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Game for grass!

ANUJ KUMAR
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Table for Two Seasoned comedian Gurpreet Ghuggi can go the extra mile to have his fill of vegetarian meal

Comic relief! Gurpreet Singh Ghuggi at The Imperial in New Delhi Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar
Comic relief! Gurpreet Singh Ghuggi at The Imperial in New Delhi Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Of late we are seeing a lot of stand up comedians from Punjab and Gurpreet Ghuggi is one of the front rankers. A known name in Punjabi films, Ghuggi will be seen in Speedy Singhs this week. At Imperial Hotel to promote the film, we caught him looking for some vegetarian stuff. “Around six years back, I turned vegetarian for health reasons. “This doesn't mean I feel left out. I can try grass if you put some tabasco sauce on it. On long flights this is how I keep myself occupied…mixing and matching without breaking my vow. Having said that to me the food is not only about good taste but it should also be presented well. If you give me a well decorated preparation of plastic and wood pulp, chances are that I may try it for the sheer beauty of it!” For now he is game to try ordinary sandwiches displayed without any frills.

His antics with cutlery are also legendary. “Indian food has crossed boundaries but we have not been able to tell the world that it is best enjoyed with hands. At times I also have to follow the rules. So once in a formal gathering I was trying to eat dosa with fork and knife. Suddenly, the lights went off. As we were at this place for a few days, I kind of knew the power cut was of around ten minutes. I thought it was a good opportunity to try hands on dosa. But as I was doing it, there was light and all eyes were on me,” relates Ghuggi.

Tracing Punjab's legendary association with humour, Ghuggi says, “One of the earliest comedians of Hindi film industry, I.S .Johar was from Punjab. So was Mehmood. Later Dharmendra proved that a hero can also do comedy without losing out on his macho image and now Akshay Kumar is doing it quite successfully.” He gives a historical perspective as well to the Punjabis' ability to laugh at themselves. “From Mahmud Ghazni to Ahmed Shah Abdali Punjab was hit by marauders so many times that we have learnt to laugh even at death.” He also cites the example of Bhagat Singh whom he says was a great combination of an intellectual and a revolutionary. “But he also had a great sense of humour. He used to watch films of Charlie Chaplin.”

Ghuggi says he feels awkward when people ask him to crack a joke even at a funeral. “But I have no complaints because the profession has helped me come out of worst of situations.” He recalls the times when his wife had gone into unexplained depression.

“I pushed her to participate in Hans Baliye . Everybody laughed at me because she had not performed anywhere before. But we gelled well and went on to win the competition,” says Ghuggi wistfully sipping his cappuccino.

He says the standard of comedy reality shows has come down drastically and that's why he avoids such shows now.

“All the stuff is directed below the belt. There is nothing for mind and the heart. Also, the participants are not stand-up comedians but TV actors or failed film actors. A stand-up comedian is expected to write his or her own lines. I write 90 per cent of my jokes but in the reality shows there is a team of writers. You just have to act. That's why the performers don't take any moral responsibility. I can't do this. I have a fan following in Punjab and I am happy with it. I can wait for the trend to change for better.”

Even this week he has a Punjabi release, Yaara O Dildaara . “In Punjabi film industry I am given full freedom to change the lines according to the situation. Directors believe in my gut instinct.” Then why this craze for Hindi cinema? “Nobody asks Rajinikanth, if he was doing a Hindi film. But a Punjabi actor is always expected to be eager to prove himself in Hindi films. Certain actors also give this kind of impression.”

In Speedy Singhs, as expected, he is playing light-hearted uncle to newcomer Vinay Virmani. “I run a transport company in the film called Speedy Singh. When my nephew forms an ice hockey team, he picks the title from the company's name.”

Never seen in kitchen, Ghuggi says he is a great planner when it comes to food. “I plan the menu and am a great judge of places to eat out. This is my serious contribution!” However, there are certain recipes that he believes are best tried at home. “Like eggplant and halwa. No restaurant can bring the taste of home-made halwa and baigan ka bhurta .” Like vegetarianism, Ghuggi has also taken a vow not to touch the desserts. “But put jalebi in front of me and my vrat goes for a toss.” And Imperial cakes are no jalebis!

ANUJ KUMAR

If you give me a well decorated preparation of plastic and wood pulp, chances are that I may try it for the sheer beauty of it!

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