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Jimmy Shergill – a talent still untapped by Hindi film industry

Seldom has he been found wanting in talent and performance, but the actor largely remains underrated. As the actor turns 46 today, we take a look at the way his career has shaped out

Mayur Lookhar

He's good looking, very talented, often flawless in his acting. Yet, Jimmy Shergill is not a superstar. His fans and even critics are baffled as to why such a talented actor hasn't got his due. 

Born as Jasjit Singh Gill, a Sikh from Gorakhpur District, Shergill didn't aspire to become an actor. It was only at the insistence of his friend that Shergill thought of giving acting a shot. Shergill enrolled for Roshan Taneja's acting classes.

He didn't strike gold but Shergill's first film was the critically acclaimed Maachis (1996), helmed by Gulzar. Based on Punjab terrorism, it brought him and Chandrachur Singh into limelight. 

Soon the Sikh man was picked by Aditya Chopra to play one of the three young collegians in Mohabbatein (2000). Two years later, he bagged his second Yash Raj Films' project with Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai. 

Though he'd worked with big production houses, they weren't classic films, nor did Shergill have any great role to boast about. Things though would change with Tigmanshu Dhulia's Haasil (2003). The film took him to Uttar Pradesh, as the romantic drama is set in the backdrop of student politics at the University of Allahabad. 

Irrfan Khan stole the show here, bagging the Filmfare best actor’s award. Shergill was appreciated for his portrayal of Anirudh Sharma though. 

The Irrfan-Shergill combo would return again for Charas (2004), where again it was Irrfan who stole show. Before Charas, Shergill played a little sorry cameo in Munna Bhai M.B.B.S (2003). 

It was baffling as to why an actor who started off as a lead would settle for pointless cameos in Munna Bhai M.B.B.S. and Hum Tum (2004).

Shergill would find his feet again with Shoojit Sircar’s directorial Yahaan, a box-office dud, but critically acclaimed film. Remarkably, the film won popular awards at Star Screen awards, with even Minnisha Lamba bagging the best actress award, but strangely, there was none for Shergill. 

Post Yahaan, Shergill’s career hit a limbo with his subsequent films all bombing. What could he do because they were bad! Save for the ardent Shergill fan, most people had written off the actor. 

Shergill would redeem himself with A Wednesday, playing an angry cop, who nabs the four terrorists. He was good in his act, but the only problem was A Wednesday had a stalwart in Naseeruddin Shah and the ever dependable Anupam Kher.  A Wednesday though arrested the slide in his career. 

Two years later, he would play a cameo in Shah Rukh Khan’s My Name is Khan. With SRK at the helm, there was nothing for him to take in the film. 

It took another year for Shergill to find a role of substance. At this juncture Shergill must have made peace with the fact that he will no longer be cast the lead hero. Tanu Weds Manu (2011) would see him playing a Kanpur ruffian who’s bride-to-be Tanu finds true love in arms of Manu (R Madhavan). The film was a hit and Kangana and Madhavan walked away with most laurels. As good as he was, all Shergill received was empathy, empathy for the guy who doesn’t get the girl. 

The same would be repeated in Tanu Weds Manu Returns (2015). It was a similar story in Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Sahib Biwi Aur Gangster (2001) and Sahib, Biwi Aur Gangster Returns (2013). 

Three years later, Shergill yet again has a tale of unrequited love in Happy Bhag Jayegi.

After two decades in the industry, Shergill has impressed all with his talent, but has he been able to get the roles corresponding to his talent? There’s no doubting that he’s a survivor, but even Shergill would acknowledge that he’s yet to get his career defining role. He doesn’t have too many films up his sleeves at the moment. The few at his disposal (Tom, Dick and Harry Returns) don’t look promising. 

It would be naive to write off the actor, for all it takes is one film, one role to change your career. As the actor turns 46 today, we hope that in the years ahead Jimmy would carve a legend of his own.