Jimmy Sheirgill is currently seen in the Netflix series, Choona
Initially known for his roles in Mohabbatein and Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai, Jimmy Sheirgill is one actor who evolved into more than a chocolate boy over the years. He took up serious roles, fun characters and did continue his romance and heartbreak on-screen nonetheless. He is now seen in the Netflix show, Choona. From the delay in its release to whether he feels typecast, the actor indulged in a candid chat exclusively with OTTplay.
Excerpts from the interview…
What was your first thought when you heard about Choona?
Firstly, I think it's amazing that you're saying that it's different from the other one. That was what I also felt when I read the script of the show when it was offered to me, and I loved it. And my first reaction was that who's written this? And I got to know that the director who's directing it himself is the writer of the show, and I was like, let's meet him. And we met him. And we had a great discussion about the show. I had a little bit of reservation regarding my character, because I just thought that it's another powerful character for me – with moustaches, drama and playing a politician. But then, somewhere, I think the director convinced me, he convinced me that this is not the way he's looking at this particular character. He's looking at it in a very, very different way. And somewhere, he ended up convincing me to do the show. And then now today, like after watching the first three, four episodes that I saw at the screening, I'm so glad that I did the show, because we put in a lot of hard work into this character and, and watching it on screen is, is amazing. And I think it's a great show, and I'm really looking forward to the release of the show.
So, you know, you spoke about being apprehensive about the role. I was actually supposed to ask you about this, that you know, you have often been stereotyped. After Tanu Weds Manu, your reputation became that of losing out on the girl. After Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster, you were seen in projects that involved politics. So, do you feel like you have been bound by a stereotype and have to work on those films because otherwise people find it tough to accept you in other roles?
Why blame the audiences? It’s a usual thing. When somebody likes an actor in a character, then he gets those kind of roles only. You are typecast as intense or powerful. When it comes to typecast, I felt like I got the chocolate boy image at the beginning of my career. There was a question of how long will that last, because of which I chose different roles. Thus, I took up different roles, no matter if they were supporting characters. I found them to be more interesting and thus, I took those up.
Today, if there’s a Punjabi character I have played, there are demands to play it that way. It’s a usual thing in films. Not much can be done about it. We can say no though. Even if we do agree to a role, there’s some thought into how can it be portrayed differently. Some makers agree to it, others don’t.
A lot of hard work has gone into the show. And it's great that the director, he pushed me to do the show. I'm so glad after watching it because I feel like it is very special and very interesting and very exciting, and I'm looking forward to this show.
The series revolves around a heist planned by a group of average individuals seeking revenge. What do you think makes the story of Choona relatable to a broad audience?
What is interesting about the show is that it is show based in the heartland. It's very rooted but shot very stylishly and written so well, that even when it is like see, this stuff is happening, but there is humor. There's dark humor, either in situations or in dialogue, or through the characters or whatever, the human emotion is intact. So, it is so fresh that it takes you a little while to get into that world. Because initially, when you will start off, you'll say, wow, this is serious stuff. And then slowly, slowly, you'll start feeding. This has got the humor. I mean, wait, let me just restart it again. And then when you restart it from the first scene onwards, you will have the realization. It is the way you are tuned to watching stuff that is going to change as far as this show is concerned, because you will find the humor from the first scene itself. Yeah, but it's just that it took you time to change your attitude towards watching your show. And that is what is the beauty about the show. It is a show which has characters, which you start rooting for, and you start loving.
You are already well known on OTT, Your Honor. That is completely your show. People who know you often state that you pick your projects very carefully, and I'm sure that's the case with Choona too. So, tell me, what was it about Choona that made you curious to be a part of the show?
The script. The script was fantastic. It was so well written dialogue, the narrative. And obviously, the director was so clear about the style that he was going to shoot it with. And yeah, all the characters, because you know, when you're reading a script, you just don't want your character to be doing everything. You want others also to have good characters, whether it's like lesser scenes, but whenever those scenes happen, they're amazing, you know, so you enjoy it. And when other people's scenes are also making you entertain them, laugh and enjoy, is when you know a story is working.
From experimenting with your hair to making maximum use of your body language, this role offers a lot to explore as an actor. So, tell me, what was your prep process like?
Once we had decided that, we are going ahead with this one, we sat down with the director and myself. We had quite a few readings, and then whatever the director had in his mind as to how he was looking at this character being unpredictable – like you think that he's going to turn right but he's going to turn left – suddenly, you know, you feel that he's going to now lose his temper and he's very calm, and you know, a little unpredictable and then his entire take on astrology and how involved he is with astrology and the rings that he wears. There was so much of layering to this character already on paper. We had to just work on the look and try and make it look different from the typical and then he just let it go. And then he just said let's see where it goes.
The show was supposed to be out in August. Were you disappointed that the release got delayed?
No, nothing like that. We already knew about it. It was a promotion gimmick because astrology plays a big part on the show. That is how it was announced – with the pandit saying it is coming on the 3rd. After that, obviously, we came up with naya mahurat. Our promotions were designed like that. There was a lot of confusion about how we announced the shubh muhurat and did not release it, but I think it worked in the favour only. They already had shows releasing on the given dates. It was always supposed to be like that.
As an actor, how do you adapt to the changing dynamics of audience consumption on OTT platforms, where viewers have the flexibility to binge-watch series at their own pace?
We are actors. We act and promote our projects. That’s all we can do as actors and rest I think depends on the presenters or the makers or the producers of the show, and guests. But one thing is there – that people who are regularly watching shows are always on the lookout for something new something interesting. And they expect that from OTT because you know that there are times in the middle, I've heard very close people saying, that it's everything is just so similar on across platforms on OTT that you don’t find anything interesting. So, in that kind of space, when something which is a little different, which is entertaining yet presented in a different way and stuff that I want, that kind of thing comes, I do feel it always works. If nothing, it is definitely to the word of mouth one person watching it and saying oh you must watch it and then that's how it happens.
You have not produced anything for a while now. Any plans to go back to doing that?
No, I haven’t and I don't think I'm producing anything in the near future. I want to but I need to take time out for that to happen.
Your upcoming projects?
I have another show, which was just announced recently called Ranneeti, which should be releasing after this. I have Neeraj Pandey’s film Auron Mein Dum Tha, which should be a theatrical release with Ajay Devgn and Tabu. I have another film with Aanand L Rai – Phir Aayi Haseen Dillruba. That should be with Netflix.
Is Your Honor and Shareek sequel happening?
Your Honor is based on an Israeli show, Kvodo. So, we've already got two seasons out, we are waiting for them to come up with the third one, is when the third one we can take out, so it's like a contract bound thing. That's how it happens. They release first and then it is adapted over here and released. There’s no update on Shareek sequel so far.