Being tagged as the most under-rated and under-used actor after a decade in Bollywood isn't something which any actor can possibly be content with. But there's one person who isn't affected by such labels and that is none other than Jimmy Shergill. Now in his 11th year, the actor is still selecting roles and films which his critics think are not right. But the fact of the matter is that such comments haven't affected his performances, and with his just released film Dus Kahaniyaan running successfully and Strangers on the verge of release this Friday, Jimmy is all fired up to show that there is no stopping him. In an exclusive interview over the phone from India, Shergill shares with me the success of Dus Kahaniyaan, his days spent in London while filming Strangers, his plans this Christmas and much more.
The verdict is out. Dus Kahaniyaan is accepted by the critics and fans as a good film and is running successfully. What do you have to say?
It's always good to know that your film has done well. But such thing hasn't happened before wherein, in a two hour duration you get to see ten short films. Each one being of a different genre where some will make you laugh, some will make you cry and some will thrill you. So after watching the film even if you are satisfied with six or seven stories out of ten, you know that you've got something out of it. Not to forget that it will open up a lot of avenues for the first time film makers, actors who want to experiment with different stuff, etc. So I think it's good.
Does that mean you are going to go ‘high on the highway’ after what I've just told you?
I wish I could. But for the past fifteen days I've been promoting Dus Kahaniyaan and Strangers. So right now I'm awaiting the release of my next film Strangers, which was shot entirely in the UK.
Maachis in 1996 lit you up and now you are in your 11th year. Is Jimmy going to slow down, is Jimmy getting too old or is Jimmy geared up for more and more?
It's always going to be more and more. You know when people accept you in roles which you've not done before; I think that this is the time where they are accepting unusual kind of stuff and different kind of performances. If you see Dus Kahaniyaan, the character that I've portrayed in the film is like a shock to everybody, simply because I haven't done something like this before. I got a chance to portray a high, smashed up character who was drunk. Such things make you confident of taking up challenging roles always.
Your new hairstyle is doing quite a bit of rounds in the industry. It all started with Raqeeb. So, is it something you are going to experiment with?
Right now my hairstyle is very short and spiked up. Yes, there were two or three films which did require long hairstyle like Delhi Heights, Raqeeb and Dus Kahaniyaan. Now the same kind of look will be seen in Strangers too. But the styling of my long hair has been different in different films; like in Dus Kahaniyaan I have a pony tail, in Raqeeb, I had my hair coloured, etc. It's not me but my character which demands such looks and it's always good to experiment.
You've worked with a lot of new comers in the past too. How was it to work with Masumeh, you co-star in Dus Kahaniyaan?
Masumeh is known to be quite selective. She does selective work. It was a pleasure working with her. I knew her from before through common friends and when I got to know that she was opposite me, I was looking forward to work with her. And what happens is that when you have a good director like Hansal Mehta, everybody is very comfortable. There was also just one director, one cameraman and two actors who had to perform, so it was great fun.
How was the experience of being a part of a Sanjay Gupta Film?
It was good. When I met him and he told me about this unique idea, I straightaway said 'yes' to it. Hansal Mehta had also narrated me his script which I loved extremely because it was story by Vishal Bharadwaj and finally worked on by Hansal. He told me about my role and I freaked out. I said to Hansal that it's great news. Just three to four nights of work and the film is over. How good is that? At the same time there is a lot of juice in my character. The good thing about Sanjay Gupta Productions is that there was no hassle on the sets. We didn't have to discuss anything new. The look was worked out from before. The actors knew what they were given and the director knew what he was doing. It was all done in time.
Is it true that you had to get drunk to get your role perfect?
If you get drunk, you can't perform. And if I perform when I was drunk then you got to give me credit for that. Hansal had this feeling that before I go ahead with my scene, I should have a drink or two just to get into the skin of the character. That's the way I was also thinking about my role. What's interesting is that after every shot I used to feel dizzy and was going to collapse. There was a kind of a body language which the role needed. So you have got it right. Yes, I was a bit high on the highway!
All your co-stars in Strangers are actually strangers to you as you are working with them for the first time. How was this strange experience?
(Laughs) The experience was truly wonderful. The fact is that when I came on board, the rest of the cast had already been finalized. I was the last one to join in. It's true that I haven't worked with Nandana before nor have I worked with Kay Kay inspite of being a part of the same film called Silsilay but we did not share screen space together. So when I came to know about all three, I thought that if these three have said 'yes' to it then there is no question for me to say 'no'. I was on the right track. I did work with Sonali before in Jahan Tum Le Chalo but in Strangers I do not have any scene with Sonali.
Tell us a bit about Strangers and its London connection.
There are films which are categorized into comedy, thrillers, romantic and action but I like to believe that there are only two kind of films. Good or Bad. Strangers is a good film but it is a very intelligent film. It's a mind game. When people see the promos and say that there are lots of love making scenes in the film, it's untrue. There is nothing of that sort. The characters you will see in Strangers are the two types. Once you might see them the nicest and on the other hand they have shades of grey. The director Anand Rai was very clear to show London not the way it has always been shown as in past films. My house in the film is the same house in Chelsea where Hollywood film Love Actually was shot, we've shot in the vintage steam trains of Winchester which is in the country side where 28 scenes were shot. So, he has used very different locations and not London Bridge, Big Ben, nothing of that sort. His style of shooting is very European. His camera takes are very tight and when he brings the camera close to you, you can't move an inch as it will ruin the shot.
How was London besides filming?
It was one of my most memorable experience because I remember that small place in Winchester where we stayed which had hardly about 50 to 60 people there. After 5pm in the evening you couldn't see one single person on the streets. It was deserted. The strange thing was that even in that remote place, we found a Bangladeshi restaurant which was only open till 6pm. But we told them that we finish our shoot at 8.30pm and will be coming to eat in their restaurant at 9pm. For three hours they kept the restaurant open only for us. Such is the warmth of the people there. And the food was delicious.
What brands do you prefer buying from London?
In jeans, I prefer Diesel and Salsa. My suits are definitely Armani and shirts could be any thing fitted, and I sometimes I pick up leather jackets from either Harley Davidson or Boss.
Why should one go and watch both your films, Dus Kahaniyaan and Strangers?
You should once go and watch both these films. Strangers, because it is not the typical run of the mill Bollywood film and Dus Kahaniyaan because you've got one plate and ten different dishes in it. One is spicy, one is mild, one is sweet, etc. But you only need two good dishes to fill your stomach and if starving then you'd go for three or four. But here you've got ten and I'm sure you will pick at least seven or eight.
You were a part of both the Munnabhai series. Now that Sanjay Dutt is out, how excited are you for him and Vidhu Vinod Chopra?
First of all I'm really happy for Sanju baba personally because he has gone through a lot. Secondly as far as I know, Munnabhai part three script is being worked on right now and the moment Sanju baba's dates are confirmed then that would be the correct time we all will come to know as to what's locked in.
Is it true that Munnabhai changed your career graph?
Popularity wise, I think 'yes'. But Maachis and Mohabattein were the films that changed my graph. Mohabattein was the film which gave me a break through into commercial cinema. But post that, there have been films which gave me critical acclaim like Haasil, Yahaan, Munnabhai MBBS, Lage Raho Munnabhai and Eklavya.
What are you Christmas plans?
I am going to be in Delhi for Christmas and for the New Year’s Eve, I am planning to be in Rajasthan. I will try and not to shoot for these ten days and spend time with my family instead.