Mummy Punjabi, played by Kirron Kher in longtime friend Pammi Somal's directorial debut, is a comedy about a healthy Punjabi family in Chandigarh. Written especially for Kher, who Somal shares her hometown and school with, it might even give you a glimpse of the real Kirron Kher, or so Somal proposes
Bollywood journalist turned filmmaker Pammi Somal and actor Kirron Kher have so much in common that they often get mistaken for each other, Somal tells us. On the sets of the just-released family entertainer, Mummy Punjabi, fans of the actor approached the director for an autograph. "It wasn't the first time, so I quietly smiled when they told me they loved my performance in Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, and signed the picture that wasn't me," says Somal seated at her Andheri office.
Pammi Somal was keen on Kirron Kher's parents playing a small role
in the film. They feature in the first scene of this week's release,
Mummy Punjabi, having tea in the backyard.
Later, the two laughed about it. In fact, Somal jokes that she could be Kher's body double when she is tired of dealing with starry-eyed fans. While they shot the film in a 40-day schedule in Chandigarh and Mumbai, Kher and Somal realised that they had a lot more in common than the glitzy big screen. Both hail from Chandigarh, went to the same school, and hung out in the same circles. Without realising it they were comparing notes about friends and relatives.
Debutant director Pammi Somal and actor Kirron Kher have been
friends for 25 years. Somal admits that she wrote the script with Kher
"Chandigarh is a small place, you will always find someone and something in common," says Kher.
While they met quite by chance when Somal was interviewing Kher's actor-husband Anupam Kher, the two continued their parlance over 25 years and struck a friendship that was strengthened by impromptu shopping trips and script recitals. When Kher took a hiatus from films to raise her sons, Somal was already hatching a film script for the actor to star in.
"Though she may disagree, Kirron is Mummyji. Ask her sons and her husband," Somal laughs. "The character is not like me, but she is definitely familiar, in the sense that I know people like her," says Kher in a telephonic chat between takes of India's Got Talent (Season 3) where she is co-judge.
"When I read the script, I thought it was sweet, it was the lead role and it was a friend making the film," says Kher. Mummyji, which was the original title of the film, endured problems with distribution and funding and finally released five years after filming ended. The film also stars Kanwaljit Singh, Jackie Shroff, Divya Dutta, Anju Mahendru, Viraf Patel, Sachin Sharma, Simran Vaid, Nimisha Goswami, Urwashi Gandhi and Michael Joseph.
Somal, who lost her parents a few years ago, was keen to have Kher's parents star in her debut. "It was really sweet to see my mum fidget with her sari, saying, 'I'm so old, why do you want me to be in the film' and my dad trying to convince her by saying, 'But you are still so beautiful'. It was sweet to see that she maintained her feminine naivety till she passed away... those are memories preserved," says Kher.
Mummyji is the story of a mother from a small town. She knows English but makes grammatical errors that lend to comic situations. "She says 'hysterectomy' when she means 'hysterical'. She holds regular gossip sessions with her maid and fights with her husband because he won't create a joint account, but she's the head of the family in other respects," says Kher.
Doesn't that feed into a stereotype? "I think if you do it realistically, it doesn't. I agree that there have been films that have stereotyped the Punjabi, but whether I play a character from that community, a Bengali, or a Gujarati, I make an attempt to bring in the unique accent and phrases. I even make sure the look of the character matches the costume jewellery," she counters.
Somal's answer is more pointed. "But Punjabi women are loud," she smiles. Mummyji encompasses all of the above � she has jogging friends, chat friends, even chaat friends. She is dealing with old age and watching her children leave home but she also wants to go clubbing and live it up." Meanwhile, as Somal celebrates her first film's release, her second project Na Jane Kabse will be out at the end of September.
Mummy Punjabi is running at theatres across the city.