Aazam Exclusive : An encounter with Jimmy Sheirgill – the actor, the reader, the artiste, the star
In the midst of sizzling Mumbai heat, the atmosphere at the five-star hotel at Juhu beach gets cool and breezy. Dressed in light blue jeans and a suave orange full T – shirt with trendy shoes and cool sunglasses, Jimmy Sheirgill enters the famous joint of the posh five-star hotel – Enigma, his ever charming and pleasing personality brings smile to everyone present including me. Looking cool super fit and dapper at fifty-two challenging youngsters half his age in charms and looks.
After exchanging informal pleasantries, Jimmy grabs his favourite cup of coffee and we quickly search for a comfortable place and begin our conversation.
Jimmy Shergill aka Jasjit Singh Gill plays Javed in the upcoming crime drama thriller Aazam, super excited Jimmy who has won everyone hearts in varied roles right from his debut in Maachis (1996), to Mohabbatein, Haasil, Munna Bhai MBBS, A Wednesday, Tanu Weds Manu, Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster, Special 26 to name a few. Having completed around twenty-seven years in the film Industry, Jimmy has made his mark in the OTT space as well with remarkable brilliance in series like Your Honour etc.
With such illustrated body of work, Jimmy seems to be excited like a new comer for his upcoming Aazam which he thinks is a brilliantly written story and a mind-blowing crime gangster thriller that may break moulds.
In an exclusive candid one on one with Vishal Verma, Jimmy Sheirgill opens his heart out on his illustrated journey till date, Aazam, and what lies ahead plus much much more.
Jimmy: Let me tell you a story, I am very fond of reading, I keep on getting scripts and my team takes care of legitimacy as sometimes there might be some foul play. So, when a legitimate script comes to me, I start reading it. A one-night story came to me and honestly, I was not keen shooting at nights. I have done this before and it is exhausting. I came across a script written in Hindi and that caught my eye.
I started reading it and believe me, I was hooked by the very first scene, the first page. It was so interesting that I decided to read it at one go and it was the script of Aazam.
After finishing I guess it was around 9:30 pm at that night, I informed my manager that this particular script is outstanding and this should not go from our hand. My manager said that it is the same one-night story which I mentioned earlier. I wanted to be a part of this fabulous story and asked my manager to find out whether the casting of Aazam has been done.
My manager called them and to my good fortunes, the makers said that they had Jimmy Shergil in mind and were waiting for me to read the script.
The very next day I spoke to the director on phone and after a discussion we were ready to work together figuring out the dates and other formalities.
So, this is how Aazam – one-night story happened to me.
Jimmy: It’s a mind-blowing script, the way it has been written I was completely blown. Aazam is a director’s film, there are certain films which are screenplay oriented and driven by director’s vision. You cannot play with them and you just have to follow what is written and what is the director saying.
Jimmy: I take this opportunity to confess that I mistakeably doubted on the director Shravan Tiwari’s capabilities as a filmmaker. He is so passionate and involved. After watching his work and determination for a day, I understood where this film is going and I apologised to Shravan on doubting on his capabilities. He was overwhelmed but it’s the truth, the way Aazam has been written I believe it will be included in script writing manuals in teaching schools in India.
Jimmy: Yes, and I do believe as an actor and a film maker, not because that I am doing this film and it’s a marketing gimmick. I genuinely feel that the way Shrana Tiwari has written this film which is a one-night story that goes back to forth and tells the happenings in the crime world that shook the nation and the system.
Its written in a back and forth format and one when the viewer understands that it is in back and forth format, it may take some time but definitely once the viewer gets hooked, the film never looses its grip and gives the audience a well-deserved crime thriller drama worth their money and recommendation.
Jimmy: As I said, Aazam is a one night story told in back and forth format, it’s the treatment which is very refined, I have underplayed and we have not glorified those gangsters as we have seen in other populist gangster movies. Here there is two generation of underworld shown. One is the previous generation having versatile seniors like Raza Murad and Govind Namdeo and the next generation revolving around Abhimanyu Singh and myself.
I have moistly shot in one outfit as it’s a story about incidents happening at one night that shook the nation and changed the game. Yes, in flash backs there may be some changes in looks.
Here, the director Shravan has maintained a status and kept things subdued, the Mumbai accent is there but not overwhelmingly tapori like ‘kahayela hai, peeyaela hai, aarela hai, jaa rela hai,. You must have heard and seen the dialogues in the trailer which goes like ‘tere ko agar gaddi pe baithen ka hai toh… we have kept the mumbaiya soul and the language is normal universal Hindi in totality and tonality.
The gangsters/bad guys here are not over the top glorified Don’s with swashbuckling back ground score on their entries. They are real and relatable and can be anyone from your neighbourhood.
Jimmy: I read varied stuffs, I have read Harivansa Puran, have read almost all of Amish Tripathi’s work. Rutger Bregman’s Humankind: A Hopeful History just to name a few. It’s the scripts that keep me more engaged and I read it in Hindi, English and Punjabi. The scripts keep piling so I have to finish it before they get piled up gain, it is an interesting race. I read the scripts fully to understand what is running in the mind of writers nowadays and when they ask for feedback during the meetings, I honestly tell them what I have liked or disliked.
Jimmy: My cousin brother elder to me by 10 years asked me to try in films and go to Mumbai. It was during the early nineties. I was initially not interested but the charm of visiting a new place like Bombay (name of Mumbai at that time) pulled me to this city of dreams. My brother told me that what is the harm in giving a try and attending the acting school for a year. So, I gave it a shot.
Jimmy: Honestly, I don’t know about the looks but yes during parties and gatherings I used to entertain people either by dancing, singing or doing something so they believed that if I can perform here in front of them, I can do that in front of camera and bigger gathering as well.
Jimmy: Rani Mukerji, Chandrachur Singh were my batchmates and within two three days I have given up from my end and I told Roshan Taneja sir that it won’t be possible for me, I cannot do the way Chandrachur, Rani and others are doing.
Then what did Roshan Taneja said
Jimmy: He told me that what you are seeing in Chandrachur, Rani and others, they are doing it after seven eight months. It is their hard work for the last seven months which is showing results now. When they came, they were also raw like you. I have seen a spark in you. When you came, I gave you to read something in Hindi and your Hindi is very good. Whatever scene, speech comes to you read it and do it once, twice, thrice and re do it in various emotions – by laughing, by crying etc. you will find the changes.
Then what happened
Jimmy: I followed Roshan Taneja’s sir instruction and after 10 – 12 days I started gaining interest. I started enjoying it.
So, what happened after your course at Roshan Taneja acting school ended. You got work
Jimmy: No. kaha itni jaldi kam milta hai. When my course got completed, Roshan Taneja sir asked me what you will do now, I said I will go back to my hometown but I don’t want to. He asked me to keep coming to his acting school and I started visiting the acting school, I used to sit at a side and Sir use to sit on his chair. Roshan sir used to ask me to rehearse and show how things should be done and I used to do it. It was fun. Roshan sir was very found of me, the Friday classes used to be great fun when we used to have dance classes and Roshan sir would say in full excitement, chalo nachao sab ko and I used to make the class dance.
Jimmy: During those days in the film industry, the openings were very limited as people use to work in their circles and television channels were also very few. My class mates used to sit for hours outside filmmakers office hoping to get spotted but this use to happen during those classic era when a handsome man like Dharmendra can catch anyone’s eye. During the nineties hundreds of people are visting the top producer’s office and for me this cannot work.
I thought I would learn the art and understand the craft, assist someone and then will see what is in store. News of Gulzar looking for fresh faces for Maachis came to me. I got excited as Gulzar was not from the industry family. I anyhow managed to have a meeting with Gulzar and when we met, he asked about myself. Later he asked me to read the script of Maachis.
I read the script and got emotional as I have gone and expireinced what happened during those times.
I met Gulzar again and he asked me did I read the script. I said yes I read and I cried. I knew Chandrachur from Delhi and I knew he has been finalised and I visualised other actors in their roles like Om Puri, Tabu etc.
During the discussion the point came at Jimmy and I said what I felt about the character. Gulzar saab asked why Jimmy is so close, I said I understand what must have gone through and my pet name is Jimmy as well.
Gulzar sahab smiled and asked me to grow hair and beard as I have been finalised as Jimmy.
I was completely taken by surprise, my intention was to get the job of an assistant but here I got my first break as an actor in a Gulzar’s film which later has become a cult.
And after some time when we all met for the shooting for Maachis, Gulzar sahab throwed nother shocker, he said, the moment when I entered his office, he was sure that he has found his Jaimal – the character of Jimmy from Maachis.
Jimmy: After Maachis people started calling me by my nickname. The news in daily magazines trade tv etc use to call me as Jimmy Shergill. Even during the shooting of Maachis I was called by my nick name Jiimmy. During Mohabateein problem aroused. Aditya Chopra advised me to avoid creating any confusion and continue with the name Jimmy and I agreed.
Jimmy : As far as layers in characterisation is concerned, OTT offers much space for an artiste to display various shades in various episodes from 10 to 12 and that will further have seasons. Films in comparison has to wind it up in 2 to 2 and half hours normally. So, the time is limited. OTT in that sense is a boon for such layered storytelling and creativity were someone who wants to show something different and unique gets a scope.
And nowadays in any format you cannot make a substandard product
Jimmy: You have your idol when you know what you want to be, I never wanted to be an actor but yes as an audience I enjoyed cherished Mr Bachchan on screen. When I came to Mumbai and started learning acting then Nasseruddin Shah for realistic acting, and when I met Irrfan Khan during Haasil, I was flabbergasted – what an actor I learned so many things from him. I have worked with SRK and experienced what stardom can be at such a level. Sanjay Dutt has his own aura, Mr. Bachchan has an unbeatable charisma, it has been a learning experience.
Jimmy: Yes, after doing romantic hero in the beginning, I started thinking how long will this last may be for couple of years more after that what? I started looking for other roles that can explore my other side, the intensity. So, I started doing A Wednesday, Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster, Tanu Weds Manu, Mnunna Bhai MBBs etc and some people started saying what are you doing, destroying your career, at times I also use to worry that whether I have taken a wrong decision but now looking back I feel happy that I took the right decision and people today remember me as an actor and not a chocolate hero, the handsome boy next door.
No, I have no regrets and am happy. I have been appreciated in all kind of roles and I feel blessed. People have noticed me in multiple starrers and I have made my mark in movies that have much senior and bigger stars in it. What else can an actor like me want? Yes, there is a desire that any solo movie of mine and movies like Aazam get commercial success as the way I desire. Aazam is a well-made and unique gangster thriller.
Jimmy: Couple of web series, which will be announced in due course, Auro Mein Kaha Dam Tha with Ajay Devgn, Haseen Dilruba part 2, Laila Majnu