He is one of the most underrated actors in Bollywood. After being noticed in Gulzar’s Maachis, Jimmy Shergill went on to do some leading roles or lead supporting in Bollywood like in Shoojit Sircar’s Yahaan and Aditya Chopra’s Mohabbatein, and later settled for character-based roles that were important to the film, whether in Munna Bhai MBBS, or A Wednesday. In each of the characters, Jimmy managed to leave an impression. India.com chats with the actor on his latest film Shorgul, a political thriller that has the backdrop of the intolerance debate.
Tell us about your role in Shorgul.
Shorgul is a love story in the backdrop of Uttar Pradesh politics (including the 2013 Muzaffarnagar Riots). There is the big question whether politics and religion is above humanity. My character in the film is about a young politician who can go to any extent to achieve what he wants to. I have not done something like this before. It’s a character with grey shades; you don’t know whether he is positive or negative. It was an interesting character and story; I’ve not played politician before. I said yes to the film because somebody was making a socio-political film based on many real-life incidents and to weave a love story around it.
Is Shorgul based entirely on the intolerance debate?
Shorgul has a much broader perspective than the intolerance debate. Like I said, the emotional quotient of the film is around the question ‘Is politics or religion above humanity, or do we place humanity above it. How a normal love story which has nothing to do with politics gets sucked into a political scenario is what Shorgul is about.
But what is your take on the intolerance brouhaha that happened last year, with Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan saying something on the growing intolerance in the country and the backlash they received for it?
There are two sides to a point – there cannot be only one. Whenever we talk about anything, there are always two sides. That is exactly what we are saying in Shorgul, a film talking about socio-political issues. It is very important to keep the two sides balanced, whether it’s the common man versus the system or one side of politics or the other.
What is your face-off with Ashutosh Rana in Shorgul?
No face-off! (Surprised) It’s done for the publicity of the film on its poster. There is no face-off in real life as well. I know Ashutosh is upset about certain things (with the makers) for promoting Shorgul like that, but I’m sure he is an intelligent actor and mature enough to understand how it works. If I had a say in these matters in a film, I would ensure that Shorgul had another title, you know what I mean. I feel Shorgul is far more powerful than its title. If Ashutosh is upset with the producers, he will sort it out. I’m sure he has nothing to say about me here.
There was a public interest litigation (PIL) against Shorgul in Uttar Pradesh. Were there any censorship issues, like it happened recently with Udta Punjab?
The PILs in UP have been quashed now and Shorgul has been passed. Anybody in Uttar Pradesh who feels that Shorgul is a biopic or based on someone’s life or incidents, can get in touch with us to watch the film.
But what is your take on the Udta Punjab controversy? And film censorship in general?
Coming back to my point, again, there are two sides to it. I’m talking in general and not on Udta Punjab. I will not be able to comment on Udta Punjab until I have watched it. The people who have commented on it I’m sure have watched it. I will feel very bad if I watch it tomorrow and feel I should not have commented on it.
Again when we talk about a censor board, there are two ways of looking at it. When a film has censor issues, that’s one thing. The other is when a film releases, you may say, ‘How could the censors have passed this film?’ Then again the censor board is under fire, like tomorrow it could be a Shorgul also. Supposing people watch the film and say how could it be passed? So, there is one side that says that ‘I have the right, I have made a film and it should release the way I want it’. But there are also guidelines the censor board has to abide by, and if they step over those guidelines and pass film, then who is answerable if a problem arises? That’s what happened with Shorgul in UP, where the PILs were not only against the makers but also the censor board.
Tell us about your experience working in the Tanu Weds Manu series and the Sahib Biwi Aur Gangster franchise.
These are landmark films as far as my career is concerned. They will always be very special to me, and I will look forward to the fact that a part three should be made in both franchises and if there is a role for me, I will be a part of it, too.
What are your forthcoming films?
Right not there are two new films up for release – Madaari with Irrfan Khan on July 15 and Happy Bhaag Jayegi, directed by Mudassar Aziz and produced by Anand L Rai, in August.
How was it working with Irrfan Khan in Madaari? How is your cop role in Madaari different from that in A Wednesday?
Irrfan has always been my favourite actor. I have worked with him in Haasil, then Charas, Sahib Biwi Aur Gangster Part 2 and also Naseeruddin Shah’s Yun Hota Toh Kya Hota (where our characters never interacted on screen). I play a CBI officer in Madaari, different from the other cop characters I have played before in terms of age. In A Wednesday, I was a young ATS officer, while in Madaari I play an experienced cop.
Are you working with Rajkumar Hirani after the successful Munna Bhai MBBS?
Well, Raju is working on two scripts and I just hope that I’m a part of it.
Do you think you have not got your due in Bollywood, looking at the good way in which you began your career?
I take it as a compliment is someone if says that. A huge compliment that pushes you to work harder. (ALSO READ: Shorgul movie trailer: Jimmy Shergill and Ashutosh Rana might fuel ‘intolerance’ debate?)
But you have a flourishing career in Punjabi films…
I do one film a year there and there is a lot of love me and respect me I get from the Punjabi audience. That is also because of the fact that they know I’m from Punjab and whatever I’ve done for Punjabi cinema. That is the love that I try to give them back and try not to let them down. Films will come and go, do well or not, but that doesn’t mean they stop loving or respecting you for who you are and what you’ve done.
And what are the kinds of roles you would want to do?
I don’t mind light-hearted roles; it’s a different thing I get all intense roles. I’m saying I’m not offered other roles – in Happy Bhaag Jayegi, which is a comedy, I’ve also portrayed a comic character. I like (to do) those light-hearted films, where you just come and you work, improvise, and enjoy and relax and have fun on set. And you go back home and work out and sleep. Whereas these intense characters always make you think even when you are back in your room whether you could’ve done it better.
So, you mean to say the preparation for intense roles is more stressful than doing comedy?
Intense roles are more draining, I would say.
Would you like to direct a film?
Not direction, as of now. Produce, I will when I have the time. Yes, direction excites me. The whole job of a director – it’s the toughest job in the world, to go out there and make a film and make it correctly. As a director, you are actually enacting each character, because you are telling each actor how to do it. Direction has always fascinated me, but no plans as of now.