Punjabi superstar Diljit Dosanjh and director Mandeep Kumar discuss their new film Ambarsariya with Team Box Office India
Box Office India (BOI): Diljit, what was your reaction when you read the script of Ambarsariya?
Diljit Dosanjh (DD): My reaction was positive. I have never done a film like this before. I share a good comfort level with Dheeraj paaji, who has written all my Punjabi films and I had been trying to get Mandeep paaji to do a Punjabi film with me for a long time. Finally, we got the script of Ambarsariya. The name is really nice too!
BOI: How is it different from your earlier films?
DD: I play the role of an insurance agent and, aaj ki insurance kal ki muskaan, that’s the crux of this film. The way this story is narrated in the film is perhaps a first in Punjabi cinema. As a movie-goer, you will relate to the film and will not once question the proceedings. The film will stay with you.
BOI: You did a film called Punjab 1984, which is considered a film that started a new culture. Also, with Jatt & Juliet, you kicked off a trend in sequels in Punjabi cinema. What novel factor are you introducing with this film in the Punjabi film industry?
DD: Punjab 1984 was a period film. We were talking about that particular era and it was a serious subject. The J&J series were rom-coms and movies like those had not been made in Punjab before that. The films were mainly action-based. I even introduced a fantasy world with Sardaarji. I liked that and am thinking of doing something on the same lines. As for the subject of this film, I don’t know very much about the genre, so I too was asking Manjeet paaji about it.
Mandeep Kumar (MK): It is a comic thriller and hasn’t been explored much
BOI: This film has three actresses…
MK: (Cuts in) Their roles are very interesting. One may assume that they are meant to be just eye candy in the film as there is only one hero and three girls. But it’s not like that as each of them has a very substantial part. Navneet (Kaur Dhillon) has done a splendid job and Monica (Gill) and Lauren (Gottlieb) are also seasoned performers. Everybody is uniquely placed in the film, which of course revolves around one person, Diljit.
BOI: Will we see you romancing all three actresses?
DD: Haanji, bilkul.
BOI: Mandeep, you have directed one Hindi film Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya, and you (Diljit) will soon make your debut in the Hindi film industry. Why didn’t you collaborate for this film in Hindi?
DD: The effort that went into making this film is similar to that of a Hindi film. In fact, it takes more energy to position a Punjabi film to the audience and make sure they accept it. And as far as doing Hindi films is concerned, that will happen when we want it to happen.
BOI: Also both languages are quite different.
DD: That makes our job difficult because our audience is very emotional. They won’t accept just about anything you offer them. Punjabis are more emotional than the Hindi film audience. Dil se sochte hain sab, so there is that linguistic barrier. It is a challenge as you have to make sure to cater to your audience.
MK: If we had made this film in Hindi, we would have had to make several changes as it is a deep-rooted, hardcore Punjabi film.
BOI: Diljit, how have you seen film marketing change over the years in Punjabi cinema?
DD: Social media is very strong, and will witness immense growth. Now with Netflix coming in, it is going to only get stronger. Besides, there are new apps introduced almost every day, and that helps a lot too.
BOI: Punjabi films, or any regional film, for that matter, are marketed only in that particular circuit but will you promote Ambarsariya in Mumbai or any other city?
DD: Since I am not a producer, I can’t really answer this question. This is my second film with Tips and I have a lot of respect for Kumarji(Taurani) as he supported us with this subject. I will try to promote my upcoming films in new cities but when I do my shows, there are many Punjabis who say they weren’t able to catch the film a couple of week after its release. So I will try to make more Punjabi films and tap more territories and increase the reach of our films.
BOI: Since you are multi-talented, how do you balance your work commitments while making sure that one doesn’t clash with the other?
DD: It comes naturally to me. I was doing shows for the last three days and, when I was on stage, it felt as if I had been doing just this for the last 10 to 12 years. After those three days, when I returned for dubbing, I didn’t look back at my performance on stage. So, when I work, I tend to focus on one thing at a time.
MK: It is a very professional way of working.
DD: It is a problem but it also helps me. For instance, when I went to Kerala, it was as if I belonged there and I forgot everything else. Some people get angry and say that I am patthar dil!
MK: It is not like that.
DD: No, it’s true, but being patthar dil helps me.
BOI: Does it help you with your films as well, like when you switch from one character to another?
DD: I had difficulty with only one movie, Punjab 1984. It took me two to three months to get out of that character.
BOI: According to both of you, what can the Punjabi film industry learn from the Hindi film industry and vice-versa?
DD: Lots of things as each industry as its pros and cons. One thing that can be learnt from the Hindi film industry is the way it caters to a large audience all at once. It is a very commendable thing, to have a wide release or an overseas release. Also, the satellites rights of Hindi films are bought at much higher rates than for our Punjabi films.
MK: It is really very sad that the TV rights don’t command higher rates.
DD: For Hindi cinema, recovering investments comes from television, so our Punjabi channels too should support our films. There are good Punjabi channels and new channels should support Punjabi films just like Hindi channels do. That’s one area where I believe we are lagging. And if the Hindi industry has to learn anything from us, they could learn how to love something from the heart, or think with the heart or even how to do something from the heart. No doubt, every filmmaker makes films from the heart but I love my audience a lot and am part of that audience because they think from the heart. If the Punjabi audience likes a film, they will even condone a few mistakes in the film.
BOI: Like South films, is it possible to have dubbed Punjabi films for Hindi television channels?
DD: It can be done but Punjabi punch lines are very difficult to dub in Hindi. The impact will be lost. We can play Punjabi films on television and people will get to watch a new story but it won’t be the same. They won’t be half the fun as there is an element of fun in the Punjabi language. It would require a dedicated team if this has to be done.
MK: It is a very different business model. In fact, Tips had tried it with their Punjabi film Dil Apna Punjabi. The film did well in Punjab, and they dubbed it and released it on TV but as paaji said, the flavour is missing. It’s actually the same thing with dubbed South films.
BOI: When Udta Punjab was offered to you, did you jump at the chance to make your Hindi film debut or was it the script that made you sign the film?
DD: I had received a few Hindi film offers before that but they were for a couple of songs and few scenes only and I didn’t like the roles I was offered. But when they narrated this role to me, I felt it was meant for me. If they had offered me Shahidji’s (Kapoor) role, I would have turned them down, because I didn’t connect with it. Thank goodness I didn’t have to play the role of a guy from Mumbai or the South, in Udta Punjab my character is a Punjabi boy who ties a turban, just like me. I even asked Abhishekji (Chaubey, director) whether he had named my character ‘Sartaaj’ after getting me on board or before that. So I knew nobody else could do this role but me. There was a time when I used to think that I wouldn’t get work in the Hindi film industry because of my turban but, with this film, I landed the part because of it. When I went for the narration, Vikramaditya Motwane sir, Anurag Kashyapji and Honey Trehan sir, who had done the casting, and Abhishek sir were there. When we were talking about costumes and look, Abhishek sir said they wouldn’t have to work on my look and body language as they wanted a Sikh boy for this role.
BOI: But it could also get you typecast.
DD: No, we will see after people see my work. Even in Punjab, people used to tell me that since I tie a turban, city girls and boys of other castes won’t look at me.
MK: Nowadays, there aren’t many people who tie turbans, even in Punjab.
DD: But they are the ones who watch most of the Punjabi films and love it the most too. So I believe everything will change after people see me in Bollywood.
BOI: What was Diljit like earlier and what is he like now? How has he grown as an actor and as a person?
MK: As an actor, he has grown by leaps and bounds. Earlier, in Jihne Mera Dil Luteya, he had done a cameo and I was an associate director on that film.
DD: (Cuts in) Yes and I thought he was the director. On the first day, paaji came to meet me in the vanity van and briefed me about the shot, and I gave the shot. After that, Jaggi paaji, who had sent me for this project, asked me if I had met the director, and I said, ‘Yes, the director is very nice, lambe se kadd ke hain, kaafi badiya hai.’ And he was, like, ‘Nahin yaar woh thode hi director hai.’
MK: That’s exactly how it happened. I still remember that film worked well in cinemas and whenever paaji used to appear on screen, people would clap and whistle. He was a natural and has a huge fan following. He works a lot but there are some people who don’t have to make much of an effort as they understand the language and the mood of the scene. So, he has grown a lot in terms of acting but as a person he hasn’t changed at all. He is still the same person I had met him earlier, extremely down-to-earth. Khara sona jise hum bolte hain. I love that attribute in this man, he is very grounded.
BOI: What do you have to say about Mandeep?
DD: Amazing! As I said in another interview as well, my first shot was with paaji. When I was asked for Jihne Mera Dil Luteya, I didn’t want to do the film because, in the end, Neeru (Bajwa) goes with Gippy (Grewal) and not
MK: Ladki kaun chodta hai?! (Laughs)
DD: Yes, even my fans were annoyed with him (Mandeep) for a long time but that film was good for me. And paaji had told me that I wouldn’t be disappointed with this film. After that, I have realised that there are very few directors with whom you don’t have to worry about the fate of the film. All you have to do is concentrate on your work. With Mandeep paaji, I knew the film would do well and that he would personally look after every aspect, whether dubbing or lighting. Mandeep paaji loves his work and he is very calm and collected. Anurag paaji (Singh) would tell me that if he had even half the qualities Mandeep has, then he would make better films!
MK: Thank you, ji.
BOI: How involved were you in the creative process – scripting-wise?
DD: I wasn’t. After I learnt that Mandeep paaji was on board, I had no worries about Ambarsariya. All I had to do was focus on acting.
MK: If you’ve written a scene and you know the actor can carry it off, then there is no limit to what you can write. Here, even before I wrote the script, I knew he was more than capable of carrying off the script and more. You can be dead sure that he will always improve a scene that you have written. It is very rare to meet actors like this and I am very fortunate to get a chance to work with such an actor.
BOI: What’s next for you?
MK: We will give it our best shot while trying to reach out to the audience. Tips is on board and Kumarji is very excited, so let’s wait and watch. I am hoping the audience loves the film; the rest is in the hands of God. We will do some Hindi (films) but, first, let’s release this one.
DD: First, there’s Ambarsariya on March 25 and then Sardaarji, the shoot of which is complete and it releases in June. In Hindi, there is Udta Punjab but I have no idea when it releases.
MK: It releases on June 17, a week before Sardaarji.
DD: Oh okay, it will be great if they advance or postpone the release as our Sardaarji’s release date is locked. But it’s okay, the zones are different, and so are the audience and genres.