The first name that popped up in my head when I thought of writing on this topic was the present superstar of Punjabi films, Amrinder Gill. I have huge respect for self made people and he definitely is one of them who has worked hard to get where he is today.
Some might read into this as a PR exercise or a piece to be in good books with him but I am going to write what I know first hand, whether it’s good or bad; debatable or non-debatable; pleasant unpleasant. As, when I decided that I would start writing in a public domain, the only promise I made to myself was - Be honest and truthful.
I would like to confess that I wasn’t very updated on the Punjabi Music & Film scene back in the day (2012) as much as I am today for obvious reasons. I first heard about Amrinder Gill from fraternity members and discovered that he is an amazing singer with a huge fan base.
I saw his first film ‘Taur Mitran Di’ at a theatre in Patiala, while I was shooting for my first film called 'Burrraahh' as a costume designer. I was asked by a friend named Chandan Madaan (who was co-producing the film) to bail him out, as his designer on the project had backed out last minute and their film was going on floors in the next 2-3 days. It’s a different story that I was asked to streamline things for them for a month but ended up being in the city (I had never visited) for more than three months till the film got completed. That’s another experience which I shall share another time in detail, as it definitely deserves a separate mention whole heartedly.
So coming back to Amrinder, honestly after that one film I saw of him, I didn't think much of him as an actor.
After I came back to Mumbai, one fine evening I got a call from Ruby Singh (Speed Records), who I had met a couple of times before in his office to promote my talent and he probably had heard about me doing a decent job as a costume designer, for a film that he now was partner on. I clearly remember, he was then shooting for ‘Tu Mera 22 Main Tera 22’ with Amrinder.
This was also around the same time I had signed this new girl Parul Gulati, who I had met on the sets while working as a costume designer, so was trying to fix up meetings for her with various production houses and directors.
So, when this call came in from RubyJi (as I call him), I thought he wanted to acquaint my new freshly acquired talent but on the contrary, he asked me to join him at Hotel Sea Princess. I thought it was a great opportunity to introduce my talent to him so I asked Parul to join me for the meeting, and in my head such opportunities always open up avenues to work together in future ;)
Here comes the big moment!
I, along with my talent, reach the venue and we were asked by RubyJi to come up to one of the rooms to meet him. It was a little awkward as I had not known him for long and had a female along with me. So, after a quick discussion me and Parul decided to take that chance and go up to the room.
On our way up to the room, we also bumped into Mandy Takhar for the first time, who was besotted with the co-star of the film she was shooting for, at that point, and had no qualms about displaying her affection towards him in public eye, in the elevator that we ended up sharing. I believe the entire crew of the film was stationed in the same hotel.
I rang the bell of the room that we were invited to and to our surprise the door was opened by Amrinder Gill. He was gracious enough to get us in and asked us to be seated. Ofcourse, RubyJi was present in the room as well. That was my first impression of Mr. Gill in person. He was extremely gentle, humble and down to earth. It’s only later that I discovered that RubyJi wanted to introduce me to Amrinder as his stylist for the poster shoot of one of his film's, and not meet my talent whom I had carried along. The shoot was lined up for next day.
I bailed out of the project expressing that it’s too short a notice for me to come on board and I don’t style people whom I don't work with as talent. I said that styling for me is just an extension of my creativity, limited just to the talent whom I work one on one with and is not a full time job for me.
Though if you ask me today, I look back on that incident as a great opportunity lost, that came knocking at my door and I just kicked it away!
But as they say you win some you lose some, it’s all part of the game.
A year later, I again started working with the talent agency I used to work with. I was on Amrit Maghera's account, lead actress of ‘Goreyan Nu Daffa Karo’, along with few more actors and was also briefly managing Mukul Dev around the same time (This should be around mid 2013). I had gone to set Mukul up for a film in Chandigarh and was trying to lock another film for him, produced by Saga Music with Harbhajan Mann in it, where he had to play the main villain (this film never worked out and god knows why Sumeet Singh from Saga Music till date holds me responsible for it). As a part of pre production, designer Manmeet Bindra had to meet Mukul but he was shooting in Kasauli for another film, therefore I had to ask Bindra to accompany me to the location so that he can execute his job (take measurements of the artist). During this trip up hills, I discovered about a film which was being shot in Rajasthan by director Pankaj Batra and was called ‘Goreyan Nu Daffa Karo’. I was told that it will change the way Punjabi cinema is perceived. Again, I did not give much of my ear to it and returned to Mumbai to get back to the hustle.
Why am I even mentioning this is because this was the film that gave birth to the actor Amrinder Gill, which till that point, nobody thought even existed.
I still remember and want to confess that I too, like others, did not (till that point) believe in him as a good actor. One such incidence that I can recall instantly is of a meeting with Dinesh Auluck (Speed Records) in hotel Park Plaza’s lobby (now James’s Hotel) during the shooting of ‘Romeo Ranjha’ (somewhere in the beginning of 2014). He was narrating a beautiful love story that he wanted to make at that point and was looking to cast a female actor opposite Amrinder in it. I questioned him, "Why Amrinder?"
He said to me, none of his films have worked at the box office but he has tremendous potential and I should check his last film ‘Goreyan Nu Daffa Karo', which by then had released. I said ok and never followed up with him on this particular project, considering Parul who I was trying to lock a new film for, had already signed ‘Zorawar’ with Honey Singh, who was a big rage back then and was on his way up to stardom.
Another such incidence was at a private party in Mumbai where I met Aditi Sharma (actress) and she mentioned to me that she was venturing into Punjabi films, and has shot for a film with Amrinder. I again questioned her, "Why him?" And she said, "Because it is a very good script!"
Months passed by and Aditi finally invited me to watch the preview of her debut Punjabi film called ‘Angrej’. That was the day I was left with no choice but to change my mind about this actor, who only now I believed was an actor, called Amrinder Gill.
By then he had started working on his craft as an actor and the results were evident enough to be noticed by the audience. I also feel that both - good writers and directors have contributed to his growth as an actor. Also, his success story is a bi-product of his management team headed by his childhood friend cum partner Karaj Gill.
Few directors and writers with whom Amrinder has made some wonderful films are - Pankaj Batra, Simarjeet Singh and Amberdeep Singh. They have got the best out of him in terms of onscreen performance.
Few years later, he bumped into me and Sonam Bajwa (when I was managing her) at Starbucks in Lokhandwala, a literal hub for Punjabi film fraternity. If I can remember, he was with Karaj and Amberdeep. They all walked up to Sonam and me and greeted us. He was still the same guy I had met few years back and trust me, nothing had changed about him. He still was gracious, humble and down to earth. I expressed how wonderful it would be for my talent to work with him at some point and asked him for his latest contact number (as Punjabi actor/ singers constantly keep changing their numbers for god knows what reason), to which he said that I should speak to Karaj whenever I need to reach out to him.
Till date, Amrinder remains as the most inaccessible singer/actor in the Punjabi fraternity. He hardly promotes his films, gives very rare interviews, and the only way to get in touch with him is through Karaj or Amberdeep, though not many calls and messages make it through to him. (PS: Only if Karaj ever cares to answer a call)
I sometimes wonder if it is a strategy!
Even if it is, it has worked brilliantly for him at an individual level as he is the only Punjabi star who functions like that. People feel that success has made him arrogant and less accessible but if you ask me, why not? Maybe it is this approach of his towards his craft that makes the audience want more of him, who knows?
There never has been a formula for a success story and I also believe that success only teaches you to be more humble, it is only the people around you that change for good or bad. People that are close to you or people that don’t know u at all are the ones who start perceiving things about you after you start doing well.
After Angrej, there has been no looking back for Amrinder, except for few odd films, which didn't do well but most of them have been massive hits and have secured his position as a bankable Punjabi star in present times.
Same people who would question his credibility as an actor and a box office star, including me, are ready to show faith in him, as well as bet their money on him. It is purely because of the hard work and dedication that he has put into his work over the last few years that he's been able to prove everybody wrong. Tables have turned and I guess more than people choosing to work with him, he is the one who now chooses his creative palette.
There’s been a lot of first’s in this piece and thought one should not judge but the reality remains that we all salute the rising sun at the end of the day.
Though he looked a little old on screen in his last outing Ashkey, but the craft to perform effortlessly & naturally, that he has learnt over the years, will never date him as an actor for years to come.
Conclusion, all are not born actors , few learn on the job and horn their craft and with time become huge stars just like - Amrinder Gill.
-Rajit Kumra (Guest Blogger /Film Critic /Talent Agent)
Rajit is a guest blogger on Ghaintpunjab and has worked very closely with the A-listers of Punjabi industry as well as Bollywood.