PeepingMoon Exclusive: 'I'm happy there's no paparazzi culture in Punjabi cinema, I am never dressed appropriately,' quips Sargun Mehta

Sargun Mehta has been one of the pioneers in changing the structure of the Punjabi cinema industry in the last 5-7 years. With an eye to choosing the best scripts which offer content as well as entertainment, the actress-producer has established herself as a reliable name. In 2022, Sargun's film, Babe Bhangra Paunde Ne, released in theatres and was widely appreciated by the audience. Now, the film co-starring Diljit Dosanjh is available for the actress' fans to rewatch in the comfort of their homes.  

Babe Bhangra Paunde Ne is currently streaming exclusively on ZEE5. As fans are celebrating its OTT release, PeepingMoon spoke to Sargun about signing the film, the reason behind choosing a script that balances content and humour, and whether the trend of theatrical as well as an OTT release of films is here to stay.  

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Excerpts from the interview: 

What was your first reaction when you were approached with the script of Babe Bhangra Paunde Ne?

I really liked the idea. Since I have been keen on choosing family entertainers, the film ticked all the parameters. I believe it is more enjoyable to watch a film with your family instead of something with more gore. 

Is it challenging to blend humour with a social message? 

That was never my concern because the writers and director took good care of it. Such discussions happen when the film is in its writing stage and you want to make sure what you wish to communicate through the film doesn't look preachy. You should be able to say your message but in a light manner and I am sure, the audience will get it right. Speaking of Babe Bhangra Paunde Ne, the writer and director kept that in mind before we put the film on floors.

While choosing a character, what are the parameters you make sure to tick off?

I go with my gut. A story should excite me. If I am in the middle of an hour-long narration and if I am with the writer in the present time thinking about what will happen next, I am sold. I listen to a story as an audience too. If it intrigues me as an audience, I do the film.

Is the trend of theatrical films releasing on OTT after a few months going to stay forever? 

I am of the opinion that there's no better way to watch a film than in theatres. I love going to the theatre. Whenever I start watching a film on OTT, it takes me 5 days to complete it. There are several domestic distractions we cannot avoid. The meaning of theatre was a larger-than-life experience, cutting away from everything that’s happening around you and living with the characters.

Is this the reason why you are keeping away from OTT projects?

I don't want to repeat things I have done in films on OTT. If I happen to do something on OTT, it will be something that cannot be done in films. There are projects that don’t work in that format. Mirzapur is a great OTT project but will not work as a film. There are topics people don’t want to go out of their houses and watch on the big screen. When it comes to films, I believe there’s no replacement.  

When did you realise that Punjabi cinema is where your heart lies? 

I had gone to watch a Punjabi film titled Jatt & Juliet which was a big hit at that time. When I walked out of the theatre, I said this is home and wondered why didn't I ever try doing Punjabi films. It just felt right. 

Punjabi cinema has evolved over a period of time. According to you, why did it take such a long time? Is it because of the lack of paparazzi culture? 

Every industry takes time to evolve. Punjabi cinema was very popular once and then it completely shut down. There was a lull for about 10-12 years and it picked up again in the last 7-8 years. I guess it was the trust of the audience also and now, we building it every day. We are making them feel that we're doing good work just like other industries. You have to get the audience back. There was a time when people from Punjab wouldn't watch Punjabi films. They preferred Hindi and even South languages too. We had to also move with time, get the quality up, and budget right for the audience to come back to trust us and watch our films.

Do you feel paparazzi culture plays an important role in making a particular film industry and its actors popular?

There’s no paparazzi culture in Punjabi and I am very happy (laughs). I am somebody who never enjoys that as I believe I am never dressed appropriately. I am always in my tracksuit literally lazying around when I am not shooting. I want people to know and talk about me in terms of my work and not how I walked out of my gym, the airport, etc. If somebody clicks me, that’s fine but it never really excites me.

Does it get difficult to choose the right script when you are at the top of your game?

It is definitely not easy but I don’t take the pressure of who is going to be my co-star and who will be directing the film. I disconnect from everything and focus only on the script and whether it excites me. If it does, it is a yes otherwise no matter who's in the film, I would never do it. Many told me to not do a film titled Moh because it wouldn’t work in theatres but I chose to say yes to it because I wanted to do a film like that. Some decisions might work, and some won’t but every you do will be worth it. I am happy with the choices I made.

What has kept you away from Hindi cinema after Cuttputlli?

Despite having a brief role, I had something to do in Cuttputlli which is why I did it. The film also had a shade people never saw me in. If you expect me to do a film where I have to just good pretty and dance, I am bound to get bored and that will be reflected in my performance. No matter how big the platform is, I won't do what doesn't excite me. I won't do something in which I won't shine. 

As an actor, do boycott trends bother you?

Recently, I opened my social media account and every other article I read had headlines like, "So and so being trolled," "So and so being boycotted". When someone puts up a picture, there are only 5 bad comments but when the media reports it, they call it trolling. The minute you start calling everything troll, people start to think it is fashion. I believe we should stop calling them out and let them be. The more attention you give them, the more they grow. You have to make them feel ignored to stop it. If 3 people out of 3000 have a different say, let them have it. We are not supposed to listen to everything.

It is an era of remakes. Would you want any of your films to be remade for the Hindi audience? Who could star in it?

I am not a remake fan, I like original content. I believe everyone has an original bone in them. If anyone wants to remake my film, it should be done in such a way that the story is adapted to suit their world. I wouldn’t appreciate a frame-to-frame copy but if they take the essence of the film and adapt it properly, then that’s fine. I would love to see Love Punjab’s remake. I believe Amrinder Gill and I should star in the remake too.