Gill Mohinderpaul Singh

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You speak fluent Cantonese. Can you read and write Chinese too?
No. In school we were never taught Chinese. I went to an ethnic minority school where we were taught in English, as well as Urdu, Hindi and also French.

Wow! So what was it like growing up in Hong Kong?
Even though I was born here, we were still obsessed with Bollywood. Back in those VHS days, we’d go to Chungking Mansions to buy tapes and run home to watch them. And that’d be the rest of the evening, since they’d be two, three hours long each. Indians love colourful things and family entertainment.

And the Bollywood influence is obvious in your performances – you’re family-friendly and you love flamboyant costumes.
Well, you can’t forget your roots. As an Indian, I feel like I have to give back [to the Indian community]. Many Hongkongers are unfamiliar with what Indian culture is, but through [my] movies and interviews, the public can understand more about our traditions. Actually, Indians and the Chinese are quite similar in that we both have very strong family values.

What do your folks think about having a celebrity in the family?
Well, I wasn’t always an entertainer. I was with Correctional Services for 16 years, working with refugees before switching over to Regular Forces. Apart from job stability, I also liked the fact that I was a minority on the frontlines. But then I quit in 2005 after I was offered a speaking role in a Jackie Chan movie, Rob-B-Hood. It was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down – he’s a cultural hero!

People remember you best for appearing on the talent show Minutes to Fame with the letters ‘TVB’ shaved into your chest hair. What was all that about?
I was just messing around! It was my colleagues who signed me up because I’ve always been a bit of a clown anyway. I never thought I’d end up as a runner-up – it was really just something I did so I’d have something to tell the grandkids!

Do you ever get sick of playing the ‘token Indian guy’?
I don’t mind it. As the first full-time non-ethnically Chinese entertainer in Hong Kong, I feel like I can increase awareness and open up this industry to others who are also from ethnic minorities. For example, in Only You [a recent TVB drama series], we got to portray an interracial marriage between myself and a Chinese woman – and all my neighbours turned up as extras! We got to explore the different wedding ceremonies and rituals. And the audience feedback has been great.

So are you a role model for aspiring ethnic minority actors?
I guess you can say that. Back in the day, whenever there were Indians [on TV], they’d play security guards or doormen. But I’ve taken on roles as a boss, a businessman, a policeman and a lawyer. It reflects the fact that there are successful Indians in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is heaven – nothing is impossible here. It’s simply a matter of how much hard work you’re willing to put in.

Tina Leung

Kiu Bobo plays a lawyer in The Other Truth, an evening drama series. Catch him Mon-Fri, 9.30pm on TVB Jade Channel.

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