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Shutdown Stories: Rohit Jugraj is learning the tricks of household chores, revisiting classic literature, and watching his temper

Filmmaker Rohit Jugraj says the downtime has enabled him to find creative ways of being at home and carry on with his work. He is also gaining new insights into life.

Sukhpreet Kahlon

Starting off as an assistant to some of the biggest directors in Hindi cinema, Rohit Jugraj found success in Punjabi cinema with his much-loved films Jatt James Bond (2014), Sardaarji (2015) and Sardaarji 2 (2016). His latest film was Arjun Patiala (2019, Hindi), starring Diljit Dosanjh and Kriti Sanon.

As a director, Rohit Jugraj is used to being at the helm of affairs, but how is he coping at a time when everyone is housebound and no one seems to quite know what is happening? In a telephone conversation, the director shared his experiences and also news about upcoming projects.

“I read somewhere that whenever there is a loss, a big loss, like a death or [the end of] a significant relationship, there are four or five steps in grief," Jugraj told Cinestaan.com. "First there is denial, then anger, etc. The last stage is acceptance. So I realized that everything becomes okay after acceptance. And I have started enjoying my routine after this acceptance.”

Sharing his daily routine in the days of lockdown, Jugraj said, “I wake up and do some prayer and meditation followed by some exercises and take a shower. I try to confine all these activities to my bedroom. From there, I travel to my living room, so I pretend that I am driving my car and stop at the red light in my kitchen. I pretend that in my office the assistants are there but I call them and we connect and discuss what needs to be done.

"There are two projects that I am working on simultaneously in Punjabi and Hindi. So I do that till lunch. Post-lunch is my time which is when I watch and read stuff. I am a voracious reader and there are so many books that I am catching up on, from Murakami and Gurdial Singh to Khushwant Singh and Amrita Pritam in rustic Punjabi, I’m catching up on all these. I read Raag Darbari and Katra Bi Arzoo again and you understand these works so much more now.”

Speaking about some of his learnings during this time, when most people are juggling housework and office work, Jugraj said, “After this [lockdown], I will be quite self-sufficient and have learnt a couple of things like you need to move forward while doing the jhaadu [sweeping] and backwards while doing the mopping! The other learning is that if you do not do the dishes soon, you might find frogs in them!”

Jokes apart, the filmmaker has also gained some insights into himself and life in this period, which has taken away the clutter of everyday life. “The joy of small things in life is made evident [at this time]," he said. "I am trying to live every moment and it’s beautiful. I have been getting more out of each minute. That is what I feel.”

The biggest learning for him, he said, is “be gentle. Everybody is at war. Everybody has their own battle that they are fighting. We really forget to be kind. Personally, I have realized how my anger would flare up on silly things... So now if I feel my temper rising, I am able to observe it better.

“Another big learning for me is that I do not have to say ‘yes’ to take a film on the floor unless I am completely satisfied with it, which happens owing to producers’ pressures, star dates... all that is secondary. The script has to really satisfy you. Till the time that you say you are ready, that’s it. That’s the draft you go with. It doesn’t matter how much time that takes.”

About the projects he has lined up for the post-lockdown period, Jugraj said, “The Punjabi film is a satire about what would happen if Punjab were declared a dry state!  Two boys wake up one morning and realize that it’s the day when the state becomes a dry state. The film is a satire on alcohol, the system, and patriarchy.” The film will have an ensemble cast and while he hopes his collaboration with his Sardaarji star Diljit Dosanjh will continue, he is also open to the idea of taking on a fresh cast for the film.

Jugraj has also signed a Hindi action film with RSVP Movies, which focuses on the uplift of women and features strong women characters.

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