Meet ad world's favourite dadi - Kamlesh Gill

By Ashee Sharma , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | September 15, 2015
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Kamlesh Gill who rose to fame with Bollywood movie 'Vicky Donor' has, today, become the face of the liberal and lively older generation. She talks to us about her theatre days, recent ad campaigns and her most memorable role.

The creative field is an unpredictable one, and so is the life of an artiste whose best ever reward comes in the form of public acceptance and recognition. For Delhi-based stage actor Kamlesh Gill, it came at the age of 75, or should we say at a 'young' age of 75, with the Bollywood flick 'Vicky Donor' in which she played the bitter-sweet role of the whiskey guzzling grandmother.

Kamlesh Gill

Kamlesh Gill in her younger years

Gill, now 78, fondly remembers the role as her best so far. When asked how similar it is to the real life Gill, she jokes, "I am much like her, but minus the whiskey!" The septuagenarian who has been acting since 1957 has tried it all - from theatre to television, movies and now commercials as well. Some of the popular ads she has featured in include Fortune Oil's 'Ghar ka Khaana', Tanishq's ad for the traditional wedding jewellery range and, most recently, Abbott Pharma's 'Dreams Have No Age Limit'. In all her roles, she has been invariably portrayed as the liberal and lively grandmother who infuses spirit wherever she goes.

Surprisingly, Gill does not have any formal training in the field and never took it up as a vocation until her 40-year-long stint with the Indian Railways got over. When in the organisation, she used to organise and manage cultural activities for railway employees on inter and intra divisional levels. It was during one such event - a play - that she got her 'first break' at the age of 18. The play was being directed by a reputed theatre director of those times who was so impressed with Gill that he asked her to join the group. Although Gill did not leave her job, with her husband's support, she began to pursue her passion enthusiastically.

Kamlesh Gill in Fortune Oil's 'Ghar ka Khaana' ad

Gill has had an acting career spanning decades and mediums. While she says that she enjoyed all the different phases equally, at present she prefers working in films and commercials. Theatre, with its tedious rehearsals and schedules, is not feasible for her owing to health concerns. On what has changed over the years, Gill thinks that technology has been useful, though it has its own drawbacks. "Earlier, if something went wrong, we had to shoot the entire sequence from the beginning. This has changed with technology. But, the problem now is that because we don't have to necessarily follow a sequence, scenes are shot irregularly. This hampers the tempo that used to build up when we shot on films," she rues.

In the Tanishq traditional wedding jewellery ad

Her topmost priority while selecting a role is the "creative satisfaction" it offers. Gill's work is managed by her daughter Deepika Shergill who ensures that her mother is respected and taken care of by the cast and crew she works with. The benevolent 'dadi' says that "people in this field are generally good."

In Abbott Pharma's 'dreams have no age limits' ad

Gill has, so far, worked in a number of movies including 'Vicky Donor', 'Bajrangi Bhaijan', 'Kick', 'Love Aaj Kal', 'Bang Bang', 'Oye Lucky Lucky Oye', 'Miss Tanakpur Haazir Ho', 'Socha Na Tha', 'Jaadu ka Shankh' (for Children's Film Society) and 'Lava Phuteya' (Punjabi). A well-written character was not the only reason she considers her role in 'Vicky Donor' as 'biji' to be the best. She shares the credit for her performance with director Shoojit Sircar who gave her the scope to perform and improvise, thus bringing out the best in her. "Shoojit knows what he wants from his actors. He also plans well and this helped us in managing time and schedules efficiently," she notes.

Her daughter, Gill says, has always been a source of inspiration. "Deepika is a good and sensible person, though a bit strict when it comes to my health," chuckles dadi.

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