Jassie Gill is a celebrated singer and has acted in both Hindi and Punjabi films. After his debut in the Hindi movie Happy Phir Bhaag Jaayegi earlier this year, he is being considered one of the most promising newcomers in Bollywood. He also created headlines recently by becoming the youth face for the Twitter campaign #Powerof18. Currently, he has been shooting for Ashwiny Iyer’s Panga, in which he plays the lead role opposite Kangana Ranaut. He spoke to Guardian 20 about his career as musician and actor.
Q. The song “Nikle Currant” in collaboration with Neha Kakkar has garnered a huge response. It has over 200 million views on YouTube. Tell us about that experience.
A. It was a great experience. I’ve been friends with Neha for about five years now. Since we met, we had been planning to come together for a song that would have country-wide appeal. Our idea was that despite this being a Punjabi song, it should be something that everyone listens to. We wanted to have those universal beats. So, we had been planning this for long. We created this song last year, but it kept getting delayed due to various reasons. But we finished and released the song successfully. I am overwhelmed by the response.
Q. How did you get inclined towards music?
A. I’ve always been interested in music. I used to keep listening to different kinds of songs. In fact, I had music as a subject in my college which further increased my interest in music. From there I started to think about pursuing music professionally.
Q. How did your Bollywood debut Happy Phir Bhaag Jaayegi happen?
A. It happened because of my music career only. I did a song “Nakhre” and Mudassar Aziz Sir [director of the film] watched that song and called me. He said he was planning to make a film for which he wants a character similar to what I had played in the song. That’s how the music video led to the film.
Q. You have established yourself in the Punjabi film industry. Was venturing into Bollywood always on your mind?
A. I didn’t plan on getting into Bollywood. But somewhere, yes I desired a chance to be a part of this film industry. I had a positive feeling that if not today or tomorrow, some day it will happen. It was never my goal. I never had that thing in my head that I have to do it. I just feel blessed that I got the opportunity, so I am making the most of everything that’s coming my way.
Q. From being a musician to trying your hand at acting. What caused this shift?
A. Music was something I knew I could do. I was confident about it. As far as acting is concerned, I stepped into it because people came to me and told me that I am capable of doing that as well. That happened by starring in the music videos of my songs in which I played different characters according to the concept of the song—sad, romantic, peppy etc. So there’s a different story in every song and you act the part. Doing that again and again made others, and in return me, to believe in my acting capability.
Q. Since you’ve worked in both Hindi and Punjabi films, are there any differences between the two industries?
A. Bollywood has been in existence for a long time. The Punjabi film industry is quite new. But it’s growing at a great pace, be it the film or the music industry. People have started watching more Punjabi films and there’s a kind of trust on the part of the audiences now that the films and music are good. With time, it’ll come out with more and more great projects and results. The difference exists, but it’ll be fine with time. There’s a huge difference in the filmmaking process. Punjabi films have limited budget, so everything is under control and there are a lot of restrictions—from artists to production values and the number of shoot days. There’s compromise in everything. This causes a difference in the shooting style, direction etc. But Punjabi music has carved a niche in Bollywood. It is not limited to Punjab anymore and has a universal appeal. It is now the kind of music that is played everywhere.
Q. You’ve talked about how Punjabis have been stereotyped in Bollywood. How do think that perception is changing?
A. The perception has already changed. There are such big names in the Punjabi film and music industries. Many people have done a really great job and gained recognition for it. A couple of years back, people didn’t really know how Punjabis are. Now there are a lot of Punjabis in Bollywood. The Punjabi characters in movies are authentic, from their looks to personalities. Otherwise, they have been portrayed as loud and funny people for decades. So slowly that perception is changing and I think we have almost solved this issue.
Q. How hard is it to strike a balance between singing and acting?
A. Recently, I have been facing problems in taking out time for video shoots. So dates become an issue. Also, I have to change my look because of the character demands in songs and movies, which can be contrasting. So it’s a little difficult, but definitely manageable. I can’t sit free. I always feel that I should be doing something or the other. So I make songs in my free time. Music is ingrained in me and it always goes on inside me. I keep listening to songs and creating my own. Music is constant. So there’s no effect on making music. That will always go on.
Q. What’s your approach while recreating songs, as opposed to making your own songs?
A. There’s no problem in recreating old songs. Just giving the original creators due credit is crucial. Today’s generation likes a particular kind of music and if those old songs can be presented in a way that is liked by the younger people, I find the initiative acceptable.
Q. Can you tell us something about your upcoming film, Panga?
A. I was in Canada when I got the script for screen test. I never expected to get the part. This is my luck that the announcement for this movie was made two days before my first Bollywood film was released.We started shooting for the film in November and its theme is kabaddi. I am playing the role of Kangana Ranaut’s husband in the film. And I am extremely excited to work in that movie.
Q. Tell us about your future endeavours.
A. Apart from Panga, I have a couple of songs which are ready. I will release them as soon as we are done working on the music videos.