Diljit Dosanjh is not just a successful Punjabi singer with thousands of fans across the world but has made a name for himself as an actor, be it in Punjabi or Hindi films. He made his Hindi film debut as a police inspector in Udta Punjab, played a successful singer in Phillauri, took the viewers on a trip in Welcome to New York, and in Indian hockey player Sandeep Singh’s biopic Soorma, played the title role with conviction. All these films were released in Pakistan before the import of Indian films was banned in the country, but Diljit Dosanjh had no clue about it until it was revealed to him recently.
However, he has been making inroads in Pakistan’s cinema circuit with his Punjabi films, which are not just clean and family entertainers, but also highly successful. Last year, his Honsla Rakh was so successful in Pakistan that it prompted Diljit Dosanjh to return with another comedy flick with the same director Amarjit Singh Saron. The icing on the cake was the casting of Pakistani actor Sohail Ahmed (known as Azizi from the Hasb-e-Haal TV show) in the title role of Baba in Babe Bhangra Paunde Ne as well as the presence of leading Pakistani producer Hammad Chaudhry as one of the film’s executive producers.
The film was released successfully all over the world last week and is doing great business even in Pakistan where HKC Entertainment released it on Dussehra. Despite his success in Pakistan – both as a singer and as an actor – Diljit Dosanjh remains humble and wants to repay the love of his Pakistani fans by visiting the country, meeting them, and praying at the Sikh holy sites in the country. In an exclusive interview with BOLD, Diljit Dosanjh spoke at length about his latest film Babe Bhangra Paunde Ne, why he prefers music over acting, and how sharing the screen with Sohail Ahmed fulfilled his lifelong dream. Read on:
BOLD: Indian Punjabi films are quite popular in Pakistan, but what makes you feel that Babe Bhangra Paunde Ne would supersede the success of all preceding films?
Diljit Dosanjh: The other films didn’t have Sohail Ahmed Ji, and that’s what makes it very special to us, and to the people of Pakistan (smiles). When I was growing up, before there was Cable TV or DVDs, I used to watch Sohail Ahmed’s programmes on video cassettes. My dream was to meet him, shake his hand and take a photograph with him because his comic timings and expressions were something me and my friends enjoyed thoroughly. When his name came up during the preparation of this film, I immediately asked my director to make sure that Sohail Ahmed agreed to it, and when he did, my dream to have a picture with him multiplied into a full-fledged film!
What made you say yes to Babe Bhangra Paunde Ne when it was offered to you?
There were a lot of things that made me go for Babe Bhangra Paunde Ne but the most important factor was the presence of Sohail sir. I have always wanted to work with him and actress Sargun Mehta and this film gave me the chance to do that. It is a family-oriented comedy film with a beautiful message and I hope that the audience will have as much fun watching it as we had while performing in it. Anyone who had a little sense of story would have said yes to this film, and had I said no, I would have regretted it later.
It is said that one shouldn’t meet their heroes, but you did during the making of this film. How was that experience and how did it benefit you and the team?
It was a wonderful experience to share the screen with Sohail Ahmed Ji. I play an average guy who wants to become rich whereas he plays an older guy who is so sick that he might die anytime. My friends and I devise a plan to adopt him in order to scam the insurance company, but instead of getting sicker, he gets better and the con backfires. While shooting the film, we had a great time with Sohail Sahab and if you ask me and Sargun Mehta the leading lady, we were more in awe of him than you can imagine.
For me, watching him speak in real life was a treat because I had grown up watching him on television. Not only did he teach us a lot of things by being himself, but his character was also so funny that many of us were not able to control our laughter. In fact, whenever the team goes out, be it in the UK, the US or Canada, we copy his style and deliver a handful of his dialogues to each other, in his style!
This is the first time you are working with a Pakistani legend in a film that has been released in Pakistan. How are you feeling about it?
Every time an artiste goes on stage, he or she feels as if they are doing that for the first time, and the same thing can be said of a film actor, ahead of the film’s release. I feel exactly like that person who is performing for the first time, since my film has made its way to a new audience, one who knows me but whom I had not interacted with. I would like to add here that I am quite confident of the film’s success because of Sohail Ahmed sir because in our case he is like the elder who takes you around the fair and whom you trust. I know that even if we falter in the film, he would be there to lift us up.
You do realize that you are quite popular in Pakistan, mostly as a singer. How do you hope Babe Bhangra Paunde Ne will change your image when it is screened on this side of the Wagah?
I don’t plan to change my image at all, because I want to entertain my fans in both India and Pakistan. I know they love my songs because whenever I meet them abroad, they always respect me and shower their love and praise, which is something that I can never forget. I didn’t know my Hindi films were released in Pakistan but it’s good to know that my fans loved them. All I can say is that the Punjabi connection should remain strong and Babe Bhangra Paunde Ne will strengthen that bond.
Music or acting, which field are you more comfortable in?
I am more comfortable in singing than acting, I started acting at a time when nearly everyone was acting (laughs). However, in this film, I have noticed that even if you are a good singer, in the presence of someone who has the experience, you can be overshadowed. If you work with Sohail Sahab, and in a scene, he speaks after you, no one would remember you because of his towering presence and his captivating voice. His voice has an excellent texture that I haven’t heard before, ever and he may have not even noticed it because it’s only audible to those who are musically attuned.
Now that you have worked with a Pakistani actor, when do you plan to visit Pakistan?
Of course, I plan to visit Pakistan soon, and pay my respects at the Sikh holy sites in Punjab. I have also heard a lot of good things about Punjabi food which is also on my list when I visit. How can I forget my fans who have never stopped loving me and play my songs whenever they can, I will come and meet them myself once I get the time.
Any message for your fans in Pakistan who are eagerly waiting for your arrival?
No matter where I am in the world, I have a special connection with my fans in Pakistan because we share the same culture, the same language, and the same art. Not only can we relate to the same things, but the talent on both sides is also abundant. I wish them all the best and guarantee that they would love Babe Bhangra Paunde Ne, which is more than a film. It’s a connection between the two Punjabs and a film that will be thoroughly enjoyed by the young and the old. It’s not just a laugh-out riot but a movie with a proper message, which we have tried to highlight through the character played by Sohail Ahmed sir. -Ends