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'Aaja Mexico Challiye' cast Nasir Chinyoti, Ammy Virk and Zafri Khan at the Gulf News office. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

It is hard not to be affected by Ammy Virk as he saunters into a room, flexing a swag that would be the envy of any Instagram Reel.

The Punjabi actor, who is currently plotting his reign in Bollywood, cuts a polished figure that is further amplified by his designer kicks as he stands before us in the Gulf News offices in a sincere bid to promote his new film. His countenance though, is a far cry from the Virk who stares down at us from the poster of his new movie, ‘Aaja Mexico Challiye’, out now in UAE cinemas.

The Punjabi film, which is also being bankrolled by the actor under Ammy Virk Productions, is a hard-hitting story about migrants who use illegal routes to enter their desired country, which often involves entering a bordering nation and undertaking a harrowing journey over land or sea.

A still from 'Aaja Mexico Challiye'. Image Credit: Supplied

In the case of ‘Aaja Mexico Challiye’, Virk’s character Pamma is a young impressionable man who decides to enter the US through the ‘donkey route’, by crossing the jungles of Mexico without realising the dangers that lay before him. During this voyage, he encounters others like him, befriending two comrades in arms, played by Pakistani actors Nasir Chinyoti and Zafri Khan.

The trio, who were in Dubai to attend the premiere of their film on Thursday night at Novo Cinemas, Ibn Battuta Mall, were unified in their message as they said: ‘Definitely travel to Mexico with us, but don’t attempt what we did.’

Virk, who is also a well-established singer, was last seen on screen sharing space with Bollywood star Ranveer Singh in the sports film ‘83’. The movie, which has been lauded by critics and fans, saw Virk play real-life cricketing legend Balvinder Singh Sandhu that shares the tale of India’s win at the 1983 World Cup.

Ammy Virk
Ammy Virk Image Credit:

“‘83’ is one of those rare movies that comes across once in a lifetime and every moment spent on it was a moment of learning for all us in the film,” Virk tells us in Punjabi. “But my latest movie is no less important, rather focusing on a different kind of reality that affects people in small-town India who are chasing big dreams.”

As ‘Aaja Mexico Challiye’ rolls into cinemas, Virk, along with Chinyoti and Khan tell us why we should undertake this journey with them on screen. Here are excerpts from our interview, which have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Tell us, why should we travel with you to Mexico in this film?

Zafri Khan: In my opinion, you should avoid going to Mexico. In fact, that is also the message of our film — just don’t go!

Nasir Chinyoti: Just to clarify, we are saying don’t take the route we took and not avoid going to Mexico at all.

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Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

And what route is that?

Ammy Virk: Taking the migrant route. It is easier to get married to someone there than do what we did in the film [laughs]. Jokes apart though, there are serious issues that are discussed in the film.

The most common scenario you will find in any community is a group of childhood friends whose paths breakaway as they grow older. A few may travel aboard for their studies or for work, while another probably moves countries after marriage.

But the issue usually arises with the people that are left behind. Over time, those who don’t get the opportunity to move overseas grow envious of their childhood friends, whose lives are racing ahead in the videos shared on social media. Those very friends have now moved on to America or Canada and are living the dream.

In a bid to taste that same success, and perhaps fuelled by jealously, they go down the wrong path that usually point towards these donkey visas that lure migrants. And yes, some may have achieved success in this manner, but that isn’t the case for every person. So, the message we would like to share through our film is don’t take an illegal route to follow the dream. There is always another way.

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Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Can you tell us a little bit about your characters? Going by the trailer, Ammy you seem to play a man from India, while Nasir and Zafri are from Pakistan, with all of you meeting in Mexico as you attempt to cross the border into the US? Do we have that right?

Nasir: Yes, we are from Pakistan in the film as well who are attempting the same journey that Ammy has undertaken from India.

Ammy: And that’s exactly the reality we want to show. That there are people from India, from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal who are undertaking these donkey routes. Some travel by road, some travel via boats, crossing seas and some travel through dense forests.

When you watch the film you will understanding what harrowing conditions people undertake on such a journey.

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Ammy Virk in the film. Image Credit: Supplied

Zafri: By the grace of God, we have shown all of this in the film. And if there is someone who has undertaken this type of journey in their life, then they should watch this film at least once.

Ammy: They will definitely give full marks to our efforts.

Nasir: The movie took a lot of guts. There were moments during filming in harsh temperatures in the UK (where the film was shot) when we often wondered whether we would be able to show the realities and the hardships with sincerity, but we encouraged and pushed each other to get it done. Everyone from the technical side, the staff, all of them worked together as single unit to get this film made.

Plus credit needs to go to Ammy, who was the lead star of the movie but didn’t hesitate to step up as the light man, the spot boy or even massage my feet when they became numb after one particular scene where we had to submerge ourselves in a river in freezing temperatures.

Ammy Virk and Nasir Chinyoti. Image Credit: Supplied

It is truly amazing to be sitting with the three of you in Dubai presently, stars from India and Pakistan, all united in promoting a Punjabi film on an international scale. This is something that would have been unheard of maybe five years ago. As artists, how important is it for you to facilitate the growth of such a niche film industry?

Ammy: As artists, it is our duty to work hard in promoting our industry and ensuring our efforts have the widest reach for our fans.

Let me give you an example; in Dublin, we probably don’t have more than 500 Punjabi speaking fans. When we conduct concerts, we have to hit a minimum capacity to command a gig, but it’s not any fault of the 500 fans sitting in Dublin there that they are unable to hit that number. Which is when it becomes our duty as artists to find a way to connect with them.

And why go so far; let’s talk about India. In cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad, Jaipur where there are limited Punjabi speakers — maybe 500-700 people — but host shows for them as well.

The same rule applies for Dubai. Which is why we are promoting our film everywhere in the world to connect with all Punjabi speakers.

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Ammy Virk in 'Bhuj: The Pride of India'. Image Credit: Supplied

Ammy, you have now become a bona fide star, first with ‘Bhuj: The Pride of India’, and now with ‘83’ becoming a big hit. Do you have plans to continue promoting Punjabi cinema or is Bollywood calling?

Ammy: I am definitely working in Bollywood as well. In fact, I am about to start a film with Vicky Kaushal, which is being made by Dharma Productions. After that there is another movie in the works.

I can’t leave either so I am working simultaneously in both industries.

Nasir: But even there, you are promoting Punjabi.

Ammy: Absolutely. There I speak in a mix of Hindi and Punjabi and I will never forget my roots.

Fakri Khan in the movie. Image Credit: Supplied


Did you know?

Ammy Virk is an accomplished singer as well. He has lent his powerful vocals to a track from ‘Aaja Mexico Challiye’ titled ‘Ser Nai Palosda’.


A still from 'Aaja Mexico Challiye'. Image Credit: Supplied

Don’t miss it!

‘Aaja Mexico Challiye’ is out now in UAE cinemas.