Punjabi Cinema: Coming Of Age
It had to happen. And it is good that it is happening later than sooner. Punjabi cinema is witnessing a boom period, especially post-2010, with films like the 2007 release Mel Karade Rabba (‘Reunite Us’) and the last year’s big grosser collecting Rs 3.9 crores, approximately; Jinne Mera Dil Luteya (‘One Who Robbed My Heart’), Yaar Annmulle, the 2011 release co-starring Arya Babbar, Jividha Astha, Kajal Jain (Rs 1.71 cr). Jatt & Juliet, a romantic comedy directed by Diljee Dosanjh outsmarted even some of the Hindi releases at the box office in Punjab doing a business of an estimated Rs 25 crore thus becoming the third highest grosser in the East Punjab territory; Gippy Grewal’s comic caper Carry on Jatta (12) has crossed the Rs 10-crore mark. His other release, Mirza, an action thriller too has turned to be a massive hit. Dharti was another one. Internationally, Australia and Canada are estimated to be contributing 15 to 20 per cent to the kitty. Business has shown an unprecedented increase in traditional territories like Delhi, Haryana and Jammu.
Besides, it is not only limited to popular fare as was evident from the National Award Winning film, Anne Ghorey Da Daan (‘Gift of a Blind Horse’) by Gurvinder Singh, a self-professed Mani Kaul prodigy, financially supported by the rejuvenated National Film Development Council. This also reasserts the fact that no serious or meaningful cinema can exist without its popular counterpart. And like the new popular cinema in other languages, especially Hindi, it is reaching beyond the conventional territories, exploiting fresh ground without being constrained by language limitations. Entertainment is entertainment, the language merely being a carriage.
Reportedly, there have been occasions when even B-Town flicks had to take a backseat in the ever-expanding overseas territories, though most of these are still being made at a cost of less than five crore, which is generally the budget of the meanest intended mainstream film. This new-found knowledge is seemingly resulting in some of the dormant Punjabi film-makers like Dharmesh Darshan are working overtime to catch the bus and another, Guddu Dhanoa has made something called Lions of Punjab. An increasing use of the dialect and language in big mainstream films is another pointer towards the blind alley. Also, interestingly, some of the Hindi films rejects like Jimmy Shergill, Mahie Gill, Harbhajan Mann, Neeru Bajwa, besides actor-directors Gippy Grewal and Daljeet Dosanjh are reaping in the harvest.
During post-1980s when Bhojpuri cinema took the big leap, and became an industry by itself, it languished in the other smaller languages, including Punjabi, despite an occasional production raking in the mullah. But then ambition became the over-riding factor for the success of one such venture lured the makers to join the mainstream Hindi cinema bandwagon, as, for instance, with the trio that made the blockbuster, Chan Pardesi (1980). This was followed by Manmohan Singh-directed (popularly addressed as Manjee) Jee Aaayan Nu – 2002 (‘Welcome’).
Like many big B-Town movies awaiting release in the coming days, there is also a big line-up for Punjabi releases, including ace-cinematographer-turned-director Manmohan Singh’s Ajj De Ranjhe (‘Today’s Lovers’); Sirphire (‘Spoilt Brats’) writer-director Vikram Dhillon’s Pinky Moge Wali (‘Pinky from Moga’); Hemant Sagar Sharma-directed Burraah (‘Bad Guy’) with Mukul Dev in the lead; Dilpreet Bhatia’s Saadi Wakhri Hi Shaan (‘We’ve a Style of Our Own’); Vicky J-directed You & Me; director Sunil’s Saadi Gali Aaya Karo (‘Come to my Street’) with Zoya Afroz and Anuj Puri; and writer-producer-director Jaspal Bhatti’s socio-political satire in his predictable style, Power Cut with himself in the lead together with Jaswinder Bhalla, Prem Chopra and others. Also awaiting release is London-based Avatar Bhogal’s Punjabi-English bilingual, Rabba Maaf Karee (‘Forgive me God’) on honour killing.
Keenly watched, amongst these, will be Manmohan Singh’s (ace-cameraman of some of Yash Chopra’s memorable romantic flicks) considered by many to be the God of new Punjabi cinema) Ajj De Ranjhe that tells the story of Ambar, an unemployed youngster aspiring to be a television journo, his love interest Kranti and Manjeet, the rookie cop determined to clean up the mess around and how the two, while pursuing their love interests, gang up together. A powerful, hard-hitting script that seeks to lay bare the wronged system. Harjit Vicky’s Sirphire (‘Crazy Ones’) ) co-starring Monica Bedi, Priyanshu, singers Preet Harpal, Roshan Prince, comedian Binnu Dhillon and others is another much-awaited extolling the adventurous story of three fun-loving college-going friends whose life undergoes a change when one of them is found dead.
Also waiting in the wings with completed or nearing completion films in the crowded market place to test their fortunes are, amongst others: Saada Haq (‘Our Right’), written by actor-director Kuljinder Sidhu and directed by Mandeep Benipal; Yamley Jatt Yamley (‘Crazy Guys’) directed by Savvy Dadwal; Ajay Pannalal’s Dil Tainu Karda Hai Pyar (‘My Heart Loves You’); Yaar Mera Rab Warga by Dinkar; Tu Mera 22 Main Tera 22 directed by Amit Prashar; Dheeraj Ratan-directed Jimmy Shergill-starrer Saadi Love Story; and many others besides. Most of them are expected to be intended pot-boilers that appeal to the front benchers in small towns, and made on limited budgets.
A certain website has enlisted the following amongst the top grosser of Punjabi cinema in the past decade, though this new phase really seems to have been heralded by Manmohan’s Jee Aayan Nu—‘Welcome’ (2002) and Des Hoya Perdes—Exile (04), and includes: Mirza, Desi Romeos—‘Street Lovers’ (12), Jinhe Mera Dil Luteya—‘One Who Stole My Heart, Yaar Annmulle, Dharti—Soil, The Lion of Punjab (11), Mel Karade Rabha—‘Unite Us Oh God’, Ek Khudi Punjab Di—‘The Girl from Punjab’, Ekam (10), Munde UK De—‘Boys from England’, Jag Jeodeyan De Mele ‘Festivals of Living World, Tera Mera Ek Rishta—‘We Have Just One Bond, Apni Boli Apna Des—My Language My Country (09) Mera Pind—My Home, Hashar – Plight (08), Mitti Wajaan Mardi—‘Cry of the Soil’(07), Dil Apna Punjabi—‘My Heart is Punjabi’ (06), Asa Nu Maan Watna Da—‘We Are Proud of Our Country’ (04). However, the current year alone has witnessed the release of 21 features with another at least a dozen to hit the theatres before year end.
Punjabi cinema in India has continued to register fluctuating fortunes, thus making any definite estimate difficult, though Wikipedia pegs it around a thousand. Many of these have made it to the gallant list of National Award winning entries, including Satluj De Kande (64) and Nanak Naam Jahaaz Hai (69) directed by Panna Lal Maheshwari; Chann Pardesi (80) directed by Chitrarth; Marhi Da Deeva (89), directed by Surinder Singh; Kachehari (94), Main Maa Punjab Dee (98), written and directed by Balwant Dullat; Shaheed-E-Mohabbat (99), directed by Manoj Punj; Shaheed Udham Singh (2000), directed by Chitrarth; and Des Hoya Pardes (05), and Waris Shah—Ishq Daa Waaris” (06) directed by Manoj Punj.
By Suresh Kohli