Punjabi cinema tastes mainstream success

Punjabi cinema tastes mainstream success

By JATINDER BEDI | LUDHIANA | 2 February, 2013
Light comedies with catchy music brought to the theatres a largely urban audience, who did not patronise Punjabi films earlier because of their rural and feudal content.

It's boom time for Punjabi cinema, with more than 50 films in various stages of production. Having tasted commercial success, the budgets of Punjabi films are getting bigger and production values better.

Punjabi movies are a complete entertainment package, stylish and slick, and laced with hit music. They are gaining acceptance among the audience at a much larger scale now, according to Karamjit Anmol, a busy Punjabi actor. Punjabi movies are getting releases in mainstream movie theatres and multiplexes at different centres in India and abroad. This global reach has been made possible also because of a prosperous and influential NRI Punjabi population both from India and Pakistan, which shares a common mother tongue, Anmol said.

Popular Hindi film actors such as Jimmy Shergill, Neha Dhupia and Gul Panag have started working in Punjabi films as well. Punjabi cinema also has its own stars such as Gippy Grewal and Diljit Dosanjh, who charge between Rs 1.5 cr and Rs 2 cr. Even the second lead actors, mainly from a theatre background — Binnu Dhillon and Jaswinder Bhalla — get anything between Rs 25 lakh and Rs 30 lakh. The budget of the films too has gone up from Rs 3 cr to Rs 6 cr.

The Punjabi film industry had a niche of its own before Partition when Lahore was a major cultural centre. There was a ready audience in undivided Punjab for these films. The vastly reduced geographical and demographic profile of Punjab after 1947 could not help the film industry as it lost Lahore to Pakistan and with it much of its talent. Films continued to be made in Indian Punjab but could not see the glory days of yore. Sporadic successes notwithstanding, Punjabi cinema remained on low ebb. The credit for the revival of Punjabi cinema is given to a series of films with immigrant experience as its mainstay during the last decade. This proved to be a winning formula, but not enough to get Punjabi cinema noticed outside its area of influence. The success of the subsequent generation of filmmakers hopes to change that for films made in Punjabi.

This follows the phenomenal success of Jatt and Juliet last year. The film is reported to have done a business of more than Rs 30 cr. Carry on Jatta too was a commercial success. As many as 27 Punjabi films were released in 2012, more than the last five years before that put together. These light comedies with catchy music brought to the theatres a largely urban audience, which did not patronise Punjabi cinema earlier with their stories of rural background based on feudal values.

The success and scope of Punjabi cinema is now being acknowledged by mainstream Bollywood, with stars like Akshay Kumar announcing that he would venture into Punjabi filmmaking. Known Hindi film actors like Neha Dhupia and Gul Panag are featuring in two forthcoming Punjabi films.

Acknowledging the commercial success of Punjabi cinema, Dr Satish Verma, a known film commentator, went on to assert that it was getting global contours with various films engaging with the global concerns of the Punjabi community and attaining a commercial success as well by reaching a global market. Punjabi cinema talks of the longings, desires and aspirations of 14 crore Punjabis spread in 150 countries, giving it a wide reach, says Verma.

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