Jimmy Shergill: I have started enjoying my work now!

The Special 26 actor explains why despite such a long innings in Bollywood, it is only now that he has started having fun at work Every time you see Jimmy Shergill on screen, you think of a hugely gifted and handsome actor who remains underutilised. Not that he hasn’t left an indelible mark in every film he’s done, but somehow you tend to expect much more from Jimmy. But quality over quantity has always been the order of the day for this gifted actor. Given that, 2013 might be the most crowded (read: promising) date diary in his 17-year-old career.

Just a day before the release of Special 26, we caught up with Jimmy at his Andheri office for an exclusive tête-à-tête on his reformed game plan, why he’s more keen now to work with Tigmanshu Dhulia and Neeraj Pandey, Tanu Weds Manu part two, his superstardom in Punjabi cinema and much more…. Suddenly this year it’s raining films for you, starting with Special 26, followed by Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster Returns and then Bullet Raja. So, had Jimmy Shergill decided to go full throttle? It happens with every actor.

Sometimes you have three films a year, sometime you have four. I’m banking on these films because they deserve to do well. Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster Returns is the toughest film of my career because my character Saheb is wheelchair bound. The way Tigmanshu has sketched Saheb and other characters in the film is highly commendable. The film is bigger than the first part in terms of emotion, drama, thrill and suspense, and there’s lot of twists and turns. The grandeur has also been increased to accommodate Irrfan Khan’s largeness. Bullet Raja is again a fantastic film and shaping up well. Then there’s Tanu Weds Manu part two with Kangna Ranaut and R Madhavan.

But two films – Saheb Biwi… and Bullet Raja back-to-back with Tigmanshu Dhulia? I’ve worked with good directors, but Tigmanshu stands out because he has maintained his friendship. Most people change after success, lekin Tigmanshu ne dosti nibhayi hai and I can never forget that. You’re looking forward to the release of your home production Punjabi film Rangeelay starring Neha Dhupia…. Yes, the film will release in May. I’m very excited about this film because it’s my second Punjabi film coming two years after Dharti. After Dharti, I fell ill and had major problems with my spine and neck. I was completely bedridden for six months and had to give up a lot of films.

I must thank Vikram Bhatt who pushed me to resume work and offered me Dangerous Ishhq. Then gradually Special 26 and Bullet Raja happened. So you were destined to do Special 26 and Bullet Raja…. Maybe. I always pick the best of what is offered to me and keep myself busy. People accused me of being choosy then and today, when I’ve become choosy, they say I’m doing only cop and gangster roles. Samajh mein nahi aata! There’s a perception that your transition from Hindi to Punjabi films is due to a lack of Hindi film offers… I never had a dearth of Hindi film offers.

I had the choice of doing cameos in all the big films then but I didn’t. I always wanted to work with Karan Johar, so I did My Name is Khan for the sheer feel of doing a Karan Johar film. If I wish to do five Punjabi films now, I would make more money than I’ve earned in my entire Bollywood career.

I haven’t done Punjabi films for money; it’s my passion. Being a Punjabi, I’m proud to have got the opportunity to do Punjabi films and support Punjabi cinema. Looking at the response and adulation my first Punjabi film Dharti received, I felt I should do one Punjabi film a year. You’ve been instrumental in uplifting the state of Punjabi films to the extent that Punjabi speaking audiences have started calling you the Shahrukh Khan of Punjabi cinema. How does it feel? Which Bollywood actor wouldn’t feel good to get compared with Shahrukh Khan! Punjabi people are very emotional. As an actor, if you request them to watch your film in a theatre, they will support you.

I have a direct connect with my Punjabi audience. You proved yourself as an actor with films like Maachis, Haasil and A Wednesday, among others, but do you think that you have not got your due over the years? My journey might have been slow, but it has been steady. I have been in the industry from 1996, but it is recently that I have begun to enjoy what I am doing. I am now satisfied with what I do. I prefer people coming to me and saying that I’m a good actor but haven’t got my due, instead of saying ‘Tumko ek paise ki acting bhi nahi aati aur star bane ghumte ho‘.