Sundeep Singh Maan
We have always found it difficult to answer the age-old question, ‘So…what do you guys do?’ when we meet anyone for the first time. That’s because it’s not any one thing that we do. What we do for a living ‘to pay bills etc’ is one thing, and certainly isn’t exciting for us. But what we do for a fulfilling life is how we like to answer this question: to immerse ourselves in many different creative projects - much like our featured artist for this month from Wolverhampton, Sundeep Singh Maan.
From writing Punjabi poetry, Punjabi scripts, modelling, cooking and having an eye for a well-tailored suit, Sundeep is a fine example of a man of many talents. Oh, did we mention Sundeep’s also studying for a PhD in Child and Adult Psychotherapy?…Who said men can’t multi-task?!
Tell us about Sundeep Singh Maan
Well…ha now that’s a question! Sundeep Singh Maan is someone I am still figuring out myself to be honest…! I am just a normal everyday guy pursuing my passions and interests and learning a lot more about life and me as a person whilst doing so. That’s what I think is nice about this journey…it’s important to evolve as a person and that happens through new experiences!
You are a multi-talented man, from cooking, poetry, dressing impeccably, modelling and scriptwriting – all whilst studying for your PhD! How do you balance your time in studying and doing what you love?
Not very well! Seriously, I do not know the answer to this…it just seems to all happen one way or another. I tend to leave things right till the last minute…but I think that pressure is what fuels me to complete whatever it is I am working on at that moment in time. Although, writing a thesis at 1 am is perhaps not the best way to go! I like to have a few different projects to concentrate on at one time…be it an academic journal to a day spent making saag in the kitchen…I like to be able to have a variety of different interests to pursue.
You have grown up predominantly in the presence of females; do you think this has influenced your work, your style, studies and writing at all?
Most definitely. My writing in particular seems to always focus around female characters or talk about issues concerning women. As a writer, you draw upon your experiences and create your stories and I have observed a lot of the women that have raised me…but I am also a man, so I’m writing about women from a male perspective…which can be both great and dangerous at the same time!
Tell us about your play, and why you decided to share your mother’s story on stage.
Well, A Storm in a Chai Cup has been in development for five years now through various writers programs, namely the Royal Court and Theatre Writing Partnership. It has always been a story I wanted to tell and is an amalgamation of both fact and fiction. It’s been a long journey to finally getting funding from the UK Arts Council to back the project but I am glad it is now making it’s debut.
As for it being my mother’s story, A Storm in a Chai Cup is inspired by my Mum’s life for sure…but it’s actually the story of generations of women, especially Asian women…I think if you talk to any woman from the era that the play is set in - the 80’s - their stories will all have a common ground, reflective of the attitude towards women back then. I have heard so many stories about the stigma of divorce in the Asian community and that is why I wanted to tell this story…it’s an honest attempt to portray a reality and to hopefully make people think about the attitudes we have towards women.
Why is Punjabi culture so important for you, and how do you feel you are contributing to preserving aspects of it?
See Punjabi culture for me is synonymous with poetry, colour, tradition and nostalgia. That is what grabs me. We have such a rich culture that unfortunately is not being preserved and that’s not just outside India but in Punjab too. I think the aspect of Punjabi culture that I am passionate about is perhaps romanticised, akin to all the depictions we see of it in paintings and films…but the harsh reality is Punjabi culture today is very diluted. My attempt to preserve the old world charm of it is merely through writing or attempting to understand the many masterpieces that are prevalent in Punjabi literature, Amrita Pritam, Rajinder Singh Bedi, Waris Shah for example…
What challenges do you face on a day-to-day basis in all your artistic ventures?
I think it can be quite overwhelming and disheartening when you start a project and midway you lose that initial zest that you had for it. That has happened to me many a time. The challenge then is to rediscover what it was that made you feel excited about it in the first place. Art evolves through time and patience but I’ve learnt it’s a good idea to have an understanding of how you are going to shape your project, what it’s arc is and where you hope to take it to in order to deem it as finished.
The process may unleash new discoveries but it’s still good to be able to steer the work in a certain direction rather than letting it consume you.
How do you like to unwind after a long day of pouring your energy into your art and studies?
Old hindi songs, bhangra or really bad cheesy Hindi songs that most people would cringe at! Music is all about escapism as well as film and I love getting lost in both. I find cooking therapeutic too or even a good dance to some energetic bhangra tunes.
What’s your motto?
Hmmm…be yourself, everyone else is already taken! Although, that is not always easy to live by I must admit. There are times when you question if your path is the ‘right’ one or your choices are not typical of the society you live within. I think we are all guilty of trying to conform at some point or another in our lives…but I’ve learnt that I’m happier when I am actually being me…!
How do you stay motivated?
My grandmother and my Mum. They inspire me and motivate me. I think I drive myself, I want to continually better myself…personally, professionally and emotionally.
What makes you feel good?
I can feel really good around nice company, the company of people that inspire you and bring good energy. Equally though I can feel just as good all on my own, in my own world, with a good book or film and nobody to interrupt. I think it’s important to have both, the ability to be happy with others but also just with yourself…as for things, chocolate is a good one to make me smile or if you really want to win me over…home made samoseh!
What’s been your greatest struggle, and how do you generally overcome negative emotions?
I think my own journey personally has been a great struggle. By that I mean finding who I am, discovering my own emotional capacity and how that affects not only me but those around me too…that’s a journey that should also be ongoing in my opinion but sometimes it’s difficult to accept your shortcomings and also give yourself credit for all the good things you can do!
Negative emotions…well my Phd is helping me understand those a bit more! I think to overcome any negative emotion, first it has to consume you…and the trick is not to let it get that far in the first place…that’s where the hard work has to happen.
How have your family and friends encouraged you to pursue what you are doing?
My family are always very supportive. They have become very used to me now doing lots of random projects here and there but I am very lucky that they never hinder me, in fact they are the first ones who tell me to keep going…! Friends are equally supportive, I am lucky to have some really nice people around me who push me to better myself and are genuinely happy for me. Much like both you girls Hernoor and Sukhman! We have had many a conversation where you have both encouraged my work…so I can say it officially in black and white…thank you!
Where do you draw inspiration from?
Inspiration for me can come from anything, a song, a sentence someone says, a person sat on the train…personally, I am inspired by work that has a purpose, it speaks to you and leaves you thinking. That’s what inspires me to create.
For honest reviews on the latest Bollywood/Punjabi film, tempting foodporn pics and updates on Sundeep’s creative ventures, go follow him on Instagram!