After watching Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster 3, a friend remarked that she thought Jimmy Sheirgill, who plays the sahib Raja Aditya Pratap Singh, seemed to be “reverse ageing”. Costumed in sculpted bandhagalas and jodhpurs, glowering behind a handlebar mustache, the 47-year-old actor indeed made for a striking royal. It’s interesting that an actor who started of as a “chocolate boy hero” now makes an indelible impact whether as a Rajasthani royal or as a jilted lover in a pathani suit.
Often playing the jilted lover (he lost Preity Zinta to Arjun Rampal in Dil Hai Tumhara, Kangana Ranaut to Madhavan in Tanu Weds Manu and Happy ran away from Bagga in Haapy Bhag Jayegi), or the patriarchal, chauvinistic relative who stands in the way of love, or the role of the rough-and-tough goon of small-town India — characters that merit their own spin-off feature — Sheirgill has come a long way from the shiny, urban romantic hero image of his early films.
“I have been taking risks from very early in my career. I did a lot of romantic films, like Mohabbatein and Dil Vil Pyar Vyar, early on, but I wanted to go beyond the chocolate hero/lover boy image,” says Sheirgill. “I realized that if I stuck to that slot then my story would not go beyond four years. I had to pick up interesting films like Haasil and Munnnabhai. Although I was a little insecure to begin with, I am so glad I experimented,” says the actor.
A growth study of his career would begin with his debut film Maachis (1996) followed by Mohabbatein, Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai, Haasil, Munnabhai MBBS, Yahaan, A Wednesday, both parts of Tanu Weds Manu, Special 26, the Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster trilogy and Mukkabaaz. Add a couple of Punjabi language films into the mix, such as Dharti and Daana Paani and you will agree that it’s not easy to place Sheirgill, who was born Jasjit Singh Gill, into a single box.
Equally, though, there are films that are almost forgotten — Kehta Hai Dil Baar Baar, Silsilay, Victoria No. 203, Fugly and Shorgul among others. The 47-year-old actor has consciously kept things varied to keep alive his own interest and ensure longevity. Twenty-two years later, in 2018 alone, he has a list of releases that traverse various genres.
This experimentation and hunger for challenging roles landed him a part in Anurag Kashyap’s Mukkabaaz in which he played the unscrupulous head of the state boxing federation. Sheirgill endured what Kashyap has described as “inconveniences” like piling on the kilos, ageing up, staying awake all night before the shoot to ensure he had bloodshot eyes, etc. to portray the menacing Bhagwandas Mishra effectively.