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Mighty aka: Mighty Gill

 

Not long after I got hooked on Bollywood I began to explore India’s bounty of regional cinema, and when I got to that country’s Punjabi language films it was Harbajan Mann’s feature from 2004 Asa Nu Maan Watna Da that ramped up my interest in Pollywood (an interest which has grown steadily over the years, almost surpassing my interest in Hindi language films, in fact). Not much later I learned that Aryan Vaid, one of my favorite Bollywood actors, had lensed a Punjab film titled Ek Jind Ek Jaan (2006). I scooped up the DVD of the movie just as soon as it was released. Today it remains one of my top three favorite Punjabi films.

 

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Ek Jind Ek Jaan is a delightful movie; colorful, sentimental, family oriented, and full of wonderful songs and dances. It introduced me to people I would come to recognize as regulars in Punjabi cinema, like Deep Dhillon, Gurpreet Ghuggi, and B.N. Sharma. I was already quite familiar with the film’s stars Raj Babbar and the aforementioned Mr. Vaid, but it was my first time seeing actresses Nagma and Prabhleen Sandhu, both of whom are very good.  Then there was Mighty Gill. As one of the featured leads he also made quite an impression, and it turned out that this was only his 3rd film. In fact, it was also his final film! So what happened to his career, I wondered? Mighty was charming, talented, handsome, and had a very good screen presence. I wanted to know more about him, particularly why it was that there seemed to be so few “Mighty Gill” films!

It took a bit of searching, but I managed to locate the former actor (billed simply as ‘Mighty’ in his two Hindi films), who now resides with his wife and son in Australia. Born Mantej Singh Gill in a small town in Punjab, his family eventually shifted to the city of Chandigarhi. His lineage is that of a landlord family of Jatt Sikhs whose main occupation was farming and agriculture. Mighty’s parents were both government workers, but he himself was not particularly interested in a 9-5 desk job, so he chose to work in real estate, helping others make the right investment in agricultural, commercial, and residential properties.

 

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The screen name ‘Mighty’ came from his childhood nickname, which his mother used to call him. Directors liked it, and it stuck. It also fitted the muscular build he had sculpted over the years. As a child he was quite weak and fragile and was prone to bullying by his classmates. “They gave such a hard time to me,” says Mighty. “But during my last years of study I got into bodybuilding and worked extremely hard. Maybe it was a hidden anger for being bullied that pushed me to extremes. Now I feel thankful to them. Most of those people are out of shape now!” he says with a laugh.

After some modeling work and appearances in music videos, Mighty Gill found an opportunity to act in films. Here for the first time he gives the lowdown on his time in front of the camera.

Mike Barnum:    Your family had no show business connection, so what led you to a career in film?

Mighty Gill:       I never thought to step into modeling or films, professionally… things just happened. I was doing my graduation in Mumbai and later, for fun sake, I enrolled in a short term acting course. It was not of much use, but I made contacts from there.

MB:        And Tezaab – The Acid of Love (2005) was your first film?

 

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TEZAAB – THE ACID OF LOVE was a remake of the American film UNFAITHFUL

 

MG:       Yes Tezaab was my debut. Somehow I came in contact with its director, Mr. Shakeel Noorani. At that time he was in a financial mess and wanted to make a quicky film to set the meter rolling. He wanted to remake a South Indian film using a new star cast. He took screen tests and I was selected out of few other contenders. I was made to see that original Tamil movie, and I liked it… it was a clean, family film, an innocent love story. The search for the female lead was on during that time and I was happy as I had signed a three film contract with Gems Movies. But destiny had different plans and I was unaware of it.

MB:        As it would turn out, Tezaab would not end up being a family film at all.

MG:       Family drama and love stories were failing at the box office during that time, around 2003-2005, and bold movies were doing good business. Noorani was not in a position to take any risk and he and his team of assistants decided to make a bold film with a bold theme. They convinced me, and I felt that since he was a family man I knew he wouldn’t make a bad, vulgar film. So now [instead of remaking the Tamil film], we were doing a copy of the American film Unfaithful. Mahesh Bhatt, at the same time, was making a movie titled Murder with Emraan Hashmi, which was also an adaptation of Unfaithful, so there was a race. But because of strong backing, and being good strategists, the Bhatt camp took all the honey.

 

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Shruti Sharma and Mighty Gill in a publicity shot from TEZAAB – THE ACID OF LOVE

 

MB:       Your costars in Tezaab were Parvin Dabbas and Shruti Sharma. But I understand that things did not go smoothly.

MG:        Irrfan Khan and Shruti Sharma were originally signed for the film, and we even had a photo shoot together. Irrfan Khan backed off later, and Parvin Dabbas was selected [to replace him] for the role of the husband. Parvin is a good actor and was very professional. Shruti Sharma, being a non-professional, gave such a hard time on the shoot.

MB:        She was difficult?

MG:       I had a big fight with Shruti a couple of times during the shoot. We stopped shooting. The director and his team knew they had made a wrong choice with casting Shruti. They used to have to show her the contract papers in order to get work done. She and I were never friends and we used to talk only in front of camera. No ‘hi’ or ‘hello’… nothing of that sort.

By the time Murder was released our film could not find buyers. I want to tell you one thing, the bedroom scenes for Tezaab were shot very aesthetically, initially, and the film shaped up nicely, but in order to sell the film the bedroom scenes were shot again, and their duration was increased. The director wanted to sell it at any cost. It was at this time when I felt so hurt. I was made to do such things that I never wanted to do. I remember during the shooting of bedroom scenes, when they were using a body double of Shruti, I used to cry my heart out in the dressing room. The film makers tried to pacify me and were telling me that it’s just a part of my duty.

 

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Mahesh Bhatt’s MURDER, which was also a remake of UNFAITHFUL, reached the screen first, causing the makers of TEZAAB to switch gears in order to get their film noticed.

 

MB:        That must have been very difficult to have signed on to something and then have the whole essence of it change as it did.

MG:       I did it, being a professional and committed to my work, but after that my heart changed forever and my craze for filmdom vanished. After giving the last shot for the film I went to a secluded beach and cried and cried.

MB:        Was your experience with the Punjabi film Ek Jind Ek Jaan a more positive one?

 

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Mighty Gill with Prabhleen Sandhu and Raj Babbar in EK JIND EK JAAN

 

MG:       You know, my experience with Tezaab was not really that bad, because eventually I realized what kind of person I am truly. I am certainly not attracted towards glamour and glitz. I got to know that I can work only in my space. And doing Ek Jind Ek Jaan was fun. Everything related to that film was good…the story, music, promotions, cast and crew, etc. Sadly, Punjabi audience rejected its main lead pair of Aryan Vaid and Nagma. Aryan is a good actor, but [as a hero] he just couldn’t make a connection with audience of Punjab. These days Punjabi audiences have more liking for singers turned heroes. Raj Babbar was also in the film and he and Nagma are well known [in Punjab], and they are good and humble too, but the film failed miserably at the box office.

This film has done good for me because the blame (black spot) that I have done an erotic film was washed off after its release. People in my circle remember me for Ek Jind Ek Jaan.

 

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Donna Kapoor and Mighty Gill in a scene from EK JIND EK JAAN

 

MB:        Besides Tezaab, you appeared in one other Hindi film titled Utthaan (2006).

MG:       Utthaan was made by my known friend Ujjwal Chatterjee.. I paid him a visit on sets and just did 1-2 scenes casually.

 

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Mighty (far right) had a supporting role in the Hindi film UTTHAAN which starred Priyanshu Chatterjee (standing)

 

MB:        Many performers in Bollywood have complained recently of the casting couch system. Was this also a problem for you?

MG:       Casting couch does exist in Indian film industry. Not just for girls, but for boys too. I remember once a famous film star’s secretary, who was a bisexual, told me that if I join their group I will do five films in a year, but if not, I will be reduced to doing one film in five years (laughs).

MB:        Had you ever considered the production side of film making?

MG:       These days directors are asking me to either produce or invest in films, but I cannot do this. It’s a risky business; in fact it’s 98% risk. One needs a great effort and tons of good luck and a stronghold to succeed in films. I have seen that out of 100% film fraternity, only less than 10% are earning well… the rest are just wasting time and money… but it’s a craze for glamour. Name ‘n fame, which keeps them going on and on. The television industry in India is doing good, though. There is a regular income in that. A little effort and perseverance can help you get good work [in television].

 

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Mighty in a scene from UTTHAAN

 

MB:        You made only a handful of feature films and then vanished from the screen. What happened?

MG:       I was losing my motivation. It was not a question of my bread and butter, so I set my mind and I just quit. I am not much of a social type; you know, going to parties and showing off. I just wanted like-minded people to work with.  I am a very simple person. To work in the film industry it doesn’t matter how you work in front of the camera, but how you carry yourself off of it.

MB:        So, no regrets at leaving the film industry behind?

MG:       I was certainly not cut out for all of that and I thought to quit. I am glad that I made that right move. Now I am happy and doing things my own way. And no pressure to look good all time! I have a beautiful wife and I feel content. I am happy and I have no regrets. I believe in living life proudly the way you want to live. I am blessed with a lot of good things in life. Although my priorities have changed now, and I spend most of my time and energies in my business and family, deep inside my heart I do still crave for good cinema. The element of simplicity has vanished in today’s films. We are getting superior in terms of technology, but on the creative side we are losing our grip. So I will end this with lyrics from Pink Floyd. “There will be war, there will be peace. Everything one day will cease. All the iron will turn to rust, and all proud men will turn to dust”

 

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The June, 2001 issue of HEALTH AND NUTRITION magazine featured a buff Mighty Gill on the cover

 

Though his acting career may not have reached the ‘mighty’ heights that (at least in my opinion) it could have, he still left a mark on Indian film history. And while he is not particularly keen on his work in Hindi cinema, with the Punjabi film Ek Jind Ek Jaan, Mighty Gill has at least one picture that he can one day very proudly show his kids and grandkids.

 

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A curry western? Judging from this advertisement for the 1947 film Namak, one could certainly be forgiven for thinking it to be an oater straight out of Hollywood! The action packed plot involves a robber known as Sher who becomes guardian to two orphaned kids – Gogo and Sofi, the offspring of another criminal, named Smith, who is killed in an explosion. This B-grade feature stars Dulari, Bhim, Dilawar, Habib, and Chandrashekhar.

A titillating advertisement for Eastern Pictures’ 1948 feature RANG MAHAL starring Suriaya, Suresh, Shah Nawaz, and Lalita Pawar.

What the plot is, I don’t know, but it certainly looks intriguing.

Deep Joshi

BATHINDA EXPRESS, the highly anticipated Punjabi feature film which will be releasing soon, is the brainchild of Deep Joshi (former known as Pradeep Joshi) whose previous acting credits include the comedy BURRRAAHH, as well as Gurdas Mann’s SUKHMANI and CHAK JAWANA. With BATHINDA EXPRESS Deep has also turned director, and promises a film that is both entertaining and socially relevant, with a plot that follows a winning athlete whose life takes a turn for the worse.

Barnala born and Ludhiana raised, Deep grew up with a fondness for movies. He would have headed for service in the Indian army or a career with the local constabulary (he went so far as to clear the police exam), “But, God had something else in store for me,” Deep states, and he instead chose to follow his long held dream of working in the filmmaking arena…

…and it is certainly our good fortune that he pursued this vision, as Deep Joshi is determined to help change the face of Punjabi cinema with challenging, engaging, and important stories such as will be seen in BATHINDA EXPRESS.

Having enjoyed Deep’s past work, and now intrigued by the preview of his latest production, I contacted the actor to find out more about the film and its creator and he was kind enough to answer my array of questions for Pedro (The Ape Bomb) blog.

Mike Barnum:  You not only star in the soon to be released film BATHINDA EXPRESS, but you have behind-the-scenes duties as well!

Deep Joshi: Actually, as the director, scriptwriter and storywriter too!

MB: Was it difficult to juggle these different tasks?

DJ: On the contrary, I can only wish for the opportunity to get to work this way in all of my future projects, because how else would you have the freedom to shape your movie the way you want. You are not restricted to any particular department. Moreover, this whole film is like my own baby; I was not just acting in it, but making it too. And as they say, if you do what you love, it is not work at all. It was the same with me!

MB: What made you decide to make your own film?

DJ: To take my idea to the next level; I always believed in it, but others didn’t. Sadly, almost all film makers in Punjab today don’t want to explore new ideas, they say it’s too risky! But film-making is an art, and art must always grow and be explored. Hence, after approaching many leading producers and directors for my project and getting rejected, I decided to take things into my own hands and break this pattern.

MB: How important is this film to you, both personally and professionally?

DJ: Personally, as I said earlier, it is entirely my own baby! I have made it by giving my all. Writing it, directing it, casting it, acting in it…this film is one of the most important things in my life. Professionally, again as I had said, hardly anyone in the Punjabi film Industry today wants to explore, they are mainly concerned with financial success. But for a true film-maker it’s an art, and an artist would always want his field to grow and develop. There are so many fresh ideas with the new, aspiring film-makers today, our industry can really grow! I am quite confident that this film will, at least in some way, definitely help break this chain! It’s a unique and independent subject that everyone would be able to relate to and draw something positive from, especially the youth!

MB: You were originally set to go on a different career path, what did your family and friends think about your going into show business?

DJ: Well, they always knew what a big narcissist I had been (laughs)! So they were basically not surprised, but were very happy. Only my Dad wasn’t really happy with the decision, but then he couldn’t say anything directly since I had full support from my grand-father, who is my best friend, philosopher and guide at the same time!

Deep Joshi (left) and Harish Verma in a scene from the Punjabi comedy BURRRAAHH

MB: How did you come up with the story for BATHINDA EXPRESS?

DJ: When I finally decided to take things into my own hands, the first thing I did was muse on a subject that people of Punjab, especially the youth, would not only be able to relate to and enjoy, but one that would create value and inspire. The topics I thought on were current issues of Punjabi youth, their lifestyle; basically an authentic and raw picture of Punjabi youth today!

MB: The film faced censor problems which has held up the film’s release. What was it that the censors objected to?

DJ: They raised objection to a few shots depicting drug addiction. However, I wasn’t ready to compromise on that as everything shot was symbolic, almost near to reality. Second, we are not encouraging viewers to use drugs; rather we are showing them its negative influence. Until we do not do this, people won’t be aware of how this habit can creep in to anyone, and that the addicts actually suffer! I wanted to show the root cause of it and, probably, the way that it can be correctly addressed and cured.

MB: What was the process of casting the film? Did you have certain actors in mind ahead of time or did you rely on casting calls?

DJ: The look and the other traits of the characters in the film were already very clear in my mind from the moment I started writing the story. I did have to take auditions for a few of the characters, but others are all non-actors that I personally knew. And surprisingly, they did complete justice to the roles assigned to them.

MB: Tell me about the lead character, whom you portray in BATHINDA EXPRESS?

DJ: He is the common guy next door. He could be you, me or anyone else out there who is decent, emotional, passionate and full of life, but vulnerable at the same time.

MB: What is your opinion of the state of Punjabi film-making in recent years?

DJ: I would say, not very professional. They don’t work on the script or take the processes of pre-production very seriously. It seems that they would just collect a few jokes and make a film around that. They are not aware of the proper way of film-making, or are not concerned, I would say. Of course, exceptions are there, but unfortunately, very few of them again. It seems to me that they have money, but no vision. Everyone is just following a pattern of other filmmakers.

Deep Joshi in a scene from his upcoming Hindi thriller BLOODY D

MB: You recently completed filming a role for a Hindi thriller titled BLOODY D. Is this your first Hindi film?

DJ: Yes, it is. It is about three young guys who have their own ambitions in life. One is an aspiring director, the other a freelancer cinematographer, and the third one is a financier. All three are optimistic and ambitious; [the film focuses on] their journey and struggles in making their chosen paths in life a success. Again, it is a strong and practical subject, and entertaining too. I won’t be able to talk much about it at this point of time, but it is a good film and people will surely like it.

MB: You have been in at least three previous Punjabi films: BURRAHH, SUKHMANI, and CHAK JAWANA. Which was your favorite to work on?

DJ: All of them honestly, but in SUKHMANI, the character of Bilal is my personal favorite. I played the negative lead against Gurdas Mann; it was challenging and a very different role to play. The director of the film, Manjeet Mann had also worked on the minutest details of this character – starting from his costume, to looks, to attitude, and posture, etc.

MB: Who would you rate as one of your favorite performers to have worked with?

DJ: Gurdas Mann, without a doubt.

MB: As a film fan, who are your favorite film artistes – both Hindi and Punjabi?

DJ: Gurdas Mann, Kamal Hassan, Dilip Kumar, Amir Khan and lots of others

MB: And of yesteryear performers, who would you most liked to have had the opportunity to work with?

DJ:  Amrish Puri saab, Dilip Kumar saab, Pran saab.

MB: How about among the current crop of performers?

DJ: Amir khan, Irfan Khan, Pankaj Kapoor

Gurdas Mann with Deep Joshi

MB: Are there any leading ladies who you have dreamt of playing hero to?

DJ: When I was young I always dreamt of working with Urmila Matondkar, and then there is Katrina Kaif, Kareena Kapoor, Deepika Padukone.

MB: Anything else about BATHINDA EXPRESS or BLOODY D that you would like to share?

DJ: Just go and watch them, you won’t regret.

 

 

MB: And finally, what is next for you?

DJ: I just hope to continue experimenting with new subjects and to grow as an actor and as a film maker.

Thanks to Deep Joshi for taking the time to share, and I hope you will join me in wishing him great success for what looks to be a fantastic film, BATHINDA EXPRESS! You can check out the trailer below:

And,  be sure to look for the BATHINDA EXPRESS Facebook page!

What a perfect double feature these two would make!

First, Rajrani supplies either the thrills, chills, or horror in the pulse pounding EXTRA GIRL from Jay Pictures….

…then, what one can only presume is a promotion, Asha Pictures features Mehrunissa in and as STAGE GIRL!

If anyone can come up any info on actress Mehrunissa, I would be most grateful! All I can find is that she starred in several B grade films of the 30s and 40s such as BAGDHAD KA CHOR, KASHMIR KI KALI, NAQLI BAAP and FAIRY OF SINHALDWEEP, with the occasional supporting role in an A product.

To my knowledge I have never seen Mehrunissa in a film, either a big or small, but the fact that she has starred in a Hindi movie with the title STAGE GIRL already puts her in line to be one of my favorites!

Hmmm….looks like Fearless Nadia and John Cawas did a little moonlighting for another studio. Wonder if the Wadia Bros knew?

Well, Homi Misty knows, even if he himself is a mystery!

 

 

 

If only Indian theatres had shown double bills back in the day, what could have been better than two thrillers like these on the screen together!

KUON PARDESI (or KAUN PARDESI) was released in 1947, however I suspect that DEVIL OR SAITAN  either had a title change or went unreleased as I cannot find any record of the film anywhere.  No doubt it was (or would have been) fine motion picture entertainment!

If anyone out there has info about the production, please let me know!

Village boy travels to big city to study medicine but turns movie star. Sounds just like a filmy plot, doesn’t it? But this is no silver screen story; it is the true tale of Aman Dhaliwal, one of Punjabi cinema’s most promising young heroes!

Aman Dhaliwal, one of Punjabi cinema’s most promising young stars!

After appearing in a handful of Hindi and Telugu features, Aman made his Pollywood debut with VIRSA in 2010, a youth oriented story which proved popular and was even a featured selection at the Dallas Film Festival in Dallas, Texas in 2011.

Aman’s work in VIRSA was well received and soon more Punjabi film work followed with starring roles in the hit IK KUDI PUNJAB DI and the hilarious AJJ DE RANJHE, both of which featured excellent exposure for the versatile actor who has shown that he is not just hero material, but takes on comedy and negative roles as well.

Aman’s latest Punjabi picture, JATT BOYS – PUTT JATTAN DE will have him in another lead role and it would appear that his star is now shining bright!! No question about it, we will be seeing a lot more of Aman Dhaliwal in the future…so, let’s find out more about this actor. Aman was nice enough to take time out from promotional appearances for  JATT BOYS  to answer a few questions about his career and how he ended up in the entertainment business.

Mike Barnum : Working on the film VIRSA took you to Australia for filming. How was the experience?

Aman’s first Punjabi film, VIRSA: REDISCOVER YOUR ROOTS

Aman Dhaliwal: Punjabis in Australia are very supportive. At that time, Gurdas Maan had a stage performance there and he introduced me in his show as an actor of [the film] JODHAA  AKBAR. So, Gurdas Maan saab promoted me during the shooting of VIRSA, which was very nice. Through this, many families invited me for dinners and functions while shooting in Sydney. Media was also very supportive.

Aman Dhaliwal is introduced to the audience by singer Gurdas Mann while filming in Australia for the film VIRSA.

MB: Was this your first time visiting Australia?

AD: Yes. I visited Australia only this once, for the shooting of VIRSA. Maybe very soon I will be shooting another movie in Australia, if the project is finalized.

MB: Your co-star in VIRSA was Arya Babbar, whose father Raj Babbar made several hit Punjabi films in the 1980s and 90s.

Arya Babbar and Aman Dhaliwal in a scene from VIRSA

AD: I am definitely a fan of Raj Babbar, as my favorite movie is his film SHAHEED UDDHAM SINGH (2000), so of course I enjoyed working with Arya.

MB: Your latest Punjabi film AJJ DE RANJHE is a wonderful comedy, and it is the film that really made me take notice of you. It is also a very socially aware film, covering everything from drug and alcohol abuse to police corruption, and how honest police officers try to overcome a negative stigma.

Ajj De Ranjhe gave Aman his first hero role in a Punjabi film.

AD: Manmohan Singh introduced me as lead in this movie and connected me up with the Punjab police department. Deputy Chief Minister of Punjab Sukhvir Singh Badal came to see the premier of our movie as it was the first Punjabi movie to also be releasing in Pakistan at the same time. After watching the movie Deputy Chief Minister Badal ordered the police to do improvements in police-public relationship by taking me around as a sort of ambassador.  So this was another first for Punjabi cinema, wherein this film gave new ideas and direction toward improving relationships between the public and the police.

MB: Not only did you do this social work with the police, your assistance in helping others has continued.

AD: AJJ DE RANJHE connected me to do social activities to help “Aam Admi” (the common man), which is why I decided to shift from Mumbai to the town of Mansa (my home town). This is where I can best help people, as here my dad is socially and politically very active. Every day we get 5-6 applications of cancer patients in our area, so dad refers them for financial support, etc. I am B.S.C Honors in Radiology and Nuclear Medicine and an MBA in Hospital Management and my goal is to very soon make a free hospital for diagnosis of cancer.

Aman and fellow Panjab actor Gavie Chahal attend an event at National College Bandra celebrating the memory of famed Indian revolutionary Bhagat Singh.

MB: AJJ DE RANJHE had several comedians in the cast, including the wonderful Ghurpreet Guggi and Rana Ranbir –plus, you also had veteran actors like Deep Dhillon in the film.

AD: It was fun while working with Ghurpreet-ji & Rana Ranbir. We had a lot of fun, even during the time I was suffering with high fever while shooting! Deep-ji has a stong voice and is very positive by nature. He has a strong body, and he scared us when he was hitting our old gypsy character as part of the stunts in the movie. Those were real stunts! He and his wife encouraged me a lot.

MB: Was AJJ DE RANJHE well received?

AD: We think it found success, because our film has participated in improving the police system. After the film released I got calls from the Inspector General, the Deputy Inspector General, and Senior Superintendents of Police and they showed our movie to police employees. The film was highly appreciated in Pakistan (which is a first), Canada, and Australia, as well. So yes, film was a hit.

Aman and Gurline Chopra in a sweet scene from AJJ DE RANJHE

MB: You have another Punjabi film, JATT BOYS – PUTT JATTAN DE which just had a successful release. What can you tell me about your role in the film?

AD: In this one I play a boy named Waris Brar who is from a village and is studying in a city college. The story is how he maintains his values when he goes back to his village. Sippy Gill has a negative shade as a character who doesn’t allow anyone to comment on the heroine, but the heroine falls in love with Waris (me).

My vote for BEST Aman Dhaliwal photo!

MB: Also in the cast are two of my favorite performers, Om Puri and Rahul Dev. Did you get to work with them in the film?

AD: Yes. I saw another shade of Om-ji, he is very humble, totally attached to Punjabi culture. He has learned many things about Punjabi culture which even no one knows in villages of Punjab these days. He is very religious. He used to keep a copy of “Ik Onkar Satnaam” with him. He is fond of gurbani [compositions of the Sikh gurus], so I gave him many audio shabads [hyms] and Sikh history books. He used to drink lassi all the time and would share with me. We were also sharing the same vanity. He is very funny and a great actor. Gugu Gill plays my father in the movie and Rahul Dev is chacha, so that was my best family! We had a very good chemistry and I wish to work with them again. I found Rahul Dev also very humble. He is very deep and has a keen interest in reading books. He loves his son and asked to borrow a few Sikh history books for his son’s knowledge. So we were really like a family while shooting.

MB: Do you ever get nervous acting in front of such veteran performers?

AD: No, I never get nervous because I don’t perform the scene, I just feel myself in that situation and automatically the performance happens. So, I don’t perform, someone else does inside me; why should I be nervous then. I have seen all phases of struggle in my life so I need not to copy any actor.

MB: In IK KUDI PUNJAB DI the main lead is played by singer Amrinder Gill and you are in a secondary lead role. It has become very common in the new wave of Punjabi cinema to use singers in the lead roles.

AD: After a long time a new era of Punjabi cinema again started with Manmohan Singh’s movie JEE AYA NU (2002). At that time no actor wanted to waste himself in Punjabi cinema due to the film industry’s downfall. Because of the lack of willing actors, Man-ji had to launch Harbhajan Mann, who was a popular singer. Luckily people liked the story line and direction of JEE AYA NU and the film worked well. Even though people didn’t like Harbhajan’s acting, they had no other option, and Punjabis outside the country wanted their children to know their culture; hence the film became a big hit in Canada. The film was a success not because of Harbhajan Mann, but because of the strong message which attached the youth to Punjabi culture. Harbhajan Mann became lucky for Man-ji, so that’s why he made several more films with him. Audiences slowly became use to Harbhajan, and at the time there was no competition, as Manmohan Singh was the only active film maker in Punjab.

MB: And the success of Harbhajan Mann’s films cemented this new trend of (almost) exclusively using Punjabi pop singers in the lead roles.

AD: Many singers started thinking that if audiences can accept Harbhajan Maan [as an actor] then why not him. Now, singers think it’s better to do a film than a music album because for a movie they can charge a fee, and also a movie has a long life, if it works. Also, on behalf of their popular songs they can get shows with high prices.

Aman Dhaliwal rocks the sardar look!

MB: Of course signing a hit singer in a lead role doesn’t always guarantee a hit film.

AD: Correct. Sharry Mann was a very big hit singer whose debut movie was super flop; but still producers and directors couldn’t understand that storyline content is what is most important for a film, rather than any singer. Till producers and directors will not take actors for their leads in Punjabi films, the industry can’t be at its peak as most singers have limitations in acting. But an actor is versatile. Again, a downfall will start if producers and directors ignore actors…eh gall directors te producers nu samajh leini chahidi hai…this is a difference in Hindi and Punjabi films. See how we got Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan, because directors were strong and they were confident about their story and direction. These days directors are weak and that is why they are dependent upon singers; they think a singer will attract the audience, not the film’s story.

MB: Many other Punjabi actors have expressed a frustration with the lack of film opportunities this has presented.

AD: Singers have set-up their lobby system, they don’t let actors be part of the industry, and you will notice that my film AJJ DE RANJHE is nowhere on TV screens. Even my name was also not nominated for that film in the actor’s category for PTC Film Awards. When I was a second lead in IK KUDI PUNJAB DI, that time my name was nominated, but why not this time? I was main lead in a Punjabi film, which they can’t tolerate. I ask of Manmohan Singh and  PTC Awards — why was I ignored for any award, as well as in interviews and in reality shows. I asked Rabinder Narayan CEO and he said I was out because of lobby system in the industry. So, I openly challenge to those that if God listens then no one can stop anyone. Every success is in God’s hand…if God wants me to succeed then no one can stop.

Rana Ranbir, Aman Dhaliwal, Ghurpreet Guggi, and Amrinder Gill

MB: Going back in history a bit, before you entered the acting arena you worked as a model. You had set out as a medical student, so how did this change happen?

AD: How I got into modeling, that’s long story. I wanted to be doctor, so for preparation I went to Delhi. I had not enough money to stay in a hostel or as a paying guest so I used to stay in Gurdwara Rakab Ganj hall. Even a few times, due to security reasons, police warned me not to sleep in Gurdwara hall. Slowly I started doing a marketing field job but they didn’t pay anything so I used to eat in ‘langhar’ [where community meals are served at gurdwaras) and used to do my studying in the gurdwara. One day I went to a saloon for a beard trimming. A group of models were getting their makeup done there for a mega ramp show to launch some hair products. I had long hair as I never cut it, being a sardar. Employees thought that I was one of the models and began coloring my hair. I was very tired because of the heat outside and had fallen asleep, so I didn’t realize. Then a lady came who was a choreographer and she wanted to know who I was. I said I had just come for beard trimming and fell asleep on the chair, and when I woke-up they were coloring my hair. Then something clicked in her mind and she asked would I be a main show stopper for the mega ramp show. I told her that I never saw any ramp show and didn’t know about modeling. I was just a villager guy. She said “No worry. We will train you for that.” What had happened was that their main show stopper, who was an Italian guy with long, long hair had missed his flight from Frankfurt, but my look, after coloring, resembled that of the Italian model. That’s why the employees were confused, also. Because of my Italian looks I got a chance to do that ramp show as show stopper, and that’s how I got my first experience.

Before acting, Aman worked as a model

MB: That set you on a new track!

AD: Except that after this show I ran away because after seeing myself in the newspaper I got scared as my parents would never tolerate me in that profession. I would have to hide all this, so I decided to stay away from modeling in the future. But God has its own way. Again I started self studying in the gurdwara, and got a room there sharing with an employee. For one month I totally concentrated on preparing for medical admission. Finally I was selected and got a free seat, but staying in a hostel was still too expensive. At the gurdwara that employee refused to keep me in his room any longer, so now I had no place to stay. Then I met up with Vishal Nischal, who was assistant photographer on the ramp show. He said that the show was a hit and everyone wanted to take me into their company. I told him I was sorry, but that my parents would never allow it. He said he could arrange a room for me but he said, “I have to click your pix.” I said “Ok, you can click my pix.” He took me to his home. His family had come from Pakistan after partition and the government had allotted a home for them, but he had a huge family without much income source, and his dad and mom were not well. I told him that if I am staying with him then I can do anything possible for his family. So after college classes I used to work with him as a model. I never demanded any money. We started living like family members. And that’s how my career in modeling started.

MB: And then you made your way to Mumbai.

AD: My college professor, Mr. Nirmal Vilson, was a big fan because I was featured in music videos. He said he’ll not give me the internship certificate till I don’t work with [producer/director] Ashustosh Gowarika, and that’s how I came to Mumbai. Till that time I was not serious about acting or modeling as my main focus was to setup a cancer hospital. When I came to Mumbai I met Karan Malhotra (director of AGNEEPATH) who was at that time assistant to Ashutosh Gowarikar on JODHAA AKBAR. Cast was finalized, but for one character, who was supposed to be done by a celebrity. Karan showed my pic to Ashu-ji and he immediately called me and said my face is carbon copy of real Rajkumar Ratan Singh, the character that they had yet to cast.

Aman as Rajkumar Ratan Singh in the big budget Hindi historical JODHAA AKBAR

He showed me the historical picture and I was also shocked to see that he was 100% resembling me. That is how I got my chance. I came back to my college to receive internship certificate from Professor Vilson and was shocked to know that he had passed away a few days before, as he had suffered from blood cancer. At that point I decided to take my career seriously and went back and started shooting. However, Ashu-ji didn’t allow me to work in any film till JODHAA AKBAR was released. That was a long time, more than 2 years. So then I joined a production house as an employee where I made a few contacts.

As a model, Aman was featured in many music videos, including this one by singer Romey Gill

MB: JODHAA AKBAR was a big film, but alas, it didn’t quite become the career starter for you that it should have been.

AD: When JODHAA AKBAR released, most of my scenes had been deleted. Ashustosh said that because of controversy surrounding Rajputs in Rajasthan he had to cut the negative side of Rajkumar Ratan Singh. That was 6 to 7 big scenes that were deleted.

MB: But this was not the end of your Hindi film work, was it?

AD: Next movie was also a Hindi film. COFFEE HOUSE which was based on politics, so again it was in a controversy. I worked on two more Hindi movies with big production houses which got stuck. Then I made my mind to either move back to Punjab or to settle in USA on job basis. On the last day before I was to go back to Punjab I met up with a gentleman named Pankaj and he offered me a role in the Punjabi movie VIRSA, which of course was my entrance into Punjabi cinema. And so now, here I am with my 4th Punjabi movie now releasing.

MB: And this 4th Punjabi release — JATT BOYS–has had a very successful opening, so congratulations for that, Aman, as it looks to be a big hit!

To learn more about Aman Dhaliwal check out his website at: http://www.amandhaliwal.in/

You can also find him on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/amandhaliwalactor

And here is a sneak peek at Aman’s upcoming feature film which will be both in Punjabi and English!!

Of all the types of stunt pictures, the militant ones are my favorite! LOL! And it was what ‘Free India’ needed, after all!

 

Happy Independence, Hindustan!!

 

Mohan Pictures rivaled Wadia Bros in the production of stunt films during the 1940s. Sadly, their films are nowhere to be found…so far.

 

 

 

 

Well, as I sweep aside the cobwebs covering Pedro (the Ape Bomb) blog, I figured it was about I  start updating the place. I have been so busy with Bollywood related book projects that I have completely neglected this here website…but stay tuned because soon I will have several wonderful interviews forthcoming of artists currently working in Hindi and Punjabi cinema. You won’t want to miss it!

In the meantime, here is an story that The Indian Express newspaper did on western Bollywood bloggers in which I was one of the featured interviewees (as was my friend Greta of the popular Memsaabstory blog and some other very nice Bollybloggers.) Please enjoy: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/desi-films-foreign-fans/955770/

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