Punjabi film actor Dheeraj Kumar, who’s making his presence felt by portraying characters in diverse shades, is optimistic that regional filmmakers will soon start acknowledging audiences’ intelligence.
He says he is constantly looking for greys. Roles that that are not linear and provide enough space for exploring spaces between black and white. “That’s what drives me. Straight line can be so boring,” says 30-year-old Dheeraj Kumar from Fazilka in Punjab who has been part of several Punjabi films like Tarn Mann’s Rupinder Gandhi The Gangster, Qissa Panjab & recent blockbuster ” Rabb Da Radio ”
Currently shooting for Rocky Mental, a Punjabi film on sports, directed by debutant Vikram Thori, Kumar’s career trajectory has not really been simple. He wanted to be a cricketer but took up music after his father exhorted him to. “After graduating with an MA in Music from Panjab University in Chandigarh in 2009, I thought theatre music is my true calling. I was fascinated with the stage. I tried that and there has been no looking back,” he says.
The actor, who also completed his MA in Theatre from the same university in 2012, is however concentrating on cinema now. “I have done a number of plays but the camera fascinates me more. Moreover, theatre is really tough and demands a lot of time.”
Unlike most regional film actors waiting to board the next train to Mumbai, Kumar wants to establish himself in the Punjabi film space first before taking a call on moving to Hindi cinema. He elaborates, “It makes sense for me to get enough experience in my own language and explore the Punjabi ethos before embarking on a new journey.”
Admitting that Punjabi cinema, in general, does not really offer many opportunities for actors to explore their potential, Kumar also feels that slowly directors are understanding that the audiences cannot be taken for granted indefinitely, especially considering the stiff competition from low budget Hindi cinema which is getting worldwide recognition at some of the best festivals and also doing well commercially.
“The Internet has given access to people everywhere, including Punjab, to the best of cinema. They have started demanding substantial storylines treated innovatively. No wonder, some directors here are getting over their obsession with Jatts and jeeps, and paying more attention to scripts.”
Kumar is happy that people from across the country are opening to collaboration with Punjabi cinema. “Several members of Rocky Mental’s production team have had exposure to Hollywood films. Technicians from the Southern part of the country are coming here and Hindi film producers are showing a lot of interest in backing Punjabi films. I am optimistic that all this will be really educative for the film fraternity here, and result in some high-quality cinema,” he says.
How I relax: Singing sufi and cooking
Actors I look up to: Irrfan Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman
Looking for a role like: Where I play a negative character, which defies all cliches and manages to convey everything through the eyes