Exclusive: Diljit Dosanjh on the hockey biopic 'Soorma' opening tomorrow for which he’s already getting rave reviews from critics

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You might have missed Diljit Dosanjh in Welcome to New York, his last Bollywood film, though he was the lead actor, because half the film industry vaguely breezed in and out of that disastrous 3D comedy set at the 18th IIFA of 2017 in the Big Apple. No problem. The Punjabi rock star and actor has bounced back this week with Soorma – the sports biopic made on Indian hockey captain Sandeep Singh who famously tried to make a comeback after being paralysed and wheelchair bound from an accidental gunshot wound.

The film is out tomorrow and reviews are coming in already of the inspiring performance Diljit has given. I met him at the Sony Pictures Networks Productions office. They are co-producers of Soorma. Wikipedia says Diljit is a social media celebrity. He was on Twitter interacting with fans. “I respond to each one personally,” Diljit revealed, “I do not have a team for this. Social media has changed my career completely.” What about those that troll him? “Woh log mujhe bechare lagte hai! They don’t have any work to do so they indulge in such activities,” he replied.

He is a shy man, humble and soft-spoken, grounded, despite his fan following and the big Bollywood release of tomorrow. And a self-confessed fashionista with somewhat bizarre tastes. That day he had on a bright red jacket, the new Yeezy sneakers by Adidas, a baseball cap and torn denim. We spoke in Punjabi. He expresses himself colourfully in the language. You can take the Sardarji out of Punjab but who is going to take Punjab out of the Sardarji!

Excerpts from an interview with the Soorma star:

Q. You had a smooth transition from Punjabi music to films?

A. Every Punjabi singer was using his own money and making films and acting in them. I didn’t have money then and I don’t have it now. But I was offered the film The Lion of Punjab in 2011 and accepted to raise my status symbol.

Q. Was Bollywood a dream?

A. Yes, it wasn’t a planned move to venture into Hindi films.

Sandeep worked very hard on my training. He is the man behind my performance on the screen.

Q. How did you land your debut film Udta Punjab in 2016?

A. My director Anurag Singh of Punjab 1984and I planned on hiring a PR agent who would spread the word about us and our work in Bollywood. He used to tell me, “Jo aapka kaam hai wahi aapka portfolio ban jata hai.” And it is true; I got Udta Punjab because of my Punjabi films, not due to any PR.

Recommended Read: Soorma Film Review: Diljit Dosanjh leads the way with a powerful performance as Sandeep Singh

Q. Was it a deliberate call to do Soorma after Phillauri and Welcome to New York bombed at the box office?
A. Not at all. I had said no to Soorma because I thought I won’t be able to do it. Sports films are difficult. But everyone had confidence in me, so I did it. Some choices I make in Bollywood are good and some are not so good because I don’t have a lot of knowledge about Hindi films. In Punjabi cinema, I have a say about what type of film I do because I have producer friends. But not here. When I feel a script is good, I accept it. At times, my decision is based on the people behind the film. If they are good, I take up the project.
Q. Shaad Ali said you were his obvious choice for the role of Flicker Singh aka Sandeep in Soorma. Did your Punjabi background land you the role?

A.  Not really, because Soorma is a Hindi language film, not Punjabi. I don’t have a great command over Hindi so it was a little difficult. But the good part was that Sandeep Sir was on the sets all the time. He worked very hard on my training. Sandeep is the man behind my performance on the screen.

Q. How long did it take you to learn hockey?

A. It took me 15-20 days to learn the stance itself. How to stand, run and hit a shot. Now I can mess around with hockey players if not hit a goal.

Q. How was it working with Shaad and Gulzar Saab who wrote the songs?

A. Shaad is a lovely human being. Gulzar Saab ke baarey main kya kahun?It was the feeling you have for your first crush in school. I never thought I’d meet him. I respect his writing immensely and genuinely believe it is a bigger talent than singing, acting, directing and other creative expressions. I cannot write. It is my biggest weakness.

I don’t know if this is right or wrong but I don’t think I will be able to let go of my turban for any role.

Q. Gulzar Saab writes a lot of Punjabi songs. If given a chance will you collaborate with him?

A. Of course. I don’t have any aukaatto say no to him. I’ll be 100% ready

Q. You’re one of the few actors who wear the turban proudly on screen.

A. I love wearing a turban, but because of this, I can’t do the roles I like. But the audience loves and supports me in this look. I don’t know if this is right or wrong but I don’t think I will be able to let go of my turban for any role. Not as of now

Q. You’re the most fashionable artist from Punjab…

A. I personally like all this (indicating his blingy red outfit) because earlier people used to think that those who wear turbans are desiand can only wear desi clothes. So I changed their line of thinking. Of confining the turban and limiting fashion choices to a specific individual. Fashion is for all.

Q. Are you likely to do a musical after Soorma?

A. You mean a music-oriented film like La La Land? If a Hindi director is making such a project, I’ll do it. However, people can watch Hollywood movies like those but not a Bollywood film based on such a subject.

Q. You’re going to complete two decades in this industry and you’ve seen umpteen highs and lows. Did you ever feel like giving up?
A. No. I never felt like giving up despite my many controversies. I met other legendary artists from Punjab and their stories sounded more controversial than mine! Fortunately, those controversies didn’t become popular because social media wasn’t impactful then. Whatever level you work at, not everyone will be happy for you. So it wasn’t a big deal for me. I kept my head low, my confidence high and continued working.

Q. What after Soorma?

A. For now, just expect Soorma! I’m expecting that it will become a hit then the new journey will begin. My shoot for Arjun Patiala is going on with Kriti Sanon. It’s a comedy film and once it is released, I’ll know what kind of films I should do and accordingly plan my next move.

Soorma releases on July 13, 2018.

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