Tigmanshu Dhulia’s sets give him a feeling of homecoming, says Jimmy Shergill, basking in the accolades for ‘Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster Returns’.

The Saheb is wheelchair bound, his aristocracy and power are a shadow of a glorious past. The Biwi is aggressive, ambitious and doesn’t flinch from settling scores with the Saheb with help from the Gangster. The Saheb is in a sticky situation, with mounting frustration and anger at his own plight. Not an easy task to pull it off, especially when pitted against a formidable gangster in the form of actor Irrfan Khan. But Jimmy Shergill is elated that his performance is earning him appreciation, a cartload of it. “This is the best phase of my career. I am overwhelmed by the response and happy when people say I acted with my eyes in Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster Returns,” says the actor, speaking to us a day before he joined Tigmanshu Dhulia’s team for their next film, Bullet Raja.

Jimmy and Tigmanshu go back a long way. Theirs is a screen association of a decade, beginning with Haasil (2003), followed by Charas (2004) and much later Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster (2011). Their off-screen friendship, though, began when Jimmy was acting in Yash Raj’s Mohabbatein. If Jimmy Shergill’s best performances have come through Tigmanshu’s films, it’s the mutual camaraderie at work, coupled with Tigmanshu’s ability to look at Jimmy for roles other mainstream filmmakers wouldn’t think of.

Says the actor, “When I was working on Mohabbatein, Tishu (Tigmanshu) told me about Haasil. He was honest enough to tell me that he had written the story with Irrfan Khan in mind. Irrfan was the anti-hero and Tishu wanted the hero to be strong enough for the anti-hero to look convincing.” A long association was born.

After Charas, both Jimmy and Tigmanshu didn’t work together till Saheb Biwi… “Even then, we were friends. I used to drop into his office and chat up. When he cast me for Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster, many dissuaded him saying I wouldn’t befit the role of Saheb. My mainstream image worked against me. Tishu was confident and took it up as a challenge to prove them wrong,” says the actor.

But the sequel threw up a different challenge: “I was no longer in power, moving around. When Tishu narrated the story, I asked him if the audience wouldn’t get bored since I was always on the wheelchair. He told me not to worry about it. We took it scene by scene.”

With time, Jimmy has learnt never to go prepared to Tigmanshu’s sets. “We’d have lengthy discussions the previous evening and yet, when we arrive at the sets the following morning, he would have an entirely different approach. So I go like a blank slate,” says the actor, who feels going to Tigmanshu’s sets makes him feel at home. “Even while I was doing regular commercial films like Dil Vil Pyaar Vyaar, it was a homecoming feeling when I went to Tishu’s sets.”

There was a time when Jimmy Shergill was doing a handful of films each year, until he suffered a setback with a throbbing pain in the neck and spine. “I couldn’t get up and move. I had overworked myself. I used the break to recover and start fresh,” he says. Now, he’s happy doing a few films, like Neeraj Pandey’s recent release Special 26 and a soon-to-be-released Punjabi film followed by Bullet Raja, a fun buddy film and later Tanu Weds Manu 2. In between, Jimmy was also part of the forgettable Dangerous Ishq. The actor doesn’t regret doing the film: “Vikram Bhatt was the first director to offer me a role when I was recouping. I was barely on my feet when he called and offered me this film. Just getting out of home and going to a film set, again, gave me so much confidence. At the end of the shooting schedule, I was even able to run.”

And finally, we ask him about the third part of the Saheb series. Jimmy says, “Details have to be finalised. As of now, the plan is to wrap up with the third part. Saheb Biwi… will be a trilogy.”