Failure has taught me more than success
Talking to Gippy Grewal is like having a conversation with a successful Punjabi who needs just a few minutes to inspire you with his simple talks. The singer-turned-actor has been the leading star of the Punjabi film industry. But he believes that his recent release Farar has got him far more appreciation than his previous films. With every film, Gippy has only done better than before making it clear that he runs his own race instead of competing with others. Here are excerpts from his chat with Pandolin about Farar’s success and more.
Now that Farar has released, are you happy with the response?
I’m happy with the film but we have suffered some losses due to the A-certificate from the Censor. It has really made the film suffer as kids weren’t allowed to watch it in cinema halls. If you check my Facebook page, you’ll find numerous messages from fans saying that they weren’t allowed to see the film. Farar has got the maximum appreciation as compared to my previous films – from critics to fans. It’s not that Farar won’t recover the money, it will easily do that but in the recent past some Punjabi films made huge gross. I doubt Farar can do the same. Though it is definitely earning more than some of my films from last year, I somehow had more expectations. It is not about money, but it is more about how does one show reality on screen if we’ll keep getting such certificates? Then why are we often questioned about not making realistic films? Now that we have made it, it’s given an A-certificate, which is restricting most families from visiting cinema halls.
Many Punjabi celebrities and your fans have even raised the question on social media that many Bollywood films with similar content end up getting the U/A certificate. Comment.
I can’t think of Farar as an A-certificate film. I later got to know that Baahubali was given U/A certificate even though there is a lot of violence in the film. Even other films like Ghajini and Phantom have U/A certificate. Many theatres in Punjab didn’t allow the kids to watch Farar, which made most families return home. In Punjab, families go together to watch the films and this whole scenario has really affected the business. Overseas was even worse because they gave it a 15A rating. The overseas certificate is based on the certificate given by the Indian Censor board. In foreign countries, laws are even stricter.
That means you’re upset with the response?
No, I’m only upset with the Censor thing. Coming to losses, I don’t think we’ll not make profit or not recover the money. There are many other factors that one worries about. The film was made on a budget of 10.5 crore, which is a huge budget when compared to regular Punjabi films.
With every film you have attempted something different to promote your films. What makes you give so much importance to promotions?
I believe that you should not fool or misguide your fans. When Farar’s promo was released, a lot of people told me that the trailer is full of action. We could have had a promo that made Farar sound like a romantic film but we didn’t. I promoted Farar keeping in mind its content, which is action. Many a times the promos of certain films are different from what their content is, which is like misguiding your audience. For Farar, I also actively used Facebook’s Live option that helps in putting up live videos. This brought me really close to the viewers. For any film, promotion holds equal importance. But promotion doesn’t mean that you can make even a bad product work. If Farar was a bad film, the word of mouth wouldn’t have helped us the way it has done now. Despite this whole A-certificate confusion, Saturday was stronger than Friday, Sunday was stronger than Saturday and same was the case with Monday. Word of mouth is a very powerful thing.
You underwent extensive physical training for your role, which is new for any Pollywood actor. Tell us more about it.
My character demanded hard work as it was the requirement of the film. It was rigorous effort of around 14 months. I’m not a gym person and have never hit a gym before working on this film. So I took around 4-5 months to adapt to the gym and get used to it. I was making abs in a lean body, which is something really difficult. We were planning and working on Farar for the past two years. According to the demand of the story, it was mandatory for me to under go this amount of physical training.
Your last film Mirza with Farar’s director Baljit Singh Deo didn’t really do well. Were there any inhibitions while teaming up again?
I don’t think I had any such feelings. For me, Farar is a well-made film. If certain people might have not liked it, it could be because they are addicted to a certain genre and not what Farar showed. We worked on the story and then took it to Baljit Bhaji. No one can shoot better than him. Earlier also when I worked with director Smeep Kang in Carry on Jatta, he had previously given a flop film, Chak De Phatte. After Farar, people are telling me that I performed really well. But I feel that one will eventually perform according to the kind of role he/she gets. Angrej worked quite well though Amrinder’s previous films weren’t much appreciated. And the director had not given any hit before Angrej. I think nothing matters if your content has meat. Baljit Bhaji is a suitable director for me because we understand each others thoughts.
That means you are involved in roles other than singing and acting as well. How deeply are you involved in the making of your films?
Now I’m fully involved in almost every aspect of my film. From script to the screenplay, dialogues to even casting and of course music. If I don’t like the script I don’t do the film. In fact in terms of casting, I also suggest and approve a lot of artists in the film.
Your debut Bollywood film Second Hand Husband jinxed at the box office. What actually went wrong with the film though the songs became quite popular?
Nothing went wrong actually. Every director has a certain style of working. I always thought that Baljit Bhaji excels in shooting a good quality film though he doesn’t have command on the story. Coming to Smeep (Kang), his screenplay and story is good but he isn’t able to give proper treatment to the film. When he narrated the plot to me, I liked the subject and agreed to do it as I knew his stories are always good. From what he shared in the story, I felt that the film would generate a lot of laughter, but his thoughts weren’t executed properly. When I saw the film a few days prior to the release, I immediately realized that it hasn’t been made properly. If the film was strong, it would have gained some attention through word of mouth. But that didn’t happen since it wasn’t a strong project.The music did well as it was my area and I made songs according to my genre. After I saw the film, I didn’t even promote it. I told Smeep that no matter how much we promote it, it wouldn’t do well because it has come out as an ordinary film. Not that Smeep wanted to make such a film but at times things don’t work.
Will this affect your decision of doing more Hindi films?
I don’t think so. I haven’t struggled much for Punjabi films nor Hindi. I have done what my heart has told me to. Failures have always taught me more than success. Carry on Jatta’s success didn’t make me learn what Mirza’s failure did. At that time, Mirza had the highest opening but people would go to the cinema halls and eventually say all bad things about the film. I think you should have the power to stand up again after falling. When I started in this field, I just wanted to earn my day to day bread from something that I loved working on. There is no formula to have a hit film but our agenda should be to do our work with full honesty. After watching Farar or Second Hand Husband, no one can say that I haven’t done my work properly. I did everything that the director told me to do. Coming to Bollywood, I wanted to make a film of my style, therefore I worked with Smeep. Several prominent Bollywood directors have approached me but nothing is in the pipeline yet. But I will definitely work in Hindi films too.
From your brother Sippy Grewal who either produces or distributes your films to many of your friends, your films often see your old team of friends and family come together. Is this your comfort zone?
It is not about the comfort zone. Our team wasn’t even involved in my earlier films but they have always gone out of their way to promote it. So much so that people usually end up thinking that it’s a film made by our team. My upcoming film Kaptaan is by Tips but we are going to promote it with the same passion, not that they would give us extra money, but we always promote each project with the same passion.
What process do you adopt to build your character in your films? How do you prepare?
It depends entirely on the role I’m playing. There are some roles that don’t require preparation, one just has to improvise on the spot. But some roles need efforts, such as the character of Shinda that I played in Farar. I had to really work hard on my character in Kaptaan too.
What is Kaptaan about?
I’m playing a lawyer in Kaptaan. This lawyer is not an intelligent one but a nalayak of sorts. Slowly the film turns and gets into a serious zone. I’m fond of such films where there’s a thrill and in Kaptaan the suspense gradually builds as the story unfolds. Kaptaan is being directed by director Mandeep Kumar who earlier directed the Punjabi film Jihne Mera Dil Luteya and stars Karishma Kotak and Monica Gill.
From Mahie Gill to Ragini Khanna, Zarine Khan to Kainaat Arora & now Karishma Kotak in Kaptaan, you have often brought heroines from Bollywood to Pollywood. Does Punjab lack good female actors?
When we organize auditions, we hardly find good female actors taking part in it. We barely come across girls from here. The reason could be that they don’t land up for the auditions. In fact I always want to give newcomers a chance. In Kaptaan we are introducing Monica Gill who is a Punjabi but based in America. Mandeep (Director) took her audition and was really impressed.
Whom do you look up to? Do you have any mentors in Bollywood?
I’m a fan of Aamir Khan and he is also part of my friend circle. We became friends by chance but I have liked his acting from the very beginning. When we were planning to make Farar, I met him and discussed the concept. I told him that we’ll take proper time and make the film with full perfection, the way he makes it.
You are also a singer. Today several actors are singing in their own films. What is your opinion?
I think they have started feeling that the USP of the film increases when they sing in their own films. Though even earlier many actors like Amitabh ji and even Aamir have sung for their films.
Many Bollywood filmmakers are exploring biopics and topics related to Punjab or Haryana – Omung Kumar’s film on Sarabjit Singh, Sonam Kapoor’s film on Neerja Bhanot, Aamir Khan’s Dangal, Abhishek Choubey’s Udta Punjab etc. Don’t you think that Punjabi filmmakers should also make films on topics closer home instead of random stories?
There was a biopic that we were planning to make and it has some really serious content. We are now thinking about how exactly to showcase the reality because of Farar’s Censor certificate that has left us completely confused.
What are your upcoming projects?
Besides Kaptaan, there is another film called Lock, which is a different story and will be directed by Smeep Kang. It is going to be another experiment, a suspense, thriller and drama based on different characters. Smeep will be acting in it too. It’s not a very big budget film but I think that this will be Smeep’s best film.
What are the other subjects that you want to explore
I’m working on 2-3 more things. But all these have been affected due to the Censor certificate. From a long time I’ve been working on a subject related to drugs. Every time the media would ask me as to why am I not making a film on this serious topic that is Punjab’s main concern. But now I feel that if I were to make a film on drugs and not show the real stuff, it won’t do justice to the subject. But showing the reality will again get us an A-certificate that will not let families watch the film. This whole incident has left me confused. They told us to eliminate two main scenes in Farar – when the fighter gets killed in the fight and when the villain gets killed in the end. If we were to take out those scenes, the audience would definitely find something amiss. The plot of drugs and its details will definitely show people getting killed or dying, murders and violence. If I don’t show that, I don’t think it will look real. The story was almost decided and we were thinking that Baljit Bhaji (Baljit Singh Deo) will do it because it was more of a treatment film.
You have already come a long way. Where do you see yourself in the coming five years?
I don’t have any big goals. Never in my life have I ever had any set plan. I just have one thing in mind and that is to do good work that gets appreciated. Instead of quantity I have always wanted to do quality work.
From regular films to music tracks to music shows, one doubts if you ever take a break in between. Do you get some alone time for yourself?
I get ample time to spend with my family. After Farar’s release, I’m on a family vacation. When we were shooting Farar, my family was with me in America. Also I take out special time for my family as I’m very attached to them.