Saheb’s Tale

Saheb’s Tale

Will the tide turn for Jimmy Shergill whose journey in Bollywood has been full of highs and lows?

Jimmy Shergill is unfazed by the adulation coming his way for his role as the Saheb in the recently-released film Saheb,Biwi Aur Gangster. Reason: it’s yet to sink in. “We were sure the movie would recover costs. But honestly speaking,I didn’t expect it to become such a huge hit,” says the 40-year-old actor,who plays a Nawab struggling to hold on to the family’s fading royal status even as he operates as the local hitman.

This tale of intrigue and deceit has finally given Shergill a hit which he can call his own,unlike previous occasions when his hit films were credited to other lead protagonists. The film’s director,Tigmanshu Dhulia,says,“So far,Jimmy and I have been in the same boat. We have always got appreciation for our work,but never got the rewards. Finally,we succeeded.” Now,with the film’s untitled sequel ready to go on floors,both Dhulia and Shergill are hopeful of good times ahead.

For Shergill,who came from a non-film background,finding his foothold in the industry wasn’t easy. When he came to Mumbai in 1993,Shergill was sure that Bollywood was his calling and to pursue his dream,he joined the Roshan Taneja school of acting. During his stint there,he came to know that Gulzar is making Maachis (1996). “I went to him with the hope that he would take me as an assistant director. Instead,Gulzarsaab asked me to grow my hair and beard and play one of the characters,” says Shergill.

However,his first commercial break came four years later with Aditya Chopra-directed Mohabbatein (2000). This film also helped him network within the industry. While shooting for it,Shergill signed as many as 10 films,which included,Dil Hai Tumhara,Kehta Hai Dil Baar Baar,Dil Vil Pyar Vyar and Haasil. “During the making,I was termed as the chocolate boy hero. I signed various kinds of films which would help me move away from this image,” he says. While the films he had signed kept him busy for two years,none quite capitalised on the image that Mohabbatein helped him create.


Working on 10 films in two years left the actor exhausted. He decided to take a break and then come back to do just one or two films a year. “I even returned signing amounts of some big

production houses,which could have altered my career pattern. When I look back,this is the one phase I regret,” says Shergill. Soon after,he also realised that a good script alone isn’t sufficient. One needs the backing of a good producer as well.

But one of the last films to have released during his break period was Haasil (2003),which turned out to be a turning point. “Haasil was a coming-of-age film,which even helped me come of age as an actor,” he says. The movie also marked the beginning of his partnership with Dhulia,who directed the actor in Haasil,Charas and Saheb,Biwi Aur Gangster. “When I first met Jimmy while casting for Haasil,he was just an actor who fitted the role. When we worked together,we just clicked. Jimmy is a wonderful actor who is extremely dedicated and challenges,” says Dhulia.

The critical acclaim that Shergill got in Haasil helped him take up more character-driven roles in movies like Yahaan,Munnabhai series,My Name Is Khan,A Wednesday and Tanu Weds Manu. These films made sure appreciation,even though sporadic,kept coming for the actor. Aanand L Rai,director of Tanu Weds Manu,says,“All you need is to have a good rapport with Jimmy. Then it is easy to mould him into any character you want.”

While his presence in Bollywood films might have dipped,the actor has been ruling the Punjab film market. In 2005,he decided to do one Punjabi film every year and those films turned out to be blockbusters.

Currently,shooting for Vikram Bhatt’s Dangerous Ishq opposite Karisma Kapoor,Shergill doesn’t see his fortune rising significantly post the success of Saheb,Biwi Aur Gangster. “I would consider things changing if I get bigger and better roles than Saheb. For now,life is going on.”