The Indian Express Mon May 06 2013
A new name is doing the rounds in the city’s film production circuit — Gabbar
Lehragaga in Punjab’s Sangrur district is ground zero for city-based thespian Samuel John. This is where he carries out his work through theatre, involving villagers and raising foot soldiers to be the new agents of change. One such jawan is Gaurav Sharma aka Gabbar. “It was Samuelji who initiated us into theatre, and made us realise its power,” says Gabbar, who was in Class XII when he met John and travelled with him extensively in the region for shows.
Shooting in Nabha for Heer & Hero being made under his production house The Theatre Army, he shares his journey so far. “We used to do plays off and on in school, and a lot of Ram Leela productions,” says Gabbar, as he looks back at his days of staging plays in the open.
He soon enrolled into a post graduate course at the Department of Indian Theatre, Panjab University. Along came line production work in Punjabi music videos, a stint in Subhash Ghai’s Love Express, and Hindi films such as Teen Thay Bhai and Mausam.
“Had it not been for my training in theatre, this would not have been possible. Theatre teaches you a lot — acting, make-up, costume, lighting, sets and direction. The only difference between theatre and cinema is that of a camera,” says Gabbar.
From acting, he jumped to line production, hunting for locales, striking deals with locals, arranging for commute for a film’s cast and crew, their boarding and lodging, and getting permissions. He got his big break with Leslee Udwin’s award-winning British film West is West that was shot entirely in Punjab. At its premiere in Chandigarh in 2010, Udwin thanked Gabbar and his team. A string of films followed — Pinky Moge Wali, Sarsa (which is now called Sikandar), Indo-European venture Quissa, Vivek Kumar and Barkha Madan’s film based on Canada’s illegal immigrants called Surkhaab, and Yamley Jatt Yamley.
Surkhaab is on the festival circuit and has already bagged a Platinum Remi at Houston Film Fest, and will be screened in Nice, France, as part of the St Tropez International Film Festival. “There were times when we were managing five films at a time,” he says. However, Gabbar is now focused on Heer & Hero, his first Punjabi film whose entire production is being looked after by The Theatre Army and HB Productions. “This is our first full-fledged film foray and it’s exciting,” he says.
Directed by Sagar Sharma, this romantic comedy’s title was suggested by Gabbar who has also penned the film’s title song. “My friend and music director Dalvir Virdi and I have been writing and composing songs with social messages and uploading them on YouTube for quite some time now,” he says.
His parents are still skeptical of what he does, worried whether he is making enough to survive, but the creative arts have a hold on him, and he refuses to let his “army” back down. He has just wrapped up work on the film Santa Banta and casting for Mallika Sherawat’s new reality show, and is looking forward to making more films under his production house. “Professionals from Bollywood are still wary of Punjab. According to them, we lack quality and professionalism, and I want to change that perception,” says Gabbar, who is often quizzed about his choice of name. “Gaurav Sharma doesn’t have that much weight and I am established as Gabbar now,” he says.