Gurmit Singh‘s back in showbiz. The popular local actor-host has taken up his first TV project since he bid Mediacorp goodbye nearly two years ago and will host its newest game show, Don’t Forget To Remember.
When Gurmit retired from his full-time career in November 2014, the 51-year-old dove straight into making up for lost time with his beloved wife of 21 years and three children after two decades of missing out.
But for fans of the funnyman, who soared to fame as contractor Phua Chu Kang, it’s best not to get your hopes up too high. His new hosting gig does not mark a permanent return to the limelight.
Don’t Forget To Remember, a quiz show based on memory and observation, premieres on May 9 on Channel 5 at 7.30pm. Contestants vie for the chance to win over $10,000.
Gurmit says: “I still draw the line. I left because I wanted to focus more on my family and I’m not going back on my word. There was, and still is, so much to catch up on.”
THE RIGHT DECISION
He has savoured the break. He spends time with family members, from visits to the zoos with his daughter Mikaela, three, and TV series The Mentalist marathons with his eldest Gabrielle, 18, to father-son vacations with his middle child Elliot, 14.
In July, Gurmit and his wife Melissa Wong, 46, will go on a diving trip sans children to attain their advanced diving certificates.
Gurmit recalls an emotional time last year that proved he had made the right decision to leave Mediacorp. He was at a theme park in Bali with Elliot, whom he felt missed out the most during his years as a full-time entertainer.
He says: “We were having so much fun when he suddenly turned to me with a grave expression.
“He then said, ‘Dad, this is nice… Thank you’.
“I’ll remember that until the day I die. My hair stood on end and I was almost in tears. As a father, I felt like I did something right for once.
“I hope to do more of that because that is what’s important. On my deathbed, my accolades and achievements won’t matter but my family will be there by my side”.
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DIFFICULT TO SLOW DOWN
Still, switching gears and slowing down was difficult at first. Gurmit admitted: “I wasn’t sure what was happening. It was a shock. Ask my wife and she would tell you I was walking around like a zombie”.
But the initial adjustment was worth the sacrifice. “My wife told me she could see that my children were happier people… that they were different,” he says.
These days, Gurmit continues to be a freelance host at events both here and across the Causeway, where his Phua Chu Kang character is still very much in demand. He will also star in upcoming cosplay-themed local film Young & Fabulous.
NO CLASHES WITH FAMILY TIME
When approached for bigger projects like Don’t Forget To Remember, he makes sure to consult his family to ensure there are no clashes with precious family time.
On why he agreed to host the show and accept a lower fee due to its budget constraints, he said: “I love memory games.
“I’m a bit of a geek myself. I have a diploma in computer programming and if I weren’t (in showbiz), I would be a systems analyst or computer programmer.
“Sometimes you do things, not because of the money, but because of friendship (with the production crew) and other important, intangible things like that.”
Being on set, he says, felt “familiar”.
“It’s like learning to cycle and then cycling again after 10 years,” he says.
A version of this article first appeared in The New Paper.
(Photo: Jonathan Choo/SPH)