How different a superhero movie is Anurag Singh’s Super Singh, compared to other films in the genre?
Super Singh, which released on Friday, is a turban-wearing superhero. Though we have seen a turbanned superhero in A Flying Jatt (2016), what’s special about Super Singh is that he speaks Punjabi and his story is rooted in the region. It captures the emotions of its people and their way of life.
How did the idea of a superhero movie come about?
After my film Jatt and Juliet (2012) released, someone created a meme by superimposing my face on Superman’s body. People found it funny. That made me think about playing a superhero. However, I got busy with other movies. Raising money for this movie was tough, too, as many Punjab-based producers thought it was risky. The project took off after Balaji Motion Pictures came on board. We started working on the film five years ago and I’m very happy with the script that Anurag has written.
You have acted as well as sung in the film. Do you prefer one over the other?
While singing, I forget about acting. Similarly, when I am on the sets, I believe that acting is what I need to focus on. Earlier, when I was a student, the one hour that I used to study, I used to concentrate fully on my books. That’s how I approach my work. Be it singing or acting, I will continue to pursue both with equal gusto. But I get depressed if I don’t go to the studio, stand before the mic and be a part of making music, I feel dead inside.
How did your career in music take off?
When I was around 12, I learnt how to play the tabla. Gradually, I started playing the tabla as an accompanist to the shabad gayan team of girls at school and, also, in the local gurdwara (He grew up in Dosanjh Kalan and Ludhiana ). At that time, I assumed that I was going to be a rhythm player. Later, along with my friends, I used to by-heart songs of every new Punjabi album and perform them for the public. Some suggested that I should consider pursuing singing. I am trained in harmonium and vocals, mainly in the ragas used in the Guru Granth Sahib. Eventually, I developed an interest in folk songs and started learning and collecting them.
Do you think Punjabi folk singers like Gurdas Maan are sidelined nowadays?
Absolutely. Earlier, albums did not use much gimmickry and there would be some soothing tracks. You would find that in a number of Gurdas Maan albums. These days, we release single tracks and aim to get a large audience hooked to it. When we conceptualise such tracks, we think of what youngsters like, since we are making the videos for them. As they have a craze for a high-end lifestyle, our music videos end up featuring things like luxury cars.
From your Twitter interactions, it seems that you are quite connected to your fans.
If I behave like a rockstar — just go on stage and perform without trying to reach out to people — it won’t work with the Punjabi audience. From Gurdas Maan, I have learnt how to stay connected with the audience. Unless you connect with people, you become the flavour of a season and your popularity is shortlived.
What made you take up acting when you were already a successful musician?
The trend of popular singers acting in movies had picked up, so I thought of giving it a shot. I had released five albums by the time I was offered The Lion of Punjab (2011). Since I did not have high expectations, I had no fear of failure. Eventually, I came to enjoy acting and the viewers also liked my work.
How did you discover your comic timing?
I don’t understand where comic timing begins or ends. Most of my Punjabi movies are rom-coms. The only serious Punjabi film movie I have done is Punjab 1984 (2014), which is set around Operation Blue Star, and received the National Award for best feature film in Punjabi in 2015. Because of it, I got Udta Punjab (2016). However, I believe it is tougher to maintain that balance of making people laugh without going over the top than playing a serious character. At times, you are not in the mood, yet, you have to enact those comic scenes.
Did acting in Udta Punjab bring you national recognition?
Recently, I did a talent show on TV, Rising Star. When I had gone to Canada for a tour, whoever I spoke to was praising the show. I want to try different mediums. The audience also gets bored if the artiste keeps doing the same thing. I will be working on a new album next; then there will be two new movies, one in Punjabi and another in Hindi. There are a couple of offers for television shows. If I like them, I will 100 per cent not let go of television.
On Twitter, you identify yourself as a ‘regional artiste’…
I am proud of that identity. Because of regional songs and movies, I have achieved this recognition. People often ask me if I wish to do more Hindi movies. While I am happy to work in Hindi cinema, I have immense respect for the kind of work I do in Punjab.
Are you happy with the kind of content Punjabi cinema is churning out?
There is no dearth of content. In the last few years, a bunch of new writers have come up with stories which are about Punjab. They are not aping Hollywood or Bollywood. For example, Punjab 1984 talks about how families and youths of the state were affected by Operation Blue Star.
Is it true that you are obsessed with designer products?
As a child, I used to get Rs 5 to spend at local fairs. My biggest concern at the time was to spend the money judiciously. I still get dazzled by stores and lights, I get very excited when I go to malls. Even today, I fix a particular amount in my mind that I want to spend on shopping and I try to stick to that. I am not someone who wears flashy clothes every day, but I love to hoard lovely things. I recently got a Rolex (shows it). I also have many pairs of shoes.
So, did you buy the much-talked about private jet?
Let me clarify this: when we were working on Rising Star, the shoot of my next movie started in a remote location in Rajasthan. My producers flew me there in a private jet. I posted a photo of it with a line: ‘New beginning starts with private jet’. By evening, news spread that I had bought a jet.
Why do you like Kylie Jenner so much?
Itni baat uski ho rahi hai ki, mujhe lagta hai woh mil hi jayegi mujhe (So many people are talking about this, I feel that we will definitely get together one day). When you speak about such things, these words travel in the universe and make wishes come true.
How did you develop this crush? How do your female fans react to this?
I am a fan of Kanye West. When he married Kim Kardashian, I noticed a girl, Kylie, standing next to Kim. I liked her and started following her on social media. If you ask me who do I find the most beautiful in the whole world, I would say Kylie Jenner.
I never differentiate between male and female fans, and, I don’t want them to be fans of ‘Diljit’, but of his work. If it is a matter of girls liking a boy, then, eventually, there would be another boy who would be better-looking and whose work would be impressive. Then, these fans would also switch their loyalties.
When you talk about working in Hollywood, how serious are you?
When people joke about something, it stays in my mind. Someone once asked me: ‘After Bollywood, are you going to Hollywood?’ I thought, mazak kar raha hai? Ab toh zaroor jaunga. (Is he poking fun at me? Now, I will definitely go.) There is no end to one’s ambition. I am not dying to do a Hollywood movie, but mazaa aata hai jab log mujhe troll karte hain aur mein bolta hoon ki bhai ab mein karke dikhaunga (When people troll me, I have fun telling them that I will definitely do it now).
You talk about making music for yourself one day. How different would that be from what you are doing now?
I normally do dance numbers since I perform at shows. When I make music that I love, the albums will have more soothing and devotional numbers, which will be comforting for my listeners and me. That time has not yet come.
How important is swag for music videos? Also, what made you popularise the term ‘pendu’?
I don’t know what exactly ‘swag’ stands for. That term, anyway, has become a bit outdated. ‘Lit’ is the in thing now — it is an expression for something chic and amazing. Pendu is more rustic, desi more wannabe. Pendu to me is the real deal. Pendu is the real swag.
From a kirtan artiste to a superstar his career took off with the album Ishq da Uda-Adaa (2004), in which he sang all eight songs. This was followed by chartbusters, such as Dil Saade Naal, Paggan Pochhveeyan, Allraahaan Kuwariyan and Daaka.
He played the lead in The Lion of Punjab (2011), which failed at the box office. Later that year, he tasted success with Jihne Mera Dil Luteya. In 2012, his Jatt and Juliet, a rom-com, became the highest grossing movie of the Punjabi film industry. There’s been no looking back since.
In super Singh, Dosanjh, 33, is reportedly playing Punjabi cinema’s first superhero. The singer-actor, who found national recognition with Abhishek Chaubey’s Udta Punjab (2016), has also sung four songs in the film.