Neha Maheshwri (BOMBAY TIMES; March 20, 2017)

In the midst of the booming market for rap and pop culture, his music comes as a breath of fresh air. Diljit Dosanjh's acting is as natural and heart-warming as his mellifluous tunes. But the true-blue Sardar calls himself  'selfish'. Why? Because, according to him, he hasn't yet done anything for the greater good. The latest import from Punjabi film industry gets candid about his fanboy moments with Salman Khan and Kareena Kapoor Khan, his upcoming film Phillauri and how he will never take up non-Sardar roles in Bollywood.

You seem to have a penchant for unconventional films. First, Udta Punjab, now Phillauri...
The storyline has always been of paramount importance to me. The subject and climax of Phillauri touched my heart. What further prompted me to take up the offer was the fact that I was getting to work with Anushka Sharma, who is a star. There was no reason why I shouldn't have done this film. I decline an offer when I feel the role isn't meant for me and I can't play the part with conviction.

Have you ever felt intimidated while sharing screen space with actresses like Kareena Kapoor Khan, Alia Bhatt and Anushka Sharma?
I didn't even think I would ever meet them, let alone work with them. I am grateful to God for giving me such opportunities and I am lapping them up (smiles). Jab main pehli baar reading ke time Kareena Kapoor ma'am se mila, main hil gaya tha. That was the first time I met any Bollywood actress in person. I couldn't believe I was sitting across her in her living room. Years ago, I had managed to click a picture with Salman Khan sir; it was an amazing moment for me. We were shooting in the same studio. I requested a common friend to help me click a picture with him. I was pleasantly surprised when Salman sir agreed. I thought he was joking, but I was zapped when I saw him walking towards me in his inimitable style and swag. He looked just like he does on screen. I was already a fan of his films, but that moment solidified it.

Udta Punjab highlighted the issue of substance abuse in Punjab and Phillauri deals with superstition. Have you ever had any such experience?
The issue of substance abuse has plagued the whole world. It's just that people love Punjab more, so the problem prevalent there got highlighted and became a national issue. In Phillauri, my track doesn't revolve around the spirit per se. But yes, I do believe in it. Many a times, I have felt that I am not alone and I am being followed by someone, but it's always a good entity.

Are you superstitious?
Main khaana khaa kar nahaata nahin hoon. I have been told that you become obese if you do that.

It's difficult to sustain two careers - music and acting - simultaneously. A difficult feat, which only a few like Kishore Kumar have managed to achieve in Bollywood...
When I started my career, singing sunne wali nahin, dekhne wali cheez bhi bann gayi thi. There was a market for music videos as well. I was expected to not just sing, but also perform and face the camera. So, I never felt that the two were disconnected.

We hear that the only person you listen to is your mother. Did she give you any advice when you decided to enter Bollywood?
My mother never told me any thing, she is just concerned about my happiness. She only watches my shows, not my films. In fact, we never discuss films. I started watching movies in theatres very late in life as my family was against it. Mujhe aisa lagta tha ki main shayad paap kar doonga theatre mein film dekh kar. The first film I watched was Soldier; and then Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Bade Miyan Chote Miyan. Maine socha ye toh badi sahi cheez hai aur mummy bolti thi film nahin dekhni chahiye. It became one of my vices as I started bunking school for it. I have watched every film standing in a corner because theatres would be packed back home. I believe my folks must have felt that I would become unruly if I watched movies, a belief that is still prevalent in small towns. She didn't know that I would eventually enter the same field (laughs).

How different is Bollywood from the Punjabi film industry?
I didn't find any difference. Youngsters in Punjab have a borrowed mindset, music and fashion music and fashion sense from Canada and Hollywood because a large number of our relatives are settled abroad. They don't follow Bollywood. People in my village know about Drake, Rihanna and the relationship between Beyoncé and Jay Z. They are more clued in about the international fashion scene and media.

Do you think Sardars are typecast in the comic space here?
Back home, producers would often cast aspersions on it; they were of the opinion that nobody would want to watch a hero in a turban. Sometimes, I too would think what they were saying was right, but I'm glad it has been proven wrong. I am getting respect and work here. I feel fortunate that Bollywood didn't offer me comic roles. I have done romcoms in Punjab. Bollywood mein aane ke pehle maine decide kiya ki na toh mazaak karna hai na karne dena hai. Jitna mazaak udna tha, udd gaya. I want to do solid work here. I don't mind playing a thief, but the character has to be good. Mere sar par jo hai (turban), usko main kharaab nahin kar sakta.

But isn't it restricting as you will only get roles which would fit your look?
Isn't that good? Why can't I play a variety of characters as a Sardar? Jab main Punjab ko represent karunga, toh aise hi look mein hoga. I won't take up non-Sardar roles.

You also dream of making it to Hollywood and have revealed that you will learn English over the years for the same...
Hollywood ka sirf dream nahin hai, jaunga zaroor. I will speak pure English even if people mock me. It'll be my accent, invented by me and never heard before.