhe Mera Dil Luteya earned almost Rs 7 crore; Jatt & Juliet Rs 13 crore and its sequel Rs 17 crore.
To tell you the truth, I didn’t have to struggle to get a foothold in the film industry. I also think it was due to my popularity as a singer that I ended up in the film industry. I often did shows in India and abroad, and one day, famous Bollywood director Guddu Dhanoa said he wanted to make a foray into Punjabi cinema. He said he wanted to cast me as a hero in a Punjabi film he was making. I was apprehensive at first but trusted his judgement. So we made a film called The Lion Of Punjab. The film didn’t do too well at the box office but by then I had started getting more offers from Punjabi directors.
I had no regrets that my first film didn’t work because soon after that, my second film, Jihne Mera Dil Luteya, did really well and my acting career took off. It was not a solo lead film and also featured Gippy (Grewal) but my fan base, which was very loyal because of my music, multiplied with films like Jatt & Juliett.
Speaking of Jatt & Juliet… you have had quite a hit run with director Anurag Singh. Disco Singh is your third hit with him.
Yes, Jatt & Juliet was the first film I worked on with Anurag and we clicked right away. He is like a brother to me and I trust him completely with my career choices. We had a blast while working on Disco Singh and the fact that the film has worked shows that we are a fiery combo
PTC Films, which produced Disco Singh, is also one of the biggest TV networks in Punjab. You have also signed a two-film deal with them.
Yes, this is PTC’s first venture in films. They are one of the biggest producers here and you will notice their inputs in the film. Since they are a TV network, they have a great reach into the satellite business of a film. In Punjab, the satellite business for films was not big and the only way a film earned money other than through its theatrical release was through the sale of its music. But, over the last two years, the satellite business for Punjabi films has grown. It’s a sign that we are producing quality content. It also appeals to families, which is the main target audience for television.
How do you see your journey in the film industry?
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.
Bollywood is usually the next step for most regional actors. What are you plans?
There was a time I wasn’t keen on Bollywood as my plate was full in the Punjabi industry. But Hindi cinema is changing and it is increasingly seeing more and more quality work. Many Hindi film producers like Subhash Ghai are making Punjabi films and many Punjabi producers are eyeing Hindi films. So I am quite keen to explore the Hindi film space but won’t compromise on quality. Production values can make or break a film, and by production, I mean aspects like budgets, marketing decisions as well as distribution. I will accept a role only if I have full faith in the project.
You are probably the only Punjabi actor whose USP is your turban. Every other Punjabi actor has cut their hair. Do you think you might be stereotyped in Bollywood?
(Laughs) I didn’t know it was my USP. But you’re right. I am one of the few guys here who still has not cut his hair. I am proud of my roots and I want to showcase my culture to subsequent generations as well as movie-goers overseas. I love it when the elderly overseas tell me how proud they are that I am in touch with my roots. Even when I do a Hindi film, I will not get rid of my turban.