The Arjun Patiala (2019) actor makes it clear that he never came to Bollywood to play one of those cliched Sikh characters.
By Mayur Lookhar
In 2016, a lean Sikh singer, actor Diljit Dosanjh stepped into the world of Bollywood. Through Udta Punjab (2016), Diljit Dosanjh broke the stereotyping of Sikh artistes in Bollywood. Assistant Sub Inspector Sarjtaj Singh [Dosanjh] was this intense cop, one out to wipe out the drug menace in his village and also his home. He didn’t carry any of the baggage that we associated with Sikh characters seen in Bollywood before.
Dosanjh’s next was the light hearted spooky drama Phillauri (2017). He’s also essayed the role of hockey player Sandeep Singh in the biopic Soorma (2018). The talented Sikh will next be seen in producer Dinesh Vijan’s comedy film Arjun Patiala (2019). He plays a cop here too, but a funny one. The film is set to be released on 26 July.
Said to be a man of few words, Dosanjh lived up to his reputation. Beyond Bollywood posed quite a few questions to the actor in a group interaction recently. He didn’t speak at length but one thing he was certain about is that while he can laugh at himself, but he would never like to be the joke.
Arjun Patiala being described as the 245 cop film in Bollywood. What was your reaction when you heard this? Also, I wonder if you have any inkling about the previous 244 films?
I’m not sure if there was a check on whether this is the 245 cop film. Well, these guys have the made the trailer, they would no best. I never counted any. I have no idea.
Growing up in Punjab, what were the inspirational cop dramas?
Amitabh Bachchan in Zanjeer (1973). Don’t recollect others.
Would you like to talk about Arjun Patiala?
Well, it’s just a comedy film.
I was told earlier that you hardly speak.
No, what else can I say. it’s a comedy film. When I was approached for the film, I asked them what is the agenda of the film? I was simply told that this is a lighter hearted film.
What was it in the script that attracted you to Arjun Patiala?
Bande acche lage. [I liked the people associated with this film].
You starred in the Punjabi super hero comedy Super Singh (2017). Would you like to be part of action based, super hero films in Bollywood?
We make any thing in Punjab. For example, Super Singh (2017) was a gamble. We didn’t have much budget. Someone thought why not make a super hero comedy. And so we made it. [As for Bollywood films] I don’t have too many contacts in Bollywood.
Punjabis have played a vital role in the formation of Hindi cinema. But why is it that Punjabi cinema has taken time to come up?
It was around 2011-2012 when Punjabi cinema witnessed some growth in business. Earlier, you just had one odd film that was being made. No doubt, Mumbai is the hub of films. Punjabis have played a vital role here [Bollywood]. Look, Hindi is a pan India language, It has more business potential. So, naturally people will be attracted more to Hindi cinema.
You started your acting career in Bollywood with two very intense roles Udta Punjab (2016) and Phillauri (2017). The two films helped break the stereotyping of Sikh men in Bollywood. When you started your Bollywood career, did you come with the thought of breaking this stereotype?
I only had one thing in mind. I didn’t want to play the hero’s friend, brother. I was doing well, still do, in Punjab. I was clear, Bollywood will have to accept me the way I am. I wasn’t going to compromise.
After Udta Punjab and Phillauri, you then did a cliched comedy Welcome to New York (2018).
[breaks in]. I myself never watched that film.
But when you get offered a comedy in Bollywood, do you look into the aspect of not being stereotyped?
I don’t think too much. But what I think is that that, ‘apne aap pe mazaak karna alag cheez hain, par mazaak toh nahi banney dunga’ [ It’s fine to laugh at oneself, but I don’t want to be the joke].
Udta Punjab clicked but your subsequent Hindi releases didn’t. How do you look back at these near three years in Bollywood?
I’m happy. I’m not worth even this. I got to do Udta Punjab, then Philauri was a total different character. Last year, I did Soorma, that was critically acclaimed. I don’t think I’m worth the appreciation.
Why do you say that? You are talented.
Look I’m a singer too. I can play tabla, harmonium. When a song clicks, I know I have achieved something, but when a film clicks, I can’t take credit for that. I say that because I haven’t learnt that craft yet. That’s why whatever [films] I get, I’m grateful to God for it.
So, are you saying that all the films that you have been offered before, you haven’t learnt anything from them?
No, it’s not like that. I rather prefer to be raw.
Contemporary Punjabi pop music is more on the lines of alcohol, girls, parties. What do you feel about this?
Well, Punjab is full of party, alcohol. Personally, I’d like alcohol to be banned across India. May be that that way such songs will end.
Lastly, I wonder whether you wrote one line answers in school exams too?
[laughs]. I wasn’t good at studies. I was an average student.
It’s remarkable that off screen you are so reticent but on the screen it’s totally different.
Well, that’s how I am.
Watch the trailer of Arjun Patiala (2019)