Gurmit Singh: TV host, actor, now published writer

Gurmit Singh: TV host, actor, now published writer
Gurmit Singh and his wife, Melissa Wong posing with his book at the press conference on June 23. In the book, Singh shares about his journey from a child to his pre TV career days to a TV artiste, and becoming a father. Photo: Sonia Yeo
His autobiography recounts how he coped with the loss of his parents and his heyday as TV’s Phua Chu Kang
Published: 11:15 PM, June 23, 2017
Updated: 11:20 PM, June 23, 2017

SINGAPORE — Television personality Gurmit Singh, 52, cherished his privacy when it mattered, but now, he is an open book. Of sorts.

The TV host and comedian, best known for playing the lead character in the 1990s TV sitcom Phua Chu Kang Pte Ltd, is launching his autobiography titled What Was I Thinking? on Saturday (June 24).

In it, he reveals, among other things, that he was a “sad and bitter person” for four years and had to overcome “anger, depression and self-loathing” after the death of his parents. He also detailed how he was enraged by the press for trying to cover the news of his father’s death in 2003.

The book, which took a year to complete, takes readers through the time of his childhood to his marriage to him being a father. There are also pictures of his wife Melissa Wong, 47, and their children — Gabrielle, 19, Elliot, 15, and Mikaela, four — when they were younger.

On his first attempt at being a writer, Singh said: “I’m not one of those literary guys. I’m not very eloquent... But I thought it would be a good journey for me.”

Singh first thought of using a ghostwriter after deciding on working with Armour Publishing, but his wife and his oldest daughter were against it. “They said no, cannot. You must write. Your voice must be there. No matter how good the ghostwriter is, there’s no way the ghostwriter can be you,” he recalled.

He acknowledged that it was not all easy putting pen to paper. “There’re some moments that are very raw, like the passing of my parents. I thought it was something I needed to share... Some people just assumed that even when (my) parents passed away, I would still be funny. But I couldn’t. I’m also human.”

Singh left showbusiness in late 2014, and to “put food on the table”, he is now an entrepreneur, taking on jobs as an emcee on an ad-hoc, freelance basis.

He also owns a gold distribution company, GIV Global, but said that he would be closing it soon. “I have the right product, but at the wrong time.”

Since he stepped out of the limelight, Singh has been cutting out luxuries such as flying on business class, and has moved his family from a house to a three-bedroom condominium unit.

“I don’t think we are that frivolous in our spending anymore. Last time, I could spend without thinking twice, on this laptop or this new gadget or this new toy. Now, when I want to buy something, I will think, ‘Wait, let me see’,” he said.

“When you put it in perspective and compare it with what I’ve gained in turn, such as having more time with my family, a slower pace of life, it’s huge. I don’t find myself rushing anywhere now, which is great. I’m really blessed to have this,” he added.

In the near term, there is an opportunity to direct a film, which is not a comedy. “A lot of people would assume that I would do comedy, but I don’t want to. I want to do heartfelt, action (movies),” he said, citing Transformers and Life of Pi as examples. He declined to reveal more details.

However, the comic character of Phua Chu Kang, or PCK, is not something he could shake off even now. Singh slipped into his trademark yellow boots to be in character again last month at the Asean International Film Festival And Awards in Kuching, Malaysia, and he did a live show for Phua Chu Kang and Friends Comedy Show in Malaysia earlier in the year.

He said: “I’m still playing PCK even though it’s been off the air for 10 years now. In September, I’m flying to Melbourne for the Singapore Day as PCK. So he never dies.”

The launch of What Was I Thinking? will be held at Kinokuniya bookstore in Ngee Ann City, level 4, from 4pm to 5pm.