Gippy Grewal
Gippy Grewal Image Credit: IMDB

Punjabi actor, pop idol and film producer Gippy Grewal is convinced that his native cinema is at a tipping point and is ready to peak. The multifaceted talent believes his upcoming comedy ‘Paani Ch Madhaani’, releasing in UAE cinemas this Diwali on November 4, is a testament to the growing popularity of films from his state in India.

On October 29 in Dubai, the ‘Chak Lai’ hit maker premiered ‘Paani Ch Madhaani’ to a select audience — an aggressive move designed to bolster the popularity of Punjabi films in this region and turn it into a lucrative market.

“Earlier our films didn’t get much output and that got my team thinking why that was happening despite having robust number of Punjabis in the UAE … We soon realised that we don’t promote our films here much and we have corrected that with ‘Paani Ch Madhaani’,” Grewal said in an interview with Gulf News.

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A still from 'Paani Ch Madhaani' Image Credit: Supplied

Right after his Dubai stop, he travelled to Canada with the comedy directed by Vijay Kumar Arora and also starring Neeru Bajwa for a special screening.

“There’s nothing called a hit or a flop film, it’s always a good or bad film. Sometimes even good films don’t work because they are not promoted properly. So, this time around I was particular about doing a meet and greet with our fans in Dubai and screening our film here for bigger visibility,” said Grewal in a smattering of Hindi and English …

Here’s his take on …

His new comedy ‘Paani Ch Madhaani’:

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A still from 'Paani Ch Madhaani' Image Credit: Supplied

“It’s a comedy set in the 1980s era in Punjab. I play a struggling singer who’s very talented. But whenever he sings alone people don’t appreciate him much, but the moment he sings a duet with a girl beside him it changes. Everyone appreciate the female singer — call it luck or glamour — but my character is never appreciated. Each time that happens, he gets disturbed.

“Although he works hard, his attention gets diverted as he tries his luck with shortcuts like getting a lottery ticket … It’s a comedy about his struggles to reach his destination and his dreams … The film underlines that there’s no shortcut to life and achieving your dreams. ‘Paani Ch Madhaani’ in Punjabi means that you are having a conversation, but as I try to explain something which you don’t understand I drag it needlessly. It’s an out-and-out comedy film with an underlying social message about how shortcuts in life don’t always pan out’.”

On clashing with Bollywood police film ‘Sooryavanshi’:

A still from Sooryavanshi Image Credit: Reliance Entertainment

“In our territory, we are confident that we will hit the ball out of the park. And trust me, it doesn’t matter who’s in the film, it’s all about whether a film is good or bad. One of my movies ‘Manje Bistre’ is a prime example of my belief. It was a comedy set around a Punjabi wedding where we borrow beds from others to accommodate the guests. At that point, Paul Walker had just passed away and his posthumous release ‘Furious 7’ was out at the same time and there was another Hindi star-studded film which released at the same time, but that film did spectacular box office business even in territories like Canada where we had 20 shows just like ‘Furious 7’. Also, remember films like ‘Lagaan’ and ‘Gaddar’ had released together, and I watched both as an audience and love both those films too.”

His biggest learning from the COVID-19 phase:

Rajesh Sharma, Deepak Dobriyal, Farhan Akhtar, Gippy Grewal and Inaamulhaq in ‘Lucknow Central’. Image Credit: Viacom 18 Motion Pictures

“Pre-COVID-19, I was hurtling fast in life. But when COVID-19 hit, I began to question myself on why we are running so fast and whom are we running this race for? It made me wonder whom we are competing against? Is the race against ourselves here? I have learnt to be patient and also give time to my family and kids … I learnt about not being hooked onto my phone all the time. Your phone is like a ticking bomb and when it shuts down, you panic. But what’s the big deal? … I have learnt the importance of spending time with my family and spending less time on social media … My biggest learning is to enjoy and living in the moment and not leave it for tomorrow.”

De-constructing Punjabi films to non-natives:

Gippy Grewal Image Credit: IANS

“Punjabis are humorous and most of our films are usually comedies with a realistic touch skimming on themes of family and religion. Usually, our target is to make films that can be watched by a five-year-old and an 80-year-old person. We gravitate towards family entertainers.”

His journey in films:

“I starred in my first movie in 2019. Both Diljith Dosanjh and I were singers who began making films. In my first film in 2009, I just had five or six scenes while Diljith had just one scene in it. Jimmy Shergill and Neeru Bajwa — who is my co-star now in ‘Paani Ch Madhaani’ — played the central roles. But we got appreciated a lot in that film and after that there was no looking back. Our films are made on a modest budget of Rs30 million or less and go on to make Rs150 million at the box office. Punjabi cinema is peaking right now. We have a growing fan base now in Dubai too.”

Depiction of Punjabi characters in Bollywood films:

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A still from 'Paani Ch Madhaani' Image Credit: Supplied

“Now that actors like Diljith have begun acting in them, people will get an idea about who we are in an authentic manner. Usually, Punjabi characters in Hindi films don’t connect with me. There were times when we used to look at the way they tie their turbans and think to ourselves that we don’t tie it like that or that we don’t talk in that style either … Sometimes we are that person who opens a hotel door or that stereotypical joker in a film. But we are trying to change that and set things right with one good film at a time … Our Punjabi film industry is very small and priced effectively, and we are rapidly growing.”

His Diwali plans:

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A still from 'Paani Ch Madhaani' Image Credit: Supplied

“After Dubai screening, I am heading to Canada and I will be in Vancouver with my extended family celebrating Diwali there. My family and I are going to watch this film together in the evening too.”

Don’t miss it!

‘Paani Ch Madhaani’ will release in UAE cinemas on November 4.