Return of Singh
The NRIs, as
audience and investors, have brought about a revival of the
Punjabi film industry, writes Jangveer Singh
Mera Pind – My Home, starring Navjot Singh Sidhu and Harbhajan Mann, had a successful run
all over Punjab recently
THE images of
Punjabi people and culture in films is changing — for the
better. This is noticeable in a number of recent films such as Jab
We Met and Heroes. Kitsch as shown in Singh is
Kinng is an exception. The Punjabi flavour has become a good
selling point, including for producers of music albums. The
Punjabi film industry has also awakened to this reality and the
potential it has for Punjabi movies abroad.
This new identity
as portrayed in Punjabi films is a result of the trickle-down
effect from Bollywood and television serials.
audience, which has grown up on the themes of revenge and macho
pride, crude humour and songs around sarson de khet, is
now ready for a change. Having easy access to Hindi movies, they
want Punjabi movies to be made on a similar scale and with the
same level of professionalism. This has seen farmhouses
replacing the village scene and foreign locales replacing
mustard fields. Music, too, has become a blend of the
traditional and pop.
This would have
been difficult some years back with most Punjabi films having a
budget of less than Rs 1 crore. However, the Punjabi film
producers are now aware of the large NRI audience and the global
market of Punjabi movies and have become more market savvy.
Thus, NRI subjects and pop icons have given an international
flavour to Punjabi cinema.
filmmaker and journalist Daljit Ami says earlier producers
experimented by making films with artistes like Mohammad
Siddique and Surinder Sharma, but the trend caught on with
Gurdas Maan. This period also saw the emergence of pop singers
like Harbhajan Mann as heroes. Mann has been an integral part of
some of the most successful productions of Punjabi director
According to Ami,
the casting of Babbu Mann (in the recently released Hashar)
and Sarabjit Cheema (Pind Di Kudi) is part of this
phenomenon as investing in pop icons ensures partial return on
investments through the selling of music rights of the movie.
Ami says the
coming trend will be of comedy films. Jaspal Bhatti started it
with Mahaul Theek Hai. Many other comedians, like
Bhagwant Mann, are now coming up with their own films. He feels
there is not much humour in Punjabi movies although Punjabis
love comedy. Bhagwant promises a slick comedy using Bollywood
technicians. "This is necessary when technologically
inferior movies cannot simply compete with Bollywood and
Hollywood productions," he adds.
mood is upbeat with new releases being launched every week and
movies waiting in the wings. Babbu Mann’s Hashar was
released recently, while Sat Sri Akal and Punjab-1947
are awaiting release.
Neeru Bajwa in Manmohan Singh’s Dil Apna Punjabi, which is the story of a NRI’s return to his homeland
Darshan Aulakh, an
actor and a line producer for most Bollywood movies being shot
in Punjab, says artistes and technicians are flooded with work
at present and even young actors from Bollywood are more than
willing to work in Punjabi films. He says the movies under
production include Harbhajan Mann’s Jag Jeonda De Mela,
being made by a Canada-based producer, Tera Mera Ki Rishta,
starring Jimmy Shergill and Kulraj Randhawa and an untitled
Gurdas Maan production.
the rosy future, many veteran producers feel Punjabi movies are
still a huge financial risk.
But someone who
has beaten this trend is Manmohan Singh, whose films have done
quite well. His Dil Apna Punjabi was a record hit while
his latest Mera Pind — My Home did business of nearly
Rs 4 crore in the first four weeks. The movie is expected to
rake in a similar collection with prints being released in the
UK, the US, Australia and Malaysia.
However, the same
cannot be said of other recent releases, including some
high-budget films. One such film is Lakh Pardesi Hoiya, which
had an international plot, but did not appeal to the audience.
Its director Dr Swaran Singh says he wanted to make a commercial
movie with the aim of raising the standard of Punjabi films. He
says producers of most Punjabi movies have been losing money.
The investors of Pind Di Kuri, Kaun Kisa Da Beli and Yaarian
— all released this year — lost heavily.
another director Iqbal Dhillon, many Punjabis, who don’t know
much about the Punjabi film industry, were only investing in it
due to its glamour quotient. He said even big budget movies that
have been acclaimed as successes, too, have lost money.
Dhillon feels that
the state government’s policies may be partly responsible for
this. He said the present policy provided a level-playing field
to all regional films with no entertainment tax being levied on
them. However, only the Bhojpuri movies were benefiting the most
from this tax-free status, as these movies were being produced
at a fraction of the cost of Punjabi films. Hence, these films
were able to ensure a return on their investments. The director
feels that the state government should give additional benefits
to Punjabi filmmakers so as to promote its own industry vis a
vis other regional films.
because of which Punjabi movies are losing money is that most
Punjabis are not watching films made in their own state, feel
veterans. "Hindi films are a clear favourite unlike other
states like Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh where regional films
rule the roost," says director Dr Swaran Singh.
He feels that the
low-key publicity of Punjabi movies due to limited budgets was
also affecting the regional film industry. He said many films
became hits much after their release due to their publicity by
word of mouth.
What then is the
future of Punjabi movies? Daljit Ami puts it aptly when he says
that earlier a movie was a declared a hit after its success in
Bathinda, Muktsar, Moga, Abohar and such towns but now it is
decided according to the movie’s run in Chandigarh and other
major cities of Punjab having a multiplex market.
culture could revive the Punjabi film industry, says Manmohan
Singh. The filmmaker says as more multiplexes are coming up as
many as 100 Punjabi film prints can now be distributed in the
state simultaneously. According to Manmohan Singh, while there
is a good market in Haryana, the future of Punjabi films mainly
depends on capturing a sizeable market share in Delhi.
"When this happens, more investments will flow in and then
we can give Bollywood movies a run for their money," he