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Though he never completely disappeared from Bollywood, Jimmy Shergill spent a chunk of the last decade playing secondary, hardly memorable, characters in films — a far cry from the promising start he had in Gulzar's Maachis (1996) and Aditya Chopra's Mohabbatein (2000). It is, therefore, understandable that the actor attributes the resurrection of his career to director Tigmanshu Dhulia. It was, after all, his character as a wayward nawab in Dhulia's Saheb Biwi aur Gangster (SBAG) in 2011 that brought Sheirgill back in the reckoning.
"I have always worked with first-time directors. But Tigmanshu is a true friend — he is possibly the only one who thought of me and cast me in his films repeatedly," says Sheirgill of Dhulia, whom he has known since the latter's directorial debut, Haasil. He is also part of Dhulia's next, Bullet Raja, with Saif Ali Khan in the lead role.
Another filmmaker who has shown faith in the actor is Neeraj Pandey. After his successful debut, A Wednesday, the filmmaker had Sheirgill play a key character — a quirky police officer — in his recent release, Special 26. The success of this film and critical acclaim for his performance has given the actor another reason to celebrate even as he awaits the release of Saheb, Biwi aur Gangster Returns. "I was with Neeraj on a flight to Delhi when we discussed the role. I saw Ranveer Singh as an over-enthusiastic cop who goes out of his way to prove his worth. Neeraj saw that I had understood the crux of the character well and I was on board," says Sheirgill.
It is this faith that the directors have been demonstrating in his ability that makes Sheirgill happy. Looking back, he points out the risk that Dhulia took in casting him as Saheb, one of the lead roles in the film, at a time when his stock was low in the film industry. "It has made me look at my own career in a new light," he says. This has also altered what used to be his USP. The actor, who became popular for his cute, boy-next-door image, is now able to display his versatility. "I decided to do films only if they excite me," he adds.