Gippy Grewal – Punjabi Cinema Da Most Wanted
Posted by Navleen on September 15, 2014 | No Comments
Thanks to a press conference that he has just returned from, I was lucky to find him in not so lazy mood. Otherwise when he is at home, taking bath is never on his priority. Since his home is place where he enjoys living without an aura of a star—where singer, actor and producer Gippy Grewal is husband to the woman who sums his world and did everything possible to fulfill his dreams, caring father to his two sons and a calm place where he easily connects with himself.
When I notice that he’s in a mood to talk, it gives me a liberty to take a promise from him for making this conversation different from our previous dialogues that have mostly revolved around discussions related to where the Punjabi cinema is heading towards. Courtesy for which could be give to the media fraternity who instead of having a heart to heart conversation which can eventually help in knowing a success story of this self made man targets on just about anything. For that matter even the critics whose unrelenting obsession with leading commercial actors, especially Punjabi singers who turn into actors, never ends.
At times even he thinks that being a top star is a crime. “Whenever Diljit Dosanjh’s or my film is about to release, we are bombarded with expectations. In such a new born industry, the anticipation is in such abundance that I feel if it’s a mistake to give hits. How would only two people meet those expectations when there is dearth of almost everything— promising directors, actors, technicians and professionalism.” shares Gippy.
Ready to ditch the cliché, he agrees to recall his journey which is based on only three rules—- minimal expectations, no wish list and immense zeal.
Readers, please allow me to bring forth the man who is pioneer in many things Punjabi, wrote his present and perhaps will also pen his future and has proved his mettle as a performer par excellence. And this permitted the statistics to work in his favor. If his popularity had any effect on his personality, it’s a positive one. Success has made him more humble, it seems!
That’s why even while sitting in well manicured drawing room of his luxurious house; he doesn’t mind going back to the days when he used to stay in a rented one room apartment. Unlike most cases, you don’t get the pungent smell of adulteration in his success story’s description which was nothing less than a roller coaster ride. The past fourteen years, in which he has lived many facets, he has not just earned the top position but also made others clear that he is here for a long run.
Gippy who was originally named Rupinder Grewal was born and brought up in Koom Kalan village, Ludhiana till his father fell ill and they shifted base to Mohali in 1994. He recalls, “My father had brain hemorrhage followed by paralysis which lead to some kidney problem. During my 7th, 8th and 9th standard I have mostly lived out of hospitals. My brother and I were too attached to him that we used to spend most our time looking after him. I even learnt the techniques of acupressure for him. When he got little better doctors advised us to move to Mohali.”
Gippy’s childhood was as desi as of any village kid. He says, “I have been brought up in a very typical village. My games used to be guli danda, bandar killa, bante, patang etc that didn’t require any money to spend on unlike today’s generation that plays nothing other than Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo etc.”
He is consciously trying to raise his sons, Ekomkar and Gurfateh, in a very Punjabi manner. “Our house has a Punjabi atmosphere and we consider speaking in Punjabi with our kids. After every two months I make sure that I take them to Golden Temple, Amritsar and our village. It was after one of their visit to the village that they asked me to keep a dog. My wife Ravneet and I are very mindful to keep them as rooted as possible. Since whatever I have today, I have earned only from Punjab, Punjabiyat and Punjabi language. We Punjabis have confused kids to such an extent that they just don’t know which language to follow and end up mixing Hindi, Punjabi and English. Parents are to be largely blamed. A child’s future always depends on how he is raised.” believes he.
By now you know that these statements are something that he has received in legacy. He beams, “My father was the only educated man in our family. He was an engineer but still continued farming. He used to teach around hundred kids of our village and I was the one amongst them. He never charged from them. When I took up singing, he was quite supportive despite the fact that there was no one from singing background in our family.”
One thing that disturbs Gippy is that most parents decide the future of their kids themselves. “I’m a self learnt singer and an actor. I have done my graduation in hotel management but haven’t ever used that part of education in my entire life. In fact while I was studying I didn’t use to speak English properly. I learnt everything on field and after becoming a professional singer.
Foreign countries give lot of importance to the interest of kids.” reckons he.
Interestingly, this singer’s passion for singing took birth during his school days. Gippy owes a lot to his school—- Nankana Sahib Public School, Ludhiana for letting his passion find the real path. He nostalgically reminiscences, “I used to participate in various co-curricular activities such as singing, plays, bhangra, mono acting etc. I was too involved in these activities that my school used to hire trainers for me. It was their faith and appreciation which motivated me to participate in interschool competitions as well.”
The seed that his school sowed got a platform at wedding functions of his family. “At various family functions, I was often on stage. It so happened that in 1998 at a cousin’s wedding; I sang at every function that the entire family encouraged me to come up with an album. That’s when I took training for few months from Tarsem Walia followed by music director Atul Sharma.”
In 2000 Gippy made his debut as a singer with album Chak Lai that failed to impress listeners. He says, “As most of the money went into my father’s illness, we weren’t financially strong to release my album. The money for the album was crowd sourced. My cousins who were staying abroad helped and I finally launched myself. Though it didn’t do well but the best part still was that I started getting some shows where I would get R5000 or 10,000.”
After completing his degree he worked at Crown Plaza Surya, Delhi to gather funds for his next album. Even his second album Aaja Wey Mitra didn’t work and Gippy was on the verge of dropping the idea to come up with another album but a music show came as a savior for him. “Once I had to perform in the early section of Mh1’s show followed by performances by some renowned singers. It rained and singers couldn’t sing but I had already finished singing by then. As the channel had marketed the show extensively they had to play my performance again and again. Incidentally Fine Tone Music Company noticed and got interested to release my next album.” recalls the singer.
But even the third album didn’t help Gippy get his share of limelight. A week before his wedding in 2004 he shot video of song Phulkari, a track from his third album Mele Mitran De on suggestion of his friends. Gippy tells, “After the album’s release the song was unnoticed for next six months. I still remember that when we released the video a week after my wedding the song became an instant hit that it was played at every wedding for next two years. A lot of people say that my marriage proved to be lucky.”
Besides his lucky charm, it was Gippy and his wife’s constant hard work that turned the table upside down. “Post marriage, we shifted our base to Canada. Even over there all the radio stations used to play Phulkari but most of them didn’t know about the singer.” In fact people used to get surprised when he told them that he has sung it. “For almost a year I did every possible odd job to collect money for my next album. My wife was manager at Subway and I ended up working as a security guard, cleaner, laborer etc. But every job I did I enjoyed it to the core. When people realized that I had sung those songs they were often stunned. And I simply use to tell them that I don’t have work at the moment. Par roti tan khani hai, bhukhe thodi marna….whenever work comes, I’ll take that up.”
Luckily the series of albums that followed helped him in becoming a household name. “Post 2006, I started getting shows in Punjab as well as overseas. Through those shows I became friends with comedian Binnu Dhillon who used to act in plays. Binnu later introduced me to Jimmy Shergill who offered me my debut role in Mel Karade Rabba.”
Though Gippy had started getting offers as a lead actor in 2007 but he didn’t accept them. He spills the beans by saying, “I had a feeling that those films won’t work and luckily they didn’t. I even returned the signing amount of one the film. Similarly I had refused offers of some Hindi films of big banners that later jinxed at box office. My six sense has always saved me.”
The charm of Jimmy’s films and it’s popularity made Gippy agree to Mel Karade Rabba in 2010. “I thought instead of doing a flop film as a lead actor, it’s always better to be part of a film which I knew would be popular.” Do we need to mention about how Mel Karade Rabba broke all previous records?
For a beginner, there are mostly some reference points or role models to follow. Gippy leaves you amazed when he says, “Though I was in the awe of many singers and actors but I was always clear that identity should be of your own. Following and wanting to become like someone, would never help you make a mark. Only originality does!”
From Mel Karade Rabba to Carry on Jatta, Singh Vs Kaur to Lucky di Unlucky Story, Jatt James Bond to Double di Trouble; there’s a huge transformation and growth in Gippy’s work which has dismissed all previous perceptions. About which he says, “Transformation is an automatic process. As you move forward in your life, growth happens. After I did Jihne Mera Dil Luteya I noticed that audience used to enjoy Binnu’s screen presence and punches more than anyone else’s. So either his role was quite extraordinary or he was a brilliant actor. Day by day I started following things minutely. I started learning from every actor I worked with. I have learnt all aspects of acting only on field.”
Besides minutely observing his colleagues, he also makes sure that he watches lots and lots of films. “When I’m free I make sure that I watch every recent release of Bollywood and Hollywood. At my house in Canada, there are times when I watch around ten films in a day.” tells the movie buff.
Another art that Gippy has, most of us crave for —learning from one’s mistake. “I constantly keep finding mistakes in my work. This helps me in large extent as then I never repeat those mistakes. I got this habit from my father. As a child whenever teachers scolded me, he often told me to accept the mistake and not repeat it. That’s how I learnt not to lie. At the premiere of Mirza, when Gurdas Mann who was sitting next to me appreciated the film, I gave a contradictory remark in return as I didn’t like it.”
Gippy has a certain aura, which is very positive. This man completely surprises you with his modesty when tells that he never had a set goal in life to achieve. And yet there is so much that he has achieved till date. “Whatever I have attained so far, these things were never on my target list. There was never a set agenda to follow. I only concentrated on improving my work and skills day by day which probably helped me achieving more in life. When I started as a singer, the only motive I had was to release few albums. Basically I never had some big expectations or demands from life. Success for me always was to be happy in life.”
Despite the fact that there were no expectations, he still had his sheer of struggle. He recalls, “When we returned from Canada, we had to stay in a rented apartment at Mohali that cost us 6000 rupees per month. It was one bed room apartment which had no place for any guest to accommodate, no AC and my wife was on a family way during that time. Every month it was a task to arrange money for the rent. We bought our first second hand AC on installments. Today if someone points at the 20 ACs that I have in my house, only I know how I have earned them.”
According to him, it was neither name, fame or money that brought him so far. It was ‘passion’ that kept him crazy for his work. “There is always a hunger to attempt something different and unique. I don’t have time to take out singles but still I make sure that I do. My recent track Photo is result of such desire to do something for myself. The video has reflection of my life’s story. In the video, I’m putting poster of my first show, similarly I had put posters of my first album on many walls myself. Similarly I distributed my album to various shopkeepers requesting them to keep it at their shop.” shares the star.
From being a singer to then an actor and now even a producer; Gippy has worn many hats but he rarely likes to be known as the latter. Making it very clear, he says, “I’m not a producer at all. I’m only an intelligent actor who knows that budgets should be spent wisely. Even when other producers come to sign me for films, I hardly discuss finances with them. My team looks after that as I easily decrease my charges if someone tells me to do so. But my contribution is always in large amount in any film and not only till acting. For I believe that any film should have entertainment in it even if it aims at giving a message. A serious message won’t turn eye balls. To make audience listen to that message, one needs to offer entertainment in their plate.”
It was his entertainers caught the fancy of biggies such as Akshay Kumar and Subhash Ghai who turned producer for his Punjabi films. And today he is all set to enter Hindi film industry. “I have so far refused around 30 offers of Hindi films that came my way. Even they ask me that I’m just a regional artist but refuse to the offers by big banners. But for me those roles don’t excite me much. I don’t think I can play them. Jehdi cheez menu achi nahi lagdi, beshak hit hove, jado tak menu pasand hi nahi, me kidda kar lawan.” tells the actor who has always impressed his viewers unequivocally.
Director Smeep Kang’s Second Hand Husband where Gippy is casted opposite Govinda’s daughter, Narmaadaa Ahuja will see him make his Bollywood debut. “The movie has intelligent humor similar to what Vicky Donor had. I’m not sure of the box office response but the critics will surely appreciate it. The story which is written by Smeep was lying with us from a long time but we wanted to attempt it only in Hindi.”
Amidst this stardom that doesn’t seem to affect Gippy much, there is surely a cost that every star has to pay. He admits, “One has to be always particular about every step you take. The reason behind saying no to various Hindi films was also because of my fans. I knew my popularity would increase nationally with a Hindi film but I didn’t want to lose the fans that I have here. And then you often miss the life that an ordinary man enjoys. At times I want to drive my car and take my family out for a gehri or ice-cream but even for a thing like that I have to take my team members along.”
Coming to the values that Gippy value the most, he tells, “I can’t detach someone who has been associated with me. Recently I found my childhood friends myself. They never contacted me thinking that I would not recognize them which wouldn’t have been the case. Also there is a theory that I largely follow. If I’m good with someone today, they would always remember me even when I’m going through a bad phase. If I’ve treated you well during this interview, you would not show tantrums writing about me even at a time when I’m not going through a good phase. Otherwise you would simply ignore me when I would be in need.”
Just like he lived to his promise of opening up, one would make sure that one returns the favor.
By Navleen Kaur Lakhi