'Filmmakers treat sardars as stock characters, not actors'
'Filmmakers treat sardars as stock characters, not actors'

Fukrey-fame Manjot Singh will be seen playing a pivotal role in Raaj Shaandilyaa’s directorial debut DreamGirl. The film which also stars Ayushmann Khurrana, Nushrat Barucha, Annu Kapoor, Vijay Raaz and others, releases on September 12.

His character Smiley, says the actor is a witty guy. “I play Ayushmann’s childhood friend who stands by him when he gets into trouble because he can speak in a female voice. Smiley is the one who solves Ayushmann’s problems,” says Manjot. 

Talking about working with Ayushmann, he says, “Sometimes big stars are not present to give their reactions when there is a back-facing scene, but Ayushmann would be there for every scene. Only when he reacted would I be able to be give the right expressions because it’s team work that helps actors to perform better. He wanted the entire team to perform together.” 

The actor, who was last seen in Student of the Year 2, says that he doesn’t read scripts of the projects offered to him. “I believe it takes years of hard work and effort to make a film. It takes equal effort to write a script too, and I am no one to criticise someone’s hard work. For a director, the script is like a baby. I always sign projects if I get a positive and interesting vibe. Touch wood, the films I have signed so far have done well,” he says, adding that he just gets an understanding of his role and scenes before starting work on a project. “If my role and the team attracts me, I just go with it. I have rejected more films than I have done,” says the actor who is happy with how his fans compliment him on the kind of films he chooses. “People tell me that I have got a good choice even though it’s a small role,” he adds.   

We see very few characters written for turban-clad actors and the far and few that do come along are often stereotyped. Sardar characters are used to bring comic-relief to the story, believes Manjot, who has worked in films like Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!, Udaan, Azhar, Jab Harry Met Sejal and others. 

“There is a certain perception in the minds of the audience. When I meet filmmakers, I always tell them, ‘only you can change the perception of the audience’. Till the time they do not show a Sikh actor in a serious role, people will not accept it. It doesn’t matter if it works or not, but they have to try and bring that change,” says the actor, adding, “Even the audience wants to see something new today.” He says that he is approached by filmmakers only when they have a funny character or a role of a sardar, and he feels bad about it. “Filmmakers treat sardars as stock characters, not actors. Just because I am a sardar, it doesn’t mean that I am funny all the time. We are serious people. They never think, ‘he is a good actor so he will be able to do it’,” he says.

Giving the example of Sartaj Singh, played by Saif Ali Khan in the web series Sacred Games, Manjot says, “He is a sardar too and the makers have written the character so beautifully. Having said that, things are a little better now, but there’s still a long way to go. People are trying to portray these characters differently, but only with well known actors. They should also give a chance to real sardars.” 

The actor ,who has been working in films for the past decade, says that the biggest challenge for an actor, is learning to say ‘no’. “If you are unable to decline a role or say ‘no’ to a particular part, then you are not cut out for this industry. You have to stand up for yourself. Also, there are no friends in this industry. Your childhood or college friends are your real friends. You have to survive on your own, specially those who do not have godfathers in the industry,” he adds. 

As the conversation moves to the comedy franchise Fukrey, we ask if the third installment is happening. “We too keep asking our director Mrighdeep Singh Lamba and producers Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani. I think they are writing the third part, and if the idea works, they will make it,” he answers. 

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