‘People remember you in films not on TV’

Sargun Mehta who is gearing up for her upcoming movie ‘Chandigarh Amritsar Chandigarh’ shares her experience working in Punjabi cinema and also discusses the pay gap among male and female actors

Sargun Mehta (social media)
Sargun Mehta (social media)

Murtaza Ali Khan

Sargun Mehta is currently one of the leading actresses working in Punjabi cinema. After a successful stint in television, she made her film debut with the 2015 Punjabi film Angrej. Since then she has gone on to star in films like Love Punjab, Lahoriya, Qismat, and Kala Shah Kala among others. She has won three PTC Punjabi Film Awards as well as two Filmfare Awards Punjabi for her work in Punjabi cinema. In this interview with Murtaza Ali Khan, she talks about her latest film, Chandigarh Amritsar Chandigarh, the emerging trend of remakes in regional cinema and her upcoming project

What can we expect from you in Chandigarh Amritsar Chandigarh? 

It’s a very different film. A remake of the Marathi film, Mumbai Mumbai, Chandigarh Amritsar Chandigarh is a story of two people. So the entire baggage of the film is on my and Gippy Shoulders. It’s a beautiful film that I thoroughly enjoyed doing. I hope that people will enjoy it just as much.

Since it is a remake, people will be comparing it to the original.What are your thoughts on this?

Of course comparisons would be drawn. As far as my part is concerned, I personally will be really happy if people say that I have come close to the actress who played the role in the Marathi film. Mukta Barve is a wonderful actress and I follow her very closely. In fact, I have watched all her Marathi films. I believe such remakes area very positive sign for regional film industries such as ours.

You started your career with television before shifting to movies.How do you see the two mediums?

There is a great difference between the two mediums. Television is a lot of work. I don’t think any other medium requires so much of hard work. It’s like everyday newspaper. The hours are so long that it’s like working for 450 days in a year. Now, in Angrej, I just had scenes but received unprecedented appreciation for my performance.In television, I used to do 14 scenes in a day but no one would ever talk about them in the same way. I feel people forget what you in television but they tend to remember what you do in films.

Punjabi cinema has been witnessing tremendous growth in the recent times. What do you attribute it to?

I really consider myself fortunate to be a part of an ever-evolving industry. You see, after a point in time, every industry starts witnessing stagnation and it’s mostly due to complacency and aversion to trying out new things. We are one of the most populated countries in the world. Imagine the kind of box office that we can hit. But we are unable to hit those figures because we often don’t succeed in producing content that everybody can relate to. But I think that’s  where Punjabi cinema is different. We are now making films that are able to do business to the tune of Rs 70 crore and I am very sure that very soon, we will be hitting the Rs 100 crore mark.

Songs have always been an important part of Indian cinema. How do you see the use of songs in Punjabi films?

I love music. If I don’t listen to music in the morning, I am all over the place the whole day. Songs have traditionally been used to carry forward the narrative. So it all depends on how well the songs are used to enhance the quality of storytelling so as to take the film to another level. Now, if you look at Punjabi cinema, we are not only evolving in terms of films but our music is also taking huge leaps forward. Right now our music is the most listened to music in India. Also globally, the popularity of our music is increasing very rapidly.

What are your thoughts on the pay gap between male and female actors in the film industry?

I have always said that this has been a huge problem which is why I sat at home the entire year and did just one film. I will only do a film if I get paid what I rightfully deserve. Instead of just saying it, we have to make sure that we get the right pay for our work so that the female actors who follow us in the industry don’t have to fight the same battle. Sooner or later, we will have to fight for our right. So it is better that we fight it right now and bring about the change.

Tell us about your upcoming projects. Do you have any plans of shifting to Bollywood?

My upcoming projects include Surkhi Bindi with Gurnam Bhullar. It’s directed by Jagdeep Siddhu and slated to release on August 30. The next is in October with Binnu Dhillon. It’s the same team as Kala Shah Kala. Regarding Bollywood, I keep getting offers but I want to stick to the Punjabi industry for now as I don’t want to get lost in the crowd.

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