Diljit Dosanjh on Arjun Patiala, Good News and how he's found the power to say 'no' in Bollywood
It can be said that Diljit Dosanjh has been able to break the stereotype of the portrayal of Sikh actors in Hindi films.
Diljit Dosanjh maybe a man of few words but when it comes to his choice for films, the superstar from Punjab wants to be loud and clear: he won’t say ‘yes’ to any project just because it is a big banner and has huge stars in it.
Dosanjh made an entry in Bollywood with critically acclaimed Udta Punjab, he followed it up with the Anushka Sharma-starrer Phillauri along with a bunch of other films, including Soorma (opposite Taapsee Pannu), a biopic on India’s ex-captain and hockey ace Sandeep Singh, for which he won immense appreciation. “Getting to do a biopic so early on in career was nice. Earlier I was scared because I had never played hockey and wondered how would people react. But I got lot of appreciation and love. A lot of different roles have come to me post Soorma,” says Dosanjh in an exclusive chat with Firstpost.
Up next, he will be seen in director Rohit Jugraj’s spoof comedy Arjun Patiala (releases on 26 July) alongside Kriti Sanon. “Both Udta Punjab and Soorma were serious films. I had not done funny, family-oriented comedies and this year I have three, including my Punjabi film Shadaa (released last month). Then, there is Good News (romantic comedy) with Akshay and Kareena. Also, Arjun Patiala is a new genre of comedy, I haven’t done this kind of comedy even in Punjabi. It is a different kind of a genre where, on the one hand we are trying to make the audience laugh and on the other we are laughing at ourselves. That is also what I liked the most about the film,” he says.
Dosanjh didn’t prep for Arjun Patiala but he did pick up nuances from his cop friends, as he's playing a cop in the film. “I have many friends who are cops, when I would meet them I would just listen to them carefully and use it while shooting. Also, when you wear the uniform you just get into the character. It happened during Udta Punjab also,” he adds.
It can be said that Dosanjh has been able to break the stereotype of the portrayal of Sikh actors in Hindi films. A few years ago nobody thought a turbaned Sikh actor could be a mainstream Bollywood hero but Diljit has put those doubts to rest. “Yes, for instance, it wasn’t mandatory for the makers to have a Sikh character in Good News but they offered it to me and I liked the role immensely,” he says.
“Look, I got work in Bollywood because of Punjabi films. It was because of my Punjabi film, Punjab 1984 that I got Udta Punjab. The film’s casting director Honey Trehan had called me and I didn’t know anyone from the industry then. I told the team bluntly that I will do it if I like the role or else I won’t. They insisted that I listen to the story. Next day Abhishek (Chaubey, Director) narrated the entire story, not just my part. What was narrated and what was shot was exactly the same. My role as well as the film was appreciated and it went on to win several awards.”
He continues, “I had only one perception in my mind when I entered Bollywood, that I shouldn't disappoint my fans who listen to my songs and watch my Punjabi movies. They should not wonder that where was the need to do this Hindi film? A good film is a good film whether Punjabi or Hindi. Instead of doing a bad Hindi film I would prefer to do a good Punjabi film. So I will do a film here only if my role is good and not because the film is huge. Many a times your judgement is correct and at times you may go wrong also,” he adds.
Once bitten twice shy, Dosanjh says that he has been refusing many films after doing a Hindi comic caper with a galaxy of stars which was a disaster at the box office. “Last month I refused couple of big films. These films might work but what will I do in these films? Initially I would feel that the producers will feel bad if I refuse and in that fear I did one film because the makers were very influential people. Later I had to face the consequences and I gradually realised that only good work leads to subsequent good work and there was no need for me to do that film. We learn from our mistakes. I don’t have any godfather, also there is no one to guide me. I am making mistakes, I am learning, so it is fine,” he says.
But is it difficult to say ‘No’ considering that he is relatively new to the Hindi film industry? “Earlier I used to find it difficult but not anymore. I may be facing repercussions of it, I don’t know about that, but I need not worry because I have my Punjabi films. I don’t depend upon just Hindi movies. As it is, my major source of income is from my music and shows. These days, I may not be able to give enough time to my singing because of film shoots and promotions but I will never leave music,” he further adds.
Even as Bollywood is showering love on him, Dosanjh says he finds more freedom in the choice of movies back home. “I am not in a position to choose roles right now in Bollywood but I have more liberty in Punjab because over there my films have worked and I have lot of filmmaker friends, so we make what we want to but in Bollywood I don’t have that luxury. So, whatever roles that are being offered to me, among those I pick and choose," says Dosanjh.
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