The love I have felt from Pakistanis is very wholesome: In conversation with Diljit Dosanjh

Diljit Dosanjh is a man of many talents. The Sikh artist, unlike his peers, has never been keen on settling down for a niche; his career graph is a testament to the same. Dosanjh has gone from performing at sold-out concerts to trying his hand – successfully, might we add – at entertaining his fans onscreen.

But mind you, he isn’t your everyday boy next door with a stereotypical arc attached to his Bollywood career. The 38-year-old has proven time and again that he is more than just a regular performer with impeccable comic timing.

Unlike his previous ventures, Dosanjh’s recent offering, Jogi, sees the Punjabi actor as a man on a mission, sans the chuckles. Beyond his effortless humour, with a chart-busting singing career and a calling he’s held on to too tight, the Jalandhar-born artist is unstoppable.

Post the taxing Netflix production, Dosanjh’s latest offering Babe Bhangra Paunde Ne sees him return to his comfort zone with another comedy. In an exclusive chat with The Express Tribune, Dosanjh divulges his recent project, working with a Pakistani veteran and his responsibility towards his community.

Express Tribune (ET): To start off, tell us a bit about your recent project, Babe Bhangra Paunde Ne. How did that come about?

Diljit Dosanjh (Dosanjh): The film is satire and has a hidden message in it. When I read the script, I instantly thought to work for the same reason. It’s fun, it’ll make you laugh but, in the end, the sweet message that it incorporates will also make you contemplate the many other perspectives about relationships that we ignore.

ET: How was your experience working with a Pakistani actor? How did you stumble upon him? Which other Pakistani comedians have you followed?

Dosanjh: When we were creating this character, the only artist we thought of casting was Sohail Ahmed. I told the producer, if Sohail sir wouldn’t agree to do this project, I won’t star in it. I was that sure about him. I have previously worked with Pakistani comedians in my recent movie, Ajja Mexico Challay. They are loved worldwide. With Sohail, I learned a lot during the time I spent with him while shooting Babe Bhangra Paunde Ne. I have seen his work and am a great admirer of his craft.

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ET: Indian and Pakistani actors together onscreen have been a rarity in recent times. How did the makers manage to pull this off? Are you expecting another boycott or a harsh reaction? And are you and the makers doing anything to avoid it?

Dosanjh: I am very excited about this project for two reasons; first of all, working with Sohail was my dream come true. Secondly, the film has a lot of heart in it. I think we are living in different times post-Covid. The thought processes have changed. There is more acceptance of art globally. Mark my word, art is ‘sanjha‘ and you can’t divide it on basis of borders. For instance, we are working with Sohail Ahmed and he is dearly loved globally, including in India. So, the statement that art has no boundaries rings true. He [Sohail] is loved not only in Pakistan’s Punjab but also in the Punjab of India.

ET: Your Netflix project, Jogi, highlighted the plight of Sikhs. How personal was that film to you? What were its challenges and as a Sikh artist, what kind of responsibility do you feel you have towards your community?

Dosanjh: Jogi and Babe Bhangra Paunde Ne are completely different films. While Jogi was on Netflix, we are releasing this movie in theatres. The genres of the two films are poles apart and they contain very different messages. In Jogi, we highlighted that you will find different types of people, even in disturbing situations. So, it was important to talk about those people (helpful and selfless), too. Through them, we were talking about what happened to the Sikh community.

When you tell a story, obviously, there are other factors that as an actor you pencil while taking up a project. But in Jogi, the subject was important to me. I was also interested because it was going to be released on a larger platform and reach audiences across the world. I don’t think the Sikh community has managed to forget the horrific incidents to this date. People often responded a bit strangely to the memories of 1984. People who were born in that year often wondered what was so unusual about that year. Gradually, I came to know about the violence my community faced and grew up listening to terrifying accounts of it. It’s in our collective subconscious.

ET: You are quite famous in Pakistan and have an ample following here. Do you have any idea about this? Any message to your Pakistani fans?

Dosanjh: The love that I have felt from Pakistani fans is very wholesome. Whenever I used to do concerts in Dubai or Canada, I came across people from Pakistan. They always showered so much admiration that has always impressed me. They used to ask me one question: when will you work with us, we would love to see our talent working with you. Now my message for all those fans is ‘Wekho (look), now I am working with your talent as well.’

ET: Your comic timing is impeccable. But with Jogi, you’ve proven you can take on serious roles just as effortlessly. Do you agree? What kind of roles can fans expect from you in the future?

Dosanjh: Every character is near to my heart and every role an artist takes up needs preparation. I’m a director’s actor. Once I like the story, I follow the instructions. There are basic preparations that every actor has to go through for a role. It involves working on the character’s look, costumes and dialogue. If I like the script, I will definitely follow it despite the genre of the movie.

ET: In a previous interview, you had revealed that you were asked to remove your turban for some roles. You eventually refused and the roles passed. Tell us a bit about the significance of the same.

Dosanjh: In the past, I have given interviews about my favourite directors from Bollywood who offered me films that I could not do because they wanted me to do it without a turban and that’s not possible. It’s my identity; but with Jogi, the character was really close to my heart. It is an important film and it tells an important story from our pages of history.

ET: Apart from your acting prowess, you’re known for singing as well. Where are you on that front? What’s your first love?

Dosanjh: Acting requires different moods. With the script, a big team and the director’s vision, it becomes a different ball game altogether. But working on sound and music is easier for me. Creating something meaningful in music is much more personal and it also gives me immense pleasure. It’s very similar to the same euphoria that I get when my film is well-received. The sound is very pure. So, I create whatever I feel like.

Helmed by Amarjit Singh and Hammad Chaudhry as executive producer, Babe Bhangra Paunde Ne hit the cinemas on October 5.

Curtesy : TRIBUNE

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