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"I am a singer first, an actor by chance."

Diljit Dosanjh is one of the biggest names in the Punjabi film industry. With a string of successful films along with a massive Punjabi singing career, Dosanjh’s last film, Punjab 1984, received a National Award. Elated about the award and movie’s success, the actor tells Rohini Nag about his next Punjabi film Sardaar Ji and his Hindi film debut Udta Punjab

Let’s start with Punjab 1984. Did you expect the film to be tagged as a game-changer for the Punjabi industry?

We were sure the film would draw a good reaction from the audience but the response was overwhelming. The film sure can be tagged as a game-changer for our industry as it not only enjoyed commercial success but critical acclaim as well. The cherry on the cake was that it received the Best Feature Punjabi Film award at the 62nd National Awards.

Anurag (Singh) and I were talking about the film when we were working on Jatt & Juliet in 2012 and so we had a rough idea about the film we wanted to make. After that, we worked together on Jatt & Juliet’s sequel and Disco Singh. That’s when we decided it was time to make our dream project which we had nurtured for years. While scripting it, there were two other characters that were very important and we only had two actors that we wanted to approach. We had no back-up plan as we really wanted Kirron Kherji and Pavan Malhotra to play these roles. We were sceptical about approaching them as they were big names in Hindi films and had not done Punjabi cinema. If they rejected the roles, we would have been stranded. Luckily, they loved the story and agreed to be a part of the film during the narration itself.

I believe that films like these come once in a lifetime in an actor’s career. It not only changed the way people look at Punjabi films but Punjab 1984 is my gateway to the Hindi film industry.

You landed Udta Punjab due to Punjab 1984?

Yes, absolutely. I got a call from Honey Trehan, the casting director of the film, who asked me to meet him. I didn’t think twice after I received the call and was still not sure if I would be a part of the film he was offering. But when we met at the Phantom Films’ office and I met the producers, I realised they were serious about casting me. They said the film would also feature Kareenaji (Kapoor Khan), Shahidji (Kapoor) and Alia (Bhatt). After that, there was no looking back. I am truly blessed that first Hindi film should have a story and co-actors like these. They even took a reference for my character’s look from Punjab 1984. So, yes, Punjab 1984 opened many doors for me.

Sequels usually don’t work in the Punjabi industry, yet you have been successful with Jatt & Juliet 2.

Sequels are a trend in the West and their films generate massive success with subsequent instalments. We all know that Punjabi films have a very strong presence in the overseas market. Luckily, our film too worked. At the end of the day, it’s content that matters.

Your upcoming film Sardaar Ji is releasing soon. What made you sign this film?

The fact that it is a fantasy film, a new genre in Punjabi cinema, is what attracted me. A film like this has not been made in the Hindi space either, and when I heard the script I was blown away by the story. 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. Sardaar Ji will not only entertain the audience but will attract children too. The director, Rohit (Jugraj), is very energetic and working with him was a very pleasant experience. What I like most about him is his honesty, which is reflected in his films.

In an interview to Box Office India, Rohit had said that he would love to remake the film in Hindi with you reprising your role.

(Cuts in) I would love to work with him in the Hindi remake of the film. At the end of the day, it’s all about how the content of your film reaches out the audience and Hindi films have a huge reach not only in the domestic market but overseas as well. As an artist, you always want your work to reach out to more and more people and Sardaar Jihas the kind of content that can be transformed into the Hindi space.

Punjabi films have just one limitation – their limited budgets. We are restrained by our budgets, so if we remake Sardaar Ji in Hindi, we would require the kind of budget that would pull off a well-made commercial film to the fullest.

What are your promotional plans for Sardaar Ji?

Our main audience belt is from North India and countries like the US, Canada, Australia and England. Right now, I am touring the US followed by Canada and the UK. Professionally, I am a singer first and acting just happened by chance. I usually have stage shows where I sing and perform. I have planned some stage shows right before the film’s release so that I can promote my film too. Right now, I am promoting our film in other countries and will be back in India where I will promote it in our main cities in the North.

You recently visited the Twitter, Facebook and YouTube headquarters in the US. How did that happen?

My team in the US had sent my profile to them and they checked my fan base and other details. I received an invitation, after which I visited their office and interacted with their employees and fans. It was an interesting experience, especially to see so many Indians working there. It was quite surreal to meet them and tell them about our industry and the way we work here. To know that Indian artists have an enormous fan base not only in India but abroad as well is an overwhelming feeling. It was fabulous to interact and get to know how these technologies bring us closer to our fans. I feel a time will come when digital social media will totally eclipse television.

Will you ever turn producer or direct a film?

I don’t have enough money to produce a film. I am just a singer who became an actor by chance. And I can never be a director as I feel direction is one of the hardest jobs in the film industry.

So an acting career was just a fluke?

Well, back in the day, every singer was getting into acting. They were either producing films for themselves or had someone who was willing to make films for them. I was always content with my singing career and never thought of becoming an actor but, as fate would have it, I was approached for a film and I did it. Everything happened coincidentally and I just went with the flow. I will always be a singer first and then an actor.

Will we see you sing more songs for Hindi films?

I have sung songs for Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya, Mere Dad Ki Maruti and Yamla Pagla Deewana 2 but I don’t want to jinx my upcoming projects by talking about them. I have heard that sometimes people change the singer without much ado so I want to be sure I am singing the song before announcing it. (Laughs)

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