‘I shouldn’t belong to just one audience’

Punjabi singer-actor Jassie Gill refuses to be pegged down. From belting out peppy Punjabi numbers to starring in Punjabi films, Gill has made his Bollywood debut opposite Sonakshi Sinha in Mudassar Aziz’s
Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi
(
HPBJ
). In an interview conducted in Hindi, Gill outlines the decisions behind his expanding repertoire with a simple principle: “
Mein kisi ek audience ke liye na rahoon
(I shouldn’t belong to just one audience).”

After his debut album in 2011,
Batchmate
, the singer shares that he accidentally stumbled upon his passion for acting. Gill would act for the first time for his music videos. “[A new trend] then was for the videos to have stories.
Toh meri camera ke saath dosti ho gayi
(So I became camera-friendly),” shares the actor.

But even before he launched his career in music, Gill performed frequently at youth festivals, splitting his time at Gobindgarh College between singing and playing sports. “I was told there are practical subjects that you don’t have to study a lot — physical education, and music. So I took both!” Gill grins.

He shares that while despite being an under-16 national volleyball player and an adept cricketer, it was the idea of being known for his music that thrilled him and pushed him to carve a niche for himself in the music industry.

Once Gill started getting offers to star in films, he featured in numerous romantic comedies and light-hearted dramas like
Mundeyan Ton Bachke Rahin
(2014), and
Dildariyaan
(2015), “An image gets set,” he says with a shrug, but the actor shares that he is working towards diversifying his roles.

Take his other release this month,
Mr. and Mrs. 420 Returns
, for instance. A sequel to Gill’s debut film (
Mr. and Mrs. 420
), it will have the actor playing a man conning another by pretending to be a gypsy woman.

“I was scared I’d get negative comments and that I’d be made fun of,” admits the actor, “But I told myself that whether I’m acting or singing, I’ll try everything. I broke down my
log kya sochenge
(what will people think) [reasoning].”

Talking about actors he looks up to, he lists the “legendary” Aamir Khan, and “energetic” Ranveer Singh. But he’s especially grateful to actor-singer Diljit Dosanjh who he feels has paved the way for other Punjabi performers to create a space for themselves in Bollywood. “Before him,” says Gill, “the image of Sardars was that we are comedians and loud. There is no one type of Sardar. Diljit
paaji
wears a turban in his films, plays the lead. Thanks to him, people are looking towards Punjab.” And Gill shares that knowing that their journey from singers to actors has always encouraged him.

“And in this film (
HPBJ
), I get to wear a turban,” Gill says beaming. In Aziz’s sequel to
Happy Bhag Jayegi
(2016), Gill plays a new character who works in the Indian embassy in China.

“I even speak a little Mandarin,” he adds sheepishly. And even before his Bollywood debut has released, it has been announced that the actor will be seen in Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari’s
Panga
opposite Kangana Ranaut.

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