Harbhajan Mann is striving towards a revival of Punjabi cinema


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Singer, actor, performer and Punjabi star Harbhajan Mann was in Sydney to promote his upcoming film ‘Gaddar’.  He travelled to many cities including Coffs Harbour to attend the Sikh Games 2015. Rajesh Thakur of Tune India Radio/The Indian Telegraph met up with the Mann and had a chat with about his life, music, motivation and his upcoming film ‘Gaddar’. Here are excerpts of their conversation.

Rajesh Thakur: What do you find special about Australia?
Harbhajan Mann: It’s the countryside that takes my breath away. The drive to Woolgoolga at Coffs Harbour was spectacular. And the people are so warm and friendly that it touches your heart.

RT: You have such a diverse personality as an actor, singer and performer. Did you take to singing from childhood?
HM: I grew up in Bhatinda and my love for music goes back to those days. In the evening bhajans and kirtans used to be played in the Gurdwaras and temples. I used to love the sound. I didn’t know what instruments were a part of that sound, but I started mimicking the singing. My mother recognised my talent and encouraged me. I belong to a Jat Sikh family that was into farming, so when I started singing everyone was surprised. When we relocated to Canada from Punjab, I was free to pursue my passion and started training with Ustaad Karnail Singh and Sheikh Hameed sahib. I used to sing at local events in Canada and soon music directors who were visiting, asked me to come to India and record songs. My journey from there on has been a gift from God.

RT: How did you get into films?
HM: I never made a conscious effort to get into films. But for my music videos, I used to work with people like Manmohanji, Ahmed Khan bhai and Vaibhavi Merchant. During our shoots, the thought occurred that Punjabi songs make it into Bollywood films and there are Punjabis all over the world, so why don’t we try and revive Punjabi cinema.

RT: What kind of films would you like to showcase for your audience?
HM: Throughout my musical career there was one overriding point that stuck in my head, that when people see my films they should feel that this is Harbhajan’s story. This was the case with my songs and the emotions that I poured out in them. This is a sure shot way of connecting with your audience.

RT: Can you tell us something about your upcoming film ‘Gaddar’?
HM: After having worked for many years in the entertainment industry, I feel that its only now that I am beginning to get the true essence of acting and that makes me crave juicy roles. In ‘Gaddar’ I play a character who lives life on the edge; who has achieved a lot in life, but is unable to slow down. This is because he has a past and as the film progresses, he realises that the past is catching up. He then has to deal with what he thought he had left behind.

RT: What changes are you trying to bring to Punjabi cinema through your work?
HM: I am thankful to all my friends in Bollywood. We might not be able to afford their professional charges but due to our relationships, I attempt to bring the best of breed such as technicians, actors, production, to Punjabi cinema. It is my sincere attempt to carve out an identity for Punjabi cinema, the way Kamal Hassan or Rajnikanth have done for South Indian films.

RT: What’s next on the agenda?

HM: My next project is ‘Sadde CM Sahib’ which is a political film. And at this point I also feel I am ready to do something in Bollywood as well. I don’t necessarily want to play the lead role, but as an actor I feel I can step up to the plate and contribute meaningfully to Hindi cinema. I am glad that Bollywood is also experimenting with different scripts and hopefully I can find my niche.

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