Like a lot of actors, Jimmy Shergill faced a tough crowd when he moved on from the success of his debut film Maachis (1996) and took on more director-driven, cinephile-friendly projects. While he juggled the plain sailing demands of Aditya Chopra for Mohabbatein (2000) playing a boy next door and took a peculiar right turn in Rajkumar Hirani’s tongue-in-cheek Munna Bhai MBBS (2003) it was the Shoojit Sircar’s Yahaan (2005) that solidified Shergill’s remarkable evolution into one of the most exciting actors working today.
It is difficult to get noticed in the Hindi film industry, especially if you don’t bag a lead role in a mainstream film. Or if you don’t have a heavy surname behind your name and a production house to launch you. But going by the releases over the last decade and more, Bollywood is witnessing a change in its rulebook. The credit goes to the crop of actors who have time and again proved their mettle, not as heroes of the film, but as the powerful supporting or co-leads. Bollywood has seen an array of actors who have gone beyond performance benchmarks with their powerful work as supporting actors in a film led by commercial stars, and even gained critical acclaim at par with the leading actor for just a 20 minute performance in a two-hour long film. The fact that they are grabbing headlines by featuring in supporting roles also proves that Bollywood has come a long way in terms of writing in films. Filmmakers now are crafting each character of their film with as much thought, as they would put into creating a lead actor.
In Munna Bhai MBBS, Sanjay Dutt is the film’s protagonist, but it’s the chemistry between him and the cancer patient Zaheer, played by Jimmy Shergill, that makes Munna Bhai really crack up. As the conventional duo, Shergill has equally harder job, as Sanjay scores most of the major laughs in the film. But Shergill is more than up to the task of supporting his explosive co-star, and it’s in the more thoughtful scenes between Zaheer and kindhearted regular Munna Bhai, where his heart comes through and he really shines. Supporting actors aren’t just those familiar faces who can steal a film. They show a way for movies to portray real life; forming the essence of details. It wouldn’t be erroneous to regard these supporting roles in the film as the salt of the earth, or the oil that makes the machine work.
Jimmy Shergill for most of his career have been taking meaty roles, be it in supporting leads, to challenge himself as an actor and prove his acting ability time and again with the versatile roles he has been opting for.
Jimmy talks to Community in an exclusive interview as he is all set for his upcoming season Rangbaaz 2, a crime thriller series that is set against the rustic background of Rajasthan, releasing today on Zee 5 premier, as the protagonist of the web series.
“In cinema, a lot has changed over a period of time. However as an actor, in view of online streaming services, not much has changed because we’re shooting with the same camera and people for web series as we are for the cinema. People and technicians who have worked on web series are the same who have worked for the film in cinema. Apart from the fact that it felt like I was shooting for a four and a half hour long movie, about nine episodes in total, there wasn’t anything different,” says Shergill whilst drawing parallel for shooting for web series and commercial films.
Since Rangbaaz 2 is a sequel to Rangbaaz, based on a true story of Shri Prakash Shukla, notorious and most wanted criminal/gangster of Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh India, with a different storyline though. Did Jimmy Shergill watch the prequel before signing the spin-off? “Yes obviously, that was one of the reasons why I went on-board for this project. The same team that did the first part is a part of this one, the writer, the director and everyone. However, the first one was based in UP and this one is based in Rajasthan. It’s another story – story of someone who wasn’t supposed to be in the crime world. A story of a topper who wants to do for the country but ends up being pushed into the crime world by the system. So, the second instalment of Rangbaaz features a story that people can probably relate to.”
Doing a role of a terrorist in his debut film Maachis or an intense part in A Wednesday (2008) and then moving on to more cheeky roles in films like Mohabbatein, Mere Yar Ki Shaadi Hai (2002), and anti-hero in Tanu Weds Manu (2011) or Happy Bhaag Jayegi (2016) – Jimmy doesn’t seem to contain himself as an actor to a particular genre and type of roles. “I was consciously making an effort to make sure that I’m not slotted into one particular image or whatever. That was the reason why I pick-up films that were different,” says Jimmy.
Jimmy has films like Tanu Weds Manu (both franchises), Happy Bhaag Jayegi, Mere Yar Ki Shaadi Hai and others to his credit, where the character he’s playing never quite gets the girl in the end. Jimmy laughs it off and comments, “I did not join the industry to win over girls. My win is the love of the audience. As far as I’m getting the love of the audience, it’s okay.”
Sheirgill made his Punjabi film debut with Yaaran Naal Baharan in 2005. His notable work in Punjabi cinema include Mel Karade Rabba (2010), Dharti (2011), Aa Gaye Munde U.K. De (2014), Shareek (2015) and Daana Paani (2018). He is among those few actors who effortlessly blend into Punjabi films and then Bollywood in an instance. Drawing a parallel between both the industries, he says, “Bollywood has always been a full-fledged industry. When I started with Punjabi films, it was a struggling industry. People were not going into theatres to watch Punjabi films. We tried to make an effort from our end, being a Punjabi, from Punjab, to do Punjabi films and make people get out of their houses and go into theatres and start watching Punjabi films. It happened in around 2009, 2010 that box office of Punjabi films was recognised. Today I’m very happy that the Punjabi films are doing so well.”
PROMOTIONS: Actors Jimmy Shergill, left, Sharad Kelkar, centre, and Sushant Singh during the promotion of the upcoming ZEE5 web-series.