I’m quirkier and wittier in real life
Thanks to his punch lines, jokes and gestures that help him play every character differently, Punjabi actor Binnu Dhillon’s rib-tickling humor has made him a household name in Punjab and amongst Punjabis all over the world. Binnu who gained popularity for his comic roles has the caliber of solely carrying a film on his shoulders even when he is not playing the lead.
The quirky and witty actor talks about his journey into films, how he approaches his roles and his upcoming film that will give him a break from comedy.
The comic roles that made you popular happened quite late in your life. Tell us about your journey before landing these roles?
I’ve played the lead in a dozen Punjabi soaps before doing comedy roles in films. I made my debut on TV in ’98 with serials such as Parchhawain and Sarhad. During those days I did only one comedy serial – Professor Money Plant with the late Jaspal Bhatti. I even ventured into tele-films such as Khara Dudh and Khich Ghuggi Khich. Post that I did negative roles in Punjabi films, which were also liked by the audience. It was from Munde UK De that a comic touch was added to the negative characters that I played. After Carry on Jatta, only comic characters stayed with me.
You’ve also done theatre before entering the industry. What role has theatre played in honing your acting?
I hail from a middle-class family, but my family was very supportive. While I was doing my post graduation at Punjabi University, I used to be actively involved in Bhangra. I’d once gone with the Bhangra team to Germany and simultaneously admissions were taking place in my college. I told some friends to get me enrolled in any course while I was away. The Masters in Theatre was the only course that didn’t have any entrance test so they filled my form. In those days not many people opted for a degree in theatre. So I was often made the lead in every play that I did. Acting in numerous plays was like a rehearsal to perform versatile characters. My father worked in the government service but he is also an artist. He makes sketches and just like my father, I bring different sketches to the screen in the form of characters that I play.
Does that mean that during your growing years acting wasn’t on your mind?
Not at all. I always wanted to join the Police force, which was a dream job for me. I have thrice cleared the exam and physical test for the post of Assistant Sub Inspector. But every time I missed clearing the interview as I didn’t have any influence. After I completed my Masters in Theatre I became part of the repertory and for two years survived with very little salary. Eventually, I got several TV serials.
Are you as quirky and witty as your on screen persona even in real life?
I am much more than that. My only purpose in life is to laugh and be happy in any situation. If you can make someone laugh or happy, there is nothing greater than that. There were days when I didn’t have money to pay the bills or rent but I would try and be happy even then.
Different sites such as Troll Punjabi have been using your pictures with your hand gestures and making jokes based on them. How do you react to such situations?
More than the dialogues, it’s my hand gestures in Carry on Jatta that made me famous. Since then various Facebook pages have been using them along with anything that they want to express. Usually, they come up with satires and I take them in the same humorous manner as they are represented.
How do you approach your character?
My first thoughts usually revolve around the content of the film and my character. Then I do an extensive background study of my character, which becomes an integral part of my acting process. I then start thinking about the details that can be added to the character. Body language is very important for me. Hence I start working on it and try to improvise more on those lines. Nowadays I’ve started doing less films but the ones I do are usually a hit.
Do you follow the dialogues that are given to you or improvise?
I mostly improvise. I very rarely follow the script.
Were you tired of doing comic roles?
It does get monotonous when you are playing the same kind of roles again and again. Post Carry on Jatta, everyone wanted us to act loudly. Even though we tried not to repeat it, Carry On Jatta became the reference point for many filmmakers.
What are the other characters that you wish to play?
I really like roles that aren’t over the top and don’t require unnecessary drama. Effortless acting impresses me the most and is something that I see myself doing. The kind of roles that actors like Nawazuddin Siddiqui play. It is such a delight to see him acting so naturally. For any good actor, it is important to get into your role and make it appear as normal as possible. I am also a huge fan of actors like Naseeruddin Shah, Paresh Rawal, Om Puri etc. These actors come from a theatre background and have worked hard on their skills and excelled in the industry. They haven’t achieved all this with just a stroke of luck.
Comedian Kapil Sharma will be seen playing the lead in Kis Kis Ko Pyaar Karu which is rare for any comedian. Do you think Punjabi filmmakers should also come up with a script that offers you a lead?
I have recently finished the overseas schedule of a film, tentatively titled Channo, opposite Neeru Bajwa. For the first time, I will be seen playing the lead role. The entire theme of the film revolves around Neeru and me. My character isn’t run off the mill but has some meat in it. For the first time, it isn’t a comic character but a serious one. And unlike comedy, it requires hard work. In this film, I play a very calm character whose one-sided love shows him as a very simple person. Even while playing this role I came up with some situational punches but they are different from what a comic character would play.
What was the reaction of the Director and your co-actors for your performance in this film?
Director Pankaj Batra found it difficult to describe how well the film has shaped up. After every scene, I would ask all my co-actors or the ones present on the set about my performance and all of them would appreciate it. While I was giving a take for one of the scenes, there was a couple standing on the other side of the screen. When the take got over, the couple was so moved that they had tears in their eyes.
Going forward would you prefer to do comedy roles or serious ones?
I just like to work. It hardly matters what kind of a role it is. I have always tried to do something different. Whenever I have accidentally landed a similar role, I make sure that I attempt it differently so that it appears new.
How do you manage to make all your roles appear different?
Your body language plays an important part. When you explore your body language, it makes you versatile. In Angrej, though I had a small role, I tried to add more to it. When I am part of a project the fact that I have to do my best, gets things out of me. Your inner self helps you to keep thinking and give your self completely to the role.
How do you prepare for your roles?
After I’m done reading the script and closely studying my character, I don’t believe in sitting alone in the vanity and preparing for it. I get more comfortable when I start rehearsing with my co-actors. It brings out the best scene. If your co-artist and you prepare in separate vanities, you don’t gel with each other and that shows in your work. But when you interact and rehearse together, that makes it comfortable to perform.
Do you have any Bollywood plans?
Who doesn’t want to work in Bollywood? A Hindi film would off course get recognition all over India. But currently I am doing well in the Punjabi industry. Leaving Pollywood and starting from scratch in Bollywood doesn’t make sense. I have earlier done cameos in films such as Shaheed-e-Azam and Dev D. But I got these films sitting in Punjab itself since various films are being made around Punjabi biopics and stories. Hopefully, there will be more opportunities like these without me having to shift my base to Mumbai.