Photos: Zara Zhuang, Gurmit Singh (@gurmitgurmit) via Instagram
Video: Charlene Chong, Kimberly Tay
When he announced in December 2014 that he was leaving a full-time career at Mediacorp, instead of comments implying he was too weak to handle the pressure of being a celebrity, Gurmit Singh received an outpouring of support from friends and fans.
“For the first time in my life, not one (word of) criticism came my way,” the 51-year-old freelance artiste said.
In fact, so inspiring was his decision that he received positive posts and messages on social media, and three of his friends followed his example and quit their companies.
“I hope the boss is not angry with me!” Gurmit said with a laugh.
While he says he’s been told he’s not judgmental, as a special guest on Double Trouble’s May 27 episode, Gurmit led hosts Mark Lee and Kumar around a suburban mall, not to judge others on their looks or fashion sense, but to be on the receiving end of baseless criticism to comedic effect. (Catch up on the episode here.)
Battered and bruised
But it hadn’t always been that way for Gurmit, who went through a rough patch early in his television career. His 1998 talk show Tonight with Gurmit was roundly bashed and he became dejected to the point of refusing to answer phone calls from the producer.
“I think as soon as I became a celeb in front of camera, I was straightaway put on a platform to be judged,” he recounted. “But that's how the media is — how the environment is — it's part and parcel of the job.”
The harsh criticism so discouraged him that he considered throwing in the towel, but friends pulled him back from the brink. “They said, ‘Look, there will always be naysayers, everyone has an opinion, but whether you want to give it credit is up to (you),’” Gurmit said.
Nowadays the critiques the actor–comedian receives from members of the public tend to lean towards the superficial. “People come to you and say, ‘Hey Gurmit, you're fat!’ Just like that, out of nowhere,” he said. “I didn't even ask them the question.”
“Or they’ll say, ‘Eh wah, you lost a lot of weight, you sick ah?’ From a compliment it became a bad thing!”
Now a freelance artiste, Gurmit has more time for going on dates with his wife, Melissa Wong, 46 — they even became certified underwater divers after a recent trip to Indonesia.
He’s also spending quality hours with his children, going to the gym, playing the online battle game Defense of the Ancients (or DotA) and doing craft with Gabrielle, 18, and Elliot, 14, and taking his 3-year-old, Mikaela, to the swimming pool.
And he’s picked up new skills in the kitchen, whipping up white wine mussels in garlic sauce, which has earned his wife’s approval, and cooking perfect hard-boiled eggs that don’t break apart when peeled. “I know the secret now, and my eggs turn out beautiful and as smooth as a baby's butt,” he said with pride.
Being around at home this much is a far cry from Gurmit’s days as a hardly-there celebrity father, and it doesn’t bother him at all that Mikaela will never know life with him as a famous television personality.
“If I weigh all the limelight and what have you with time with family, I'll pick time with family anytime,” Gurmit said. “I was just too scared, apprehensive — a bit stupid, even — taking so long to do this, I wished I had done it earlier. But it’s never too late.”
Gurmit is now the host of Channel 5’s Don’t Forget to Remember, and he will be next seen in the cosplay-themed movie Young & Fabulous, as well as Laugh Die You 3 — The Karaoke at Resorts World Sentosa this July 9–10. With his family as his top priority now, he’s far more selective about the gigs he takes up.
“As long as it doesn't clash with what I've put aside for my family, it's fine,” he said. “It's always good to have extra income, but other than that, it's family, family and family.”
Find out more about Double Trouble here.
Catch a new episode of Double Trouble for free every Monday to Friday here or binge-watch the entire series by subscribing to Toggle Prime.
Don’t Forget to Remember airs Monday, 7.30 p.m. on Channel 5; catch up on the latest episodes here.
Young & Fabulous is now showing in local cinemas.
Laugh Die You 3 — The Karaoke is playing July 9–10 at the Resorts World Theatre in Resort World Sentosa; tickets are available on Sistic.