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Exclusive! Ammy Virk: Most of us in Punjabi film industry haven't started a new project since Sidhu Moosewala's demise

Ammy Virk had shot for Challe Mundian three years back and the film released on Sony LIV only now.

Exclusive! Ammy Virk: Most of us in Punjabi film industry haven't started a new project since Sidhu Moosewala's demise
Ammy Virk (Instagram).
  • Shaheen Irani

Last Updated: 02.15 PM, Sep 30, 2022

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The whole world came to a standstill once Sidhu Mossewala’s demise was confirmed. However, one industry that has really been affected is the Punjabi film industry. Ammy Virk, recently seen in Challe Mundian, confirmed the news. He told OTTplay that the news has shook many and they have not been able to get back to new work ever since.

The actor-singer talks to us about his Bollywood debut, Dharma movie opposite Vicky Kaushal and much more. Excerpts…

Challe Mundian is out there and it is at the top. What are you feeling like currently?

For us in Punjabi film industry, coming on Sony LIV is also a big deal because we have films on Netflix, Hotstar and Zee5, among other platforms. Now, our reach is almost everywhere. It's a huge win.

The film was shot before COVID. Apart from this, many of my films released in theatres. Not many people are visiting theatres, either for Hindi or Punjabi films. So, thankfully, we have released on OTT and are getting the love for the film.

I've got many messages from my family as well. Everyone is liking the film. It's a family entertainer.

It has released with Sohreyan Da Pind Aa Gaya. What would you say about that?

I have seen that film too. I saw it in the edit room. They are all my friends so I was invited during the edit. It had released in theatres but Challe Mundian is a direct-to-OTT release. So, people have something new to enjoy. They should watch every Punjabi film. Everyone works hard and so, there shouldn't be language barriers. Look at how popular Korean cinema is in India now. People watch films with subtitles and so, there's no language barrier. We watch Marathi films and they watch our films. Not many people are still exposed to every industry but we're hopeful that will also improve soon. When we work in Hindi films, we'll have a wider audience. I wish every Punjabi film works. Nobody works only for money. If somebody has shot for 30-40 days, he has worked hard on it. Everyone hopes that their film is successful so they can progress in their career. Every maker works hard and so, I hope that the bad phase for cinema ends. Theatres aren't affected because of OTT but I'm sure people will watch good movies.

However, Punjabi films are working. Your own movies Qismat 2 and Saunkan Saunkne have worked so well. But yes, it's not at the level it usually would have been...

Yes. It's not that films just don't work but after Sidhu Moosewala's demise, people are affected. They have been mourning. I also didn't feel like working or even releasing my movie. We had planned this long ago and so, here we are. We haven't started working on anything new yet.

The OTT market is huge. There's a lot of content since lockdown and so, only great movies would work in theatres.

Were you close to Sidhu? Where were you and what was the situation like when you heard the news?

I was driving at that time. We were attending a ceremony with our Punjabi actor Binnu Dhillon when we got a call. Hardy Sandhu got the call. I thought that there might have been a brawl and so there was some firing. I assumed that he might be fine and okay. After five minutes, we came across the videos and photo and realized that the firing was in excess and he was struggling to live.

My house is just 15 minutes away from Chandigarh airport. I remember every moment like it was yesterday. I was at Saunkan Saunkne success party just a night before. I had messaged him that Sidhu bhaiya aapne aana hai (you have to come Sidhu bhaiya). He wanted the other singers to attend the party and promised to meet me two days later at my home. He was supposed to meet me but died a day before. I felt like if he had attended the party then maybe this whole tragedy could have been avoided. If he had come to me that day, maybe things would have been different.

It is being said that Punjabi singers often get threats and it goes to this extent. Would you care to share if there's any truth in that? Does this happen often?

It does happen and it's not limited to Punjab. It happens everywhere. If somebody is successful, he or she would be involved in a brawl with someone for sure. There are gang wars and rivalries between gangs. Nobody can deny that. If somebody doesn't like me and is already in contact with gangsters, then I will get threats for no reason. I might not even be involved with the gangsters personally but because of that, this often plays out. The rivalries should end, for sure. A common man should not suffer because of that.

Tell me about Challe Mundian. How did the film happen and what was it that made you say yes?

Our friends produced the film. I went for the narration and got to know about the cast and crew. It was three years back so I can't recall completely. We were in talks for its OTT release since a year and were looking for a suitable time to release it. We need time for promotions as well, right? We were looking at theatrical releases and now finally, September is here and our movie is out. We have a Punjabi film releasing in theatres as well every week so OTT films are also enjoyable.

Was this one the same on paper as on screen or were there changes on the way? Would you like to tell me about the changes, if any?

There were no major changes. We would improvise. For example, we shoot at Eiffel Tower and realize that there's a place nearby that fits the theme of the film. Thus, we go ahead with shooting there. You look at somebody's getup and comment on that. When you shoot a comedy film with people who have a great sense of humour, we all improvise. We bring something new to the table. Nothing from the script goes away but new things always add up. The editors cut some scenes if they are not necessarily required in a scene. They use their sense to understand what will or won't work.

You made your Bollywood debut during COVID. First seen in Bhuj, you then made your big screen debut in Hindi films through 83, both of which released when there was the lockdown situation. On top of that, your Punjabi films were also releasing. Take me back to what was it like during those times.

It was good. My debut in 83 was supposed to be grand. It was supposed to release within a few months but COVID hit the world and the release was stalled. I was very happy with the film. Kabir sir did a really good job, Ranveer was excellent. Bhuj, on the other hand, wasn't really up to the mark.

I have another Punjabi film releasing on November 4. We have everything planned for next year too. I'm shooting for it in London. There's one confirmed film for April release. Post that, there's a Dharma film with Vicky Kaushal. That will be a big film, definitely.

Did the 83 Box Office affect you? The film was loved on OTT but unfortunately, it didn't work in theatres...

There are three things here. People of my father's age, who have seen or heard the World Cup live, they were excited to watch Kapil sir. They wanted to relive the moment but were also scared of COVID-19. They are above 50 and didn't get out because of COVID. When there's a film on Yuvi paaji (Yuvraj Singh) or Virat Kohli, see what heights it reaches. There was a film on Dhoni paaji and see how it was received. We're here to witness what happens. There was generation gap.

Also, COVID was at the peak when our film released. We didn't have a choice. The film deserved big screen release. If it came directly on OTT, then that wouldn't be fun because the match is already on TV and YouTube. It was a film for the theatres. No wonder whoever has seen the film got goosebumps. We worked so hard while shooting. So much was at stake but it's okay, we'll work it out.

Pollywood constantly proves that singing and acting can go hand-in-hand. However, things are very different in B-Town. Tell me your experience. Was there any cultural shock while making the switch?

Not really. I thought since there's so much at stake there, they would shoot over more months. I assumed that they would start shooting from 11-12 in the morning and work for four-five hours per day. There were days when work would begin at 7 am and go on till 7 pm. That was a little confusing. Since we produce our own films in Punjab, we would shoot according to our schedule.

Also, in Punjab, we have our security but also 8-10 friends along. I saw that Ranveer and Vicky paaji had only one person with them all the time. It made me wonder how do they stay sane.

When we were shooting for 83 in London, Ranveer paaji was with his manager and one bodyguard. He was with three people and I had eight people around me. That was my debut film. People would ask me why do I bring so many people with me and I would say that I don't but they come with me. How could I help that? We don't like it alone. It was 8-10 months shoot and I would wonder what would I do alone in London? I would shoot for 40-50 days and then be free for the next 40-50 days. How would I spend my days then? I took my friends along to roam London. We would roam in London every weekend, whether shooting or not. That is how we shot the film. They are with me even now. It's my team. You work till certain age anyway, so when would you live?

I'm 30 now. If I work for 20 more years, when I come as an uncle, chacha, papa, mama, fuffad, then when will I live? Life happens with work, right? So, making friends and attending parties will also happen with work. 10-12 friends are always with me.

You are also a producer along with an actor and singer. Tell me, how do you decide which film you want to bankroll and which you would just act in?

I work on every film to improve it, script point of view. Right now, the films I produce are because they are my friends. I work with my friends only, no matter the film. It's because we don't want to depend on outside people. Hence, if we can, we back each other's movies. We don't pass on films thinking it is bad. We always try to improve any movie. Every film has a destiny. Sher Bagga went into loss but it was our production so we can bear it. It's okay if the films flopped. We'll work on something that makes profit. That's not an issue. We keep producing each other's films.

Do we see a new installment of Nikka Zaildar soon?

Yeah. I have two films whose scripting is over and one which is in the works. That film is longer and has a lot of action. It will be my first movie as an action hero. Apart from that, three of my films will release next year. I also have World Tour next year as a singer and so, there's limited time at hand. I'm waiting for my Dharma film to release to look ahead, actually. Since we are singer-actors, we'll progress only in this field, right? Once people know me a little better, then I will progress accordingly. I'm also learning a lot of English to prepare for Hollywood.

Your debut film Angrej is getting a sequel. What's the update on that, Qismat 3 and Sufna 2?

Angrej isn't finalized. Yes Sufna 2 and Qismat 3 are in the works but we don't know which will release first.

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