February 28 2014
SUNNY GREWAL, www.asianculturevulture.com film columnist, tracked the down the multi-talented youtube sensation that is Lilly Singh, also known as iiSuperwomanii, when she was in London earlier this month.
With more than two million subscribers to her youtubechannel, Lilly, a very sharp observational comedian – whose sketches on life as a young South Asian woman growing up in Canada, have struck a chord globally – has become a cultural icon herself and a role model for many.
In this exclusive chat, she talks about the films and actors that have made an impression on her with Sunny, throwing in her feelings about Bollywood, Punjabi movies, Madhuri Dixit* Salman Khan, Jennifer Lawrence and comic book superheroes…
Sunny: Lilly, I am really happy you’ve popped into London and I wanted to ask you about films, as I put together this amazing film column for www.asianculturevulture.com – and I am the very proud UK ambassador (Lilly swoons) for the London Indian Film Festival, the country’s largest platform for independent Indian cinema.
When it comes down to my film choices, I rate them not just as though all films are the same – I go to a film and if it is a Bollywood film, I judge it as a Bollywood film, if it is a Punjabi film, I have to judge it as a Punjabi film.
So for example, if you went to see “Gunday”, which I think is a brilliant film, as it is just a remake of “Sholay” – but in a new way, where all the men are six-packed and look really nice…
Lilly (interrupts): And Priyanka’s (Chopra) in it, right and you can’t go wrong (sniggers)?
Sunny (indignantly): No, here’s the thing, I thought I would have gone to see it, because of Priyanka, but I actually went to see it for the MEN.
(ever more stridently) Why are they making us look bad? Back in the day, Dharmendra with his big belly, he looked really good and you could be a man with a hairy chest – these men are all more groomed than Priyanka Chopra – it is so ANNOYING!
Hence why I enjoyed that film. Here’s my first question to you, go back in to your memory, go back, keep going right back, regress and I want you to go to the first moment when you sat down to watch a movie.
Lilly: English or Hindi? Any?
Lilly: I can tell you about a film I watched when I was younger. It’s a Bollywood film, because my parents used to watch a lot of them. “Hum Aapke Hain Koun” (1994)
Sunny: Do you know who is in that film?
Lilly (glows): Madhuri Dixit and Salman Khan.
Sunny: Now, Madhuri Dixit is a screen goddess.
Lilly: I love her.
Sunny: And ever since she did that “Choli Ke Peeche Kya Hai” from 1993 film “Khalnayak” that just started off my dating life.
I just wanted to know what was going on (heavy Indian accent) What did she hide?
Lilly (mimics): What did she hide?
Sunny: “Choli Ke Peeche Kya Hai” tell me not, man.
Tell me what did you feel when you first saw a screen goddess like Madhuri Dixit and Salman Khan on the screen, do you remember?
Lilly: I do. I vividly remember the movie, I watched it about 10 times. I don’t know what I wanted more – to be Madhuri Dixit or marry Salman Khan, and I really want both right now!
That movie really developed my love for Bollywood movies growing up – after that I was hooked on Bollywood and that’s why growing up I saw more Bollywood movies than Hollywood ones. I am a bit desi…
Sunny: You’re not the only person like that, I am like that as well. But my wife Shay will only go to see a specific Bollywood film just because it looks a bit like Hollywood.
Lilly: That’s the case with me now.
Sunny: So, you weren’t picky when you were growing up…
Lilly: No, no. I watched a lot of Bollywood movies. Now, if I watched that movie, I’d probably think it wasn’t that good because the storyline is really crappy (laughs), but the first time I watched that movie I was star struck, it was one of the most amazing things ever.
Sunny: Lilly, you are Punjabi, you are a ‘Punjaban’, your family are, you are Lilly SINGH and you are proud of it, so what was your first Punjabi movie?
Lilly: Unfortunately, I feel like Punjabi movies are a little bit lax. The one and only Punjabi movie I have watched in my entire life is “Mundi U.K. De”
Sunny (interrupts): Oh, no!
Lilly (continues): and I WANTED TO SHOOT MYSELF. I only watched it because I was going to work on set with Gurpreet Guggi I watched the movie because I thought I could be on a set with this guy.
However, I have heard “Jatt and Juliet” is supposed to be really good and I haven’t seen it yet, it’s odd because I have the biggest crush on Diljit (Dosanjh).
Sunny: The main actress in that is a Canadian woman (Neera Bajwa).
Lilly: Daljit supports my work so much I should watch that movie.
Sunny: He’s trying to bring it to a level.
Lilly: So I have heard. I will watch – that is the only Punjabi movie I will watch.
Sunny: I am going to convert you, man.
Lilly: I was traumatised. I literally wanted to peel my skin off – no offence Gurpreet Guggi, you’re a great person.
Sunny: That is something we need to debate. I actually go into theatres and buy tickets for these films and not watch them – just so that I can support the Punjabi film industry. I have a cinema pass and I think they will have more viewing figures, so that’s how I feel about film – especially those that came from a minority that haven’t got a big budget and that’s why we need to support them.
Lilly: To be honest, it’s not that I don’t like Punjabi movies because of the low budgets, it’s just that they are really BAD: the writing, the story and the content. There are some really good movies that don’t have big budgets.
Sunny: But they are Punjabi, they are still a young film industry…
Lilly: Don’t just make a movie for the heck of it, they should try to tell a story they’re passionate about – that would do.
Sunny: Moving on to Hollywood, it’s one of my favourite cinemas because I think they are pushing things forward in so many ways, and they do very good popcorn movies and independent movies and well and truly they steal a lot from other cultures and make it into consumption that I can enjoy. With all that said, what is your favourite Hollywood movie?
Lilly: See, I like a movie that can invoke a good amount of laughter, so my favourite Hollywood movie is not anything, like serious or an academy award winner.
Sunny: Forget about the Oscars.
Lilly: So one of my favourite all time movies is “White Chicks” (2004). It’s hilarious.
EVERYONE laughs uproariously.
Sunny (composing himself): I’d put that down as one of my guilty pleasures – you know what they are – these are the movies you never admit to watching…I love the Muppet movies (more laughing from all quarters). I love them so much, I like Gonzo and all these characters that you can take away from your imagination. They’re funny…
Lilly: Yes, but if I had to pick a more serious one. I am OBSESSED with “The Hunger Games” movies.
Sunny: Really? Have you read the books?
Lilly: No, but when the second one ended I was so upset, it was so so good. Jennifer Lawrence is an absolutely brilliant actress and I really enjoyed it.
Sunny: So when you went into this movie, were you sold on the advertising of it, or was it because you had nothing better to do that day?
Lilly: When I first watched “The Hunger Games”, I had no idea of what it was about. I hadn’t seen the trailer, a preview, the book or a description of the movie. I felt like it was real. I left the theatre, thinking, oh holy crap, I am going to be taken to “The Hunger Games”.
Then, after the second one, I literally didn’t leave the theatre, because I was googling when is the third one was going to come out? I need to see the third , I need to know what happens. A lot of it has to do with the acting, it is so believable.
Sunny: Your name is Superwoman. Now, you know I am big fan of comics… (point to his Superman t-shirt)
Lilly: No, but that is Superman, and I am Superwoman.
Sunny: They all come from the DC crew (DC Comics). Marvel Comics can’t take that claim. No, but who is your favourite superhero in a film?
Lilly: I thoroughly enjoyed “Iron Man” (2008), purely because of the actor that played Iron Man (Robert Downey Junior). I think he’s so brilliant at playing Iron Man that he’s even more appealing than the actual comic book hero.
Sunny: Do you follow comic books?
Lilly: No, not all…A little bit here and there, I am not an expert.
Sunny: This year, Marvel are going to level three and we are going to have a different stage in Marvel, we are going to have “Defenders of the Galaxy”, we are to go into space, but before that happens, we are going to see “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”, back to their origins, the Michael Bay (director of “Transformers”) version of it. “The Amazing Spiderman No2” is coming out and we also have “Captain America No2 The Winter Soldier”, out of those three what are you most looking forward to?
Lilly: It would have to be “Spiderman” – being the first superhero movie I ever saw. I am talking about the movie, the most recent one.
Sunny: You’re talking about Sam Raimi’s take on “Spiderman” (2002), the first one.
Lilly: Yeah, right I remember waiting in line for two hours…
Sunny: No way…
Lilly: I remember watching and thinking, wow, when that movie came out there was nothing really of that sort before, it was the movie that kicked off that whole line of superhero movies. I fell in love with that.
Lilly: Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat? (cries/laughs)
Sunny: I will give you a bit of background – so there has been the comic book of Spiderman which has been going on since the beginning – Spiderman dies, and Dr Octopus takes over Spiderman and it is now called the ‘Superior Spiderman’ in the comic books.
But I have got some good news for you, when this film comes out, the Amazing Spiderman, issue no.1 comes back with Peter Parker. Boh. Ugh. (gesticulates dramatically)
Are you happy?
Lilly: I don’t know what to do right now (silence/shock). I am mixed with emotions.
Sunny: Well, I told you he was dead…and then Dr Octopus took over, then it was called the ‘Superior Spiderman’ and now Spiderman is coming back and it’s the ‘Amazing Spiderman’ and the good time for you – or anyone else reading this column (thanks for getting this far) – is that you can actually follow the ‘Amazing Spiderman’ from issue no 1 from April…
Lilly: Is it a big deal? (Suspiciously, laughs)
Sunny: If you are a comic book fan and if you’re into superheroes and you’re such a superhero to so many people…
Lilly (blushing): Thanks
Sunny: So if you were going to put yourself into a movie that describes Superwoman what is that movie…
Lilly: You know what…a woman who faces the everyday challenges of most women. But then for the movie’s sake there would be a few villains and things like that. I feel like all Superhero films deal with extraordinary villains but they also cover real life issues and mine would be about growing up South Asian female and those issues – as opposed to Spiderman’s, where someone killed his uncle and he has to go through something
Mine is – MY PARENTS WON’T LET ME DO STUFF (laughs) you’re not allowed to be a superhero and stuff like that…
Lilly: It would loosely be based around me.
Sunny: This is in print – this is your idea – if someone tries to copy it…
Lilly: No, I wouldn’t want it to be like my story and they take it make it into someone else – it has to be a South Asian female – there wouldn’t be that much emphasis on the fact she is South Asian, it will deal with some issues South Asian women face, but that won’t be the main thing.
Sunny: What would your superpower be?
Lilly: Superpowers would be…I can shoot sour skittles (confectionary).
Sunny: You will get diabetes!
Lilly: I would love to fly, my no1 superpower is to fly…
Sunny: You’re not scared of heights, so you would be ok bungee jumping from great heights? It’s the closest you will get to flying…
Lilly: NO, I am not crazy! I can do the glass floor of Sears Tower. But I don’t know about bungee jumping…I am not sure. I think, eventually one day in my life I will. (You heard it here first with Sunny on www.asianculturevulture.com)
Sunny: Can I be there? I can’t do that. I will be at the bottom.
Sunny: Flying, skittle shooting…
Lilly: I would really love to control time. I wish I could pause time.
Sunny: Changing tack…next time you come into town, I am getting you a bunch of subtitled films. Look, I am dyslexic and I go to see subtitled films – how mixed up is that…
Lilly: You mean Bollywood?
Sunny: No, we already discussed that (dismissively).
Lilly: A German movie. We had to read it at school.
Sunny: If could go into any movie, own that movie and be a character, male/female, animal or object, what would you be?
Lilly: I’d love to be Jennifer Lawrence in “The Hunger Games” – she’s so wicked with the bow and arrow – wish I could do that. If not I’d be Jasmine from “Aladdin”.
Sunny: Yes, good call, I like that. We will give you both those – you can be the princess because you already look like one. And you can do the Hunger Games, I like the contrast.
A final message to your fans?
*Lilly’s just done a video with a special someone (February 28)
*You thought this was a video – it could have been…we’re looking for a commercial sponsor for future Sunny meets 😉 Your brand could be here