Mostly I’m right when my instinct tells me that I shouldn’t be doing some role
With recently Shareek that brought her back to Punjabi film industry post Carry on Jatta – one of the biggest blockbusters of Punjabi industry that released in 2012, she continues to elicit both anticipation and love in the hearts of the Punjabi audience. In showbiz, where you are only as good as your last film, actor and recently turned producer Mahie Gill sticks to doing movies only when the script and the role have some meat. That makes her say no to films quite often as she believes in doing only those films which are close to her heart. If she is not acting in any film, she’s happy in her own space. In conversation with her about acting, how she approaches her roles and the films she’ll be next seen in.
Tell us about your role in recently released Shareek?
I’m playing a character called Jassi in the film who is very aggressive, bold and ziddi. There are two shades in the film. In the first half, she is very bubbly and strong but in the second half she sobers down and becomes a quieter Jassi for certain reasons.
Did you relate to your role in Shareek?
Certainly because I come from a Jatt Sikh family and we are basically zamindars. I have seen this kind of life. I can completely relate to the role because we have shareekebaazi in our family and is still happening.
Despite Carry on Jatta being such a big hit, what made you not do any Punjabi film after that?
It is all about scripts. The kind of scripts that I was getting after Carry On Jatta were really weird. Nothing in that excited me. They were only comedy based scripts and something that I had already done in Carry on Jatta. Whenever I heard the script I used to feel that I have already done or performed this role. As nothing was interesting enough I didn’t want to do them. You just can’t keep signing random films.
Then I started my own production company and produced a Punjabi film called Aatishbaazi Ishq (tentative title). But when I was planning my film, Shareek came up. Since Shareek’s story was pretty interesting and I had wanted to do a rural film, I agreed for this. Shareek is a huge multi-starrer film, so that means the roles are divided. But at the same time, whatever time you get on screen is worth it. I could relate to the whole film and my character. So I think it is all about getting the right scripts and roles that kept me away from doing Punjabi films.
How did Aatishbaazi Ishq happen?
I produced a short film last year called Mawaad. The cast is new though I didn’t act in it but only produced it. Mawaad was directed by Amit Subash Chander Dhawan who is also going to direct Aatishbaazi Ishq in which I’m also going to act. I will be playing a hockey coach and it features actor Roshan Prince in it. The film is a romantic thriller. We finished the shoot in May-June at Ferozpur. Mawaad is a story about a helpless Rajasthani woman dealing with a loveless marriage, an alcoholic husband and her final break away. I went to various films festivals and even won the Best short film award at Bioscope Global Film Festival in Delhi.
I made this short film to see the reaction it will get and how it gets rated. When it did well; it gave me a push to produce a Punjabi feature film. If this film goes well I want to produce more films. I also want to write films. I would like to meet people, talk to them and then write about them. So there is something in the pipeline. Though I’m not a very creative person, but there is so much in the head that perhaps I will involve a writer to write the film.
Did you keep a track of Punjabi films that released ever since?
I’ve not seen any of these films. But I knew the kind of films that were being made because most of them were being offered to me. Though I was not aware that how they did at the box office.
What was your first reaction when you were offered Shareek?
I loved it. Moreover, I have already worked with Jimmy (Shergill) in three films – Saheb, Biwi aur Gangster, Saheb, Biwi aur Gangster Returns and a song in Bullet Raja. Getting the right kind of script and working with the right kind of hero was something I was looking for.
What kind of association do you have with Jimmy?
We are both Punjabis and even on the sets of Saheb, Biwi aur Gangster, we both used to speak in Punjabi. As we hail from Punjab, we both could connect. Then after doing two films and one song, the chemistry is already there because you know the person so well. And Jimmy is such a good actor. I’m very comfortable working with him.
Coming to Bollywood, have you ever felt stereotyped considering the kind of roles that are offered to you?
Instead, I think that I’m very lucky as I never wanted to be an actor. But God has given me so much. And the titles roles that I have got – from Biwi in Saheb, Biwi aur Gangster to Paro of Dev D or the role in Paan Singh Tomar, I have done some really interesting films. I have worked with great actors and directors. So I’m very satisfied and happy in my zone.
You are very choosy about the films, do you keep saying no to the films?
I refuse a film every second day. I know people are going to get upset with me. But there is no point signing the film randomly, going on the set and not enjoying it. That means you are wasting everybody’s time and the producer’s money as well. Instead I tell people that I want to work with them but not in the story that they are offering me. The moment I listen to a role, somehow my instinct tells me that I shouldn’t be doing it. And most of the times I’m right. Even when people watch those films, they tell me that it was good that I refused it.
But have you ever regretted your decision of saying no to the films?
I have not really regretted but in one or two films I got delayed in saying yes for those. So I think that was the loss.
When you are not doing many projects, does it gets frustrating after some point?
I’m a very private person and love staying at home when I’m not working. I have a little pug with whom I really enjoy. I have friends whom I meet. And even when I’m not working, there are people from the industry I keep meeting because they often come to narrate their scripts. I am a very happy and satisfied person.
When you started your career with Dev D it was an unconventional story for that time. Today when such stories are finding the audience as well as producers, what has kept you away from such scripts?
People come with woman oriented films, but their storyline is weird. At times, the director doesn’t know how to give narration. So what really happens is that I just wait for good work and bounce on it when I get it. If I am convinced with the storyline, then I don’t mind going ahead with it.
You have a theatre background. So while acting in films, is there anything that someone from theatre background have to unlearn?
Initially, I found it difficult to face the camera because you can’t be loud and your gestures have to be mild. You have to control your body language. But theatre helped me a lot as well in adjusting with people, learning the dialogues etc.
You are originally from Chandigarh and after you shifted your base to Mumbai, has the industry accepted you completely?
It took me time to adjust in Mumbai. I am a shy person and don’t go out usually. Initially, I kept meeting the wrong kind of people who would just talk nonsense. There had been some kind of struggle, but God has been kind. Mumbai has accepted me completely now. I may not be doing a lot of work but where ever I go I get a lot of respect. They talk about my films and even the biggest directors have been following my work and appreciate me when I meet them.
What is the best compliment that you have recieved from any of the legends of Bollywood?
I remember once I met Yash Chopra ji at a Lohri function in Mumbai. I just went to wish him and he said that he really appreciated my work and liked it. So that was an exciting moment for me.
As you never wanted to be an actor, so how did acting happen?
It just happened by chance. I always wanted to join the army. I just happened to join the Indian Theatre Department at Punjab University but never knew that I would do films. The reason for joining the theatre department was that I wanted to study in the University and I applied for three courses – English, Sociology and Theatre. Since the theatre department’s results came first, I joined it. So that inspiration to be an actor was never there. But after joining the department I started enjoying it. While I was studying, I started getting roles. When I shifted to Mumbai, it was tough as I didn’t know anyone over there except for two or three friends who were supportive. Then living on your own and paying bills for a person who has never taken money from parents was difficult.
How did you prepare as an actor?
Firstly I just think that had I been in that situation, how would have I reacted. Then obviously the kind of directors I have worked are very different. When you work with different directors you need to know what the director wants. You just think about your role, but he thinks about the entire film.
Do you have any dream role?
Something like what Smita ji did in Waaris, Waheeda Rehman ji in Guide and Sridevi in Chalbaaz. These are the kind of roles that I would love to perform.
Who are your favourite actors in the industry?
I have always loved Nutan, Rekha and Sridevi.
You have a film coming up with Nana Patekar called Wedding Anniversary. What is your role in it?
In this Sudhanshu Jha’s direction, I’m playing a woman who goes to Goa for her first wedding anniversary. But she arrives before her husband (Priyanshu Chatterjee). Then Nana Patekar comes and it is the journey of a night. I become his inspiration.
Another upcoming films?
There is another American film that I am doing.