SINGAPORE: In November 2014, Gurmit Singh's decision to leave the entertainment industry to spend time with family shocked many. Some praised him for making a right decision, but many questioned if it was wise to walk away at the height of his career.
Fast-forward two years and the man who became a household name as Phua Chu Kang is returning to the silverscreen, but not as his brassy alter ego with trademark yellow boots, unmistakable perm and giant mole.
A wizened-looking Gurmit, now 51, will be hosting Mediacorp Channel 5’s latest game show Don’t Forget To Remember, which airs from May.
Calling it a one-time “fun project”, the funnyman told the media on Tuesday (Mar 29) that he is playing TV host again, purely based on “goodwill and friendship”. “It’s not about the money or about me hoping to come back again,” he said.
Gurmit added that his family has given him the green light for his short stint. “They were not worried like ‘Oh no, it’s going back again’. They were supportive,” he added.
Gurmit and his wife are parents to three kids - a 15-year-old son and two daughters, aged 3 and 18.
'MYTHICAL CREATURE' TO MY DAUGHTER
Speaking in a group interview setting, Gurmit recounted days when he placed his family at the bottom of his list all the time. “It used to be the other way round – work schedule first, then pockets of time with my family if they are available. If not, then too bad,” he said.
It was a painful epiphany when he learnt his elder daughter thought of him a “mythical creature” during her growing years. She never knew when he was leaving, or coming home, he explained.
“I read it with a heavy heart," he said. "It also confirmed that it was a right decision to leave. It’s never too late to do something good again, to rectify things. At least, I had that chance.”
Since redevoting himself to family, Gurmit said he has managed to build better family ties, spending time with his children on weekends, and sending or picking them up from school. At the moment, his family is hooked on the television series The Mentalist.
“We are one of those families that like to sit down and eat for a long time. We can have a two-hour meal, chatting and joking,” he said. “Sometimes, we will also put our laptops in the living room, open our own LAN shop and play online games.”
"ON A TREADMILL OF CATCH-UP TIME" WITH FAMILY
His older children appreciate that he is a full-on family man. “They said that this littlest one (referring to his three-year-old daughter) will grow up not knowing how famous her father was, because I’m a stay-at-home dad now.
“I felt like my kids were really wise to say that because I didn’t see it in that perspective. It was also a confirmation that they need my time.”
Stressing the importance of family, he added: “You need to spend time before the kids get too old. I’m on a treadmill of catch-up time with my kids, especially. I wasn’t really present (before) … They say quality time is good, but I think you can’t have quality if you don’t have quantity. At this stage of my life now, I’m trying to make as much time as possible individually for them.”
Of course, his decision to “step down” - as he called it - came at a price. Gurmit, who said money was never an issue in the past, has stopped purchasing Business class air tickets when he travels with his family, among other changes in his lifestyle.
So how will the host of the memory test game show fare in the competition? "When I read scripts, it comes just like that. But after I'm done with it, I'll forget them altogether," he said. "So, those people whom I've not met for more than two weeks, I'll forget you."
Don’t Forget To Remember is a 1-hour gameshow made up of four rounds of challenges based on observation, attention to detail, and the power of recall. Contestants could walk away with more than S$10,000. The first episode will air on May 9, at 7.30pm on Channel 5.