'It hurts to be compared'
Jimmy Shergill stands on the threshold of success.
He is an optimist.
The struggle before Mohabbatein and despite a successful debut in Maachis has not left any traces of bitterness.
Having been noticed in the over crowded frame of Mohabbatein, he is now ready to resume his interrupted race of stardom.
In conversation with Pratiksha Arora:
How has Mohabbatein helped you in your career?
Mohabbatein was an experience of a lifetime. I remember when I got a call for the screen test I was in Delhi. Two weeks later, when I found out that I had missed that call, I was sure, he would have already cast someone else in the film. But when I found out that they had waited for me, I was thrilled to be in the film.
The two years before I signed Mohabbatein were a struggle. But I waited for good roles, working selectively like doing Gulzarji's video. Luckily for me, Mohabbatein happened. Yes, I will be the first amongst the six of us to have a film releasing, but that is purely just coincidence. I think all of us were equally appreciated in the film and all of us have had some good work coming our way.
We all worked very hard on the film. Rehearsals, acting classes, fittings, I remember we would joke on the sets, how if someone woke us up in the middle of our sleep, we would be able to recite our dialogues and do our dance steps perfectly.
A lot of critics said that I had a SRK hangover, but I think it was because of the way that Adi had envisaged Karan to be. The jackets, the guitar, and the attitude … a lot was like Shah Rukh Khan in the first half of DDLJ. It did hurt to be compared to someone.
But it has paid off. I have some very exciting films in my kitty. The best part being that I haven't got typecast into the usual mould of a romantic hero. Which is why I am choosing the subjects of my films with a lot of care. If there is Yeh Zindagi Ka Safar, which is about a street-smart cunning journalist, there is Kundan Shah's film, where I play a character that will walk away with all your sympathies.
What was working with the Chopras like?
With Aditya, I knew I was in safe hands. I was never worried despite the fact that there were so many of us in the film. I learnt a lot during the film. Especially from Adi. How he pays attention to the minutest detail. He stylizes every scene for you and makes you look like a hero. As a director, he is very sure of himself. He knows exactly what he likes and what he dislikes, what he would like to see on the big screen and how he will translate it across.
I think the biggest compliment was when he said after seeing my work and waiting for two years, "I have found my Karan." And praise coming from him, who would never compliment a person till he is happy with the work means a lot to me, especially when he said, how much he liked my performance in Mohabbatein.
The energy on the sets was electric. I remember we would be hanging around on the sets and suddenly one would feel a vibe. And we knew Mr Bachchan had arrived. The aura around him is so strong. But the funniest bit was Uday teasing me when I wore those heavy leather jackets in the sweltering summer of Bombay. But I had my turn at him, when in the freezing cold of London, he would be dressed in sleeveless jackets!
How different is it on the sets of Yeh Zindagi Ka Safar?
Tanuja is a different ball game altogether. As a woman director, she is extremely sensitive to little nuances that give the characters a different shade. In fact, what made it really easy is that she knows exactly what she wants from you and she will even act it out for you. But it was a tough transition. In Mohabbatein, I play a very understated character with very subtle shades. In Yeh Zindagi Ka Safar, I play a very loud character. He is very street smart, very cunning, has a mad streak about him but in the course of the film, he changes and his nicer side evolves. It's a character very unlike me so I had to rehearse a bit.
I didn't even know Govinda was supposed to be doing the film, till I signed it. And frankly, it was a great role for a release after Mohabbatein. I think I have learnt a lot as an actor and matured while doing this film. I found myself exploring his mind, his psyche while doing the role. Tanuja and I would have long discussions about his intentions, his motivation and it was a great learning experience. In fact, as a director, on Tanuja's sets, there was an easy camaraderie with Amisha, Tanuja and I debating over the characters.
How was it working with Amisha Patel?
Despite all her success, she is an actress who has no airs about herself. She is extremely easy to work with and very hardworking. Always ready to do a rehearsal or willing to experiment with a scene. We shared a very good rapport and for her, it is a great role to perform and show her dramatic skills.
What is in the pipeline?
In Kundan Shah's film, I have a small role of ventriloquist. It's a cameo, where I had to learn the art of puppetry, and change my voice and characters. I have also been taking some classes from a trained ventriloquist to get the hang of my role. Though I didn't have much time, I have been working very hard on getting the hang of the mannerisms. It is a very nice character who tries to convey his emotions but cannot and uses his puppetry and mimicry to do so.
But his sets are different. It's a big banner, mutli-starrer film and so one just goes onto the sets, finishes work and is done with, considering Rekhaji, Mahima, Preity are all very senior to me. But yes, they are very co-operative and I have always admired Kundan Shah's work, so it was exciting be a part of his film.
Another exciting film is Haasil with Hrishitaa Bhatt which is based in New York about Indians, and is a completely commercial film. There is another interesting story to be directed by a newcomer, based in Allahabad. It is a very youth based film. Then there is a Yashraj movie in the pipeline, but the details are not finalized yet. I am looking forward to working with them again, because they are like a family now.