Humour makes crime cinema entertaining: Jimmy Sheirgill
The actor discusses his new film, Family of Thakurganj, the appeal of crime movies set in the heartland, and finding humour in violence
Bollywood was still making inroads into the Hindi heartland in 2003, when Haasil released. Directed by Tigmanshu Dhulia, the film starred Jimmy Sheirgill as an Allahabad University student enmeshed in a violent gang rivalry. The political drama recast Uttar Pradesh as a throbbing landscape of humour and grit, a position previously held by the Mumbai underbelly. It’s a world Jimmy would find himself often returning to, predominantly through his associations with Tigmanshu, and later in Anurag Kashyap’s Mukkabaaz. His upcoming film, Family of Thakurganj, follows in this stride. Shot in Lucknow, the film is directed by Manoj K Jha, an old associate of Tigmanshu, and written by Dilip Shukla.
“I have known Manoj since Haasil, Charas, Bullet Raja. Dilip, who also wrote Dabangg, came to me with the story of Family of Thakurganj. I liked his treatment. The films I usually do are either serious or light-hearted. This one had a good mix of action, emotion and drama with a subtle tone of humour,” Jimmy shares.
The actor identifies black humour as the secret ingredient of crime cinema. “When we talk about these kinds of stories, they are extremely fierce in nature. Someone has come to murder somebody — the only way you can make it entertaining is by adding some dark humour or strong dialogues. It’s the writing that distracts us from the seriousness and keeps the heartland flavour intact.”
In the film, Jimmy plays the criminal patriarch of an influential family. While some members of his clan approve of his profession, others are strictly against it. Against this backdrop of dynastic tension, the story unfolds. “There’s a vulnerable side to my character as well. He faces a lot of rift in his family. Yet, when an outer force tries to intervene, they all come together. The same is true for most Indian families.” When it comes to playing region-specific characters, is lingo ever a problem for Jimmy? “Not really. Since I am from the North, I am familiar with the dialects. An Allahabadi will have a different accent from a Lucknowi. At times, I am required to mix up the two.”
Family of Thakurganj packs an ensemble cast of Mahie Gill, Saurabh Shukla, Supriya Pilgaonkar, Pavan Malhotra and others. Jimmy and Mahie are known for their titular pairing in the Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster franchise. “Mahie and I have had a great collaboration over the years. She plays a strong character in this one. There a lot of fiery exchanges between us.”
Outside of Bollywood, Jimmy has charted a successful career in the Punjabi industry. His last release in the language was Daana Paani (2018), with Simi Chahal. The actor praises the influx of regional talents in Hindi cinema and vice versa. “It’s ultimately Indian cinema, right? We have seen a great merging of North and South cinema recently. I hope other industries join in too. Collectively, it’s a great time.” As for making his foray into the web space, the actor shares he’s been going through “a lot of scripts” and will be locking something soon.
On the theatrical front, Jimmy’s other film, Jhootha Kahin Ka, is also releasing on July 19 with Family of Thakurganj. The comedy unites Jimmy with Rishi Kapoor, who had starred in a 1979 film of the same name. “Jhootha Kahin Ka is a comedy of errors. It’s complicated, yet hilarious. You will really need your brains in the theatre for this one,” says Jimmy, who also has a supporting role in Judgementall Hai Kya, opposite Kangana Ranaut.