Punjab is crying, we are making people laugh, says AAP convener Gurpreet Singh Ghuggi

Comedian Ghuggi, now AAP’s convener in Punjab, talks about films, politics and what else drives him.

Written by Kanchan Vasdev | Chandigarh | Published:September 7, 2016 3:19 am
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As a stand-up comedian and then as an actor, Gurpreet Singh Warraich, or Ghuggi as he is known, has built his reputation over the years. As a politician, his latest rise has been sharp and sudden — he has been made the Aam Aadmi Party’s Punjab convener six months after he joined politics.

Ghuggi, 45, replaces Sucha Singh Chhotepur, a politician with 40 years’ experience but ousted on charges of taking a bribe. Ghuggi had joined AAP on February 10 but not been given any post in the party until the elevation to a post that puts him in charge of AAP in a state where it is heading into one of its most important elections.

Ghuggi is said to have been negotiating with both the Congress and the AAP before he joined the latter. He denies reports about having been in touch with the Congress, however. “If they were in touch with me, it does not mean I was in touch with them,” Ghuggi said.

Ever since he joined AAP, Ghuggi has been in the field, addressing rallies. A party leader said he has shown strong skills at redressing grievances and AAP has assigned him with meeting and hearing out volunteers in various parts of the state. Besides, thanks to his experience as a comedian, he has been pat with replies to potentially uncomfortable questions, the leader said.

Asked about the criticism that AAP is bringing in outsiders, Ghuggi told The Indian Express: “Is Asha Kumari [Congress’s Punjab affairs in-charge] from Bhikhi? Is Prashant Kishor from Bhucho Mandi?” He broke into local idiom: “Their eye is an eye, but our eye is an eyeball.”

And to a question about SAD’s Sukhbir Badal mocking Ghuggi as well as Bhagwant Mann for being comedians, Ghuggi replied: “Punjab is crying, it is mourning. And Ghuggi and Mann are making people laugh.”

Born to a family of ex-servicemen in Khokhar Faujian village of Batala in Majha region, Ghuggi started his acting from skits. Ghuggi studied at Doaba College in Jalandhar and eventually went to the Doordarshan regional centre as a TV artiste. He became well-known as a comedian after his performance in the Great Indian Laughter Challenge.

He has also had a stint with the police. He was recruited as an assistant sub-inspector in the cultural wing of Punjab Police during the tenure of DGP K P S Gill — part of an image-building exercise when police were facing allegations of human rights violations while fighting militancy. Ghuggi resigned soon. “My parents never wanted me to be part of the police,” he said.

Ghuggi is settled in Jalandhar and married with two children.

Ghuggi has acted in some 50 films, including Singh is King. He has put his film career on hold until at least the Punjab elections. “Politics requires a lot of work. I cannot manage both. I want to get back to films after the elections are over. I want to live my life,” he said.

Ghuggi said he draws his inspiration from Rasul Hamzatov’s book Mera Dagistan, “This book gave me a thinking mind, a perspective for life,” he said, adding he grew up reading Balraj Sahni and the periodical Naagmani by Amrita Pritam and Imroz. Bhagat Singh’s book Main Nastik Kyun Hoon, he claimed, made him yearn for revolution and AAP was the answer to his yearning.

Ghuggi called himself a lover of Punjab and said his desire to join politics is a result of that love, “I am pained to see the state that Punjab is in. It needs help. And I have joined AAP with a mission,” he said.

“Such is my love for Punjab,” he added, “that if you get my heart scanned, you will see the map of Punjab.”