An increasing number of Bollywood folk is making a foray into Punjabi film industry as producers. What has prompted this sudden spurt of interest?
Bollywood's leading names are no more restricting their association with regional cinema to mere cameos; they are slowly but steadily venturing into the non-Hindi film industries as producers too. And currently, the focus seems to be on Punjabi movies. Bolly biggies including Priyanka Chopra, Mahesh Bhatt and Ramesh Taurani as well as film studios like Eros International have been backing Pollywood projects.
Trade sources say the Punjabi film industry has been witnessing a resurgence of sorts with their movies being appreciated not only in the North India region but also overseas. Love Punjab, a recently-released family drama, shattered the opening weekend box office collection record of Akshay Kumar-starrer Airlift and Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Bajirao Mastani in the international market. This upsurge seems to be luring Bollywood producers to put their money into Punjabi projects.
"Besides having a huge market in North India, Punjabi films have fantastic business scope internationally, especially in Australia, UK, Canada, New Zealand and USA. In fact, the top three big weekend opener overseas of this year are Punjabi films followed by Akshay Kumar's Airlift. So, this proves that there's a big audience out there which loves good Punjabi films and that automatically compels producers here (in Bollywood) to make Punjabi films," trade guru Taran Adarsh says.
Priyanka Chopra's mother Madhu with Punjabi star Amrinder Gill (in white) and others involved with the actress' maiden Punjabi venture
Priyanka Chopra's Purple Pebble Pictures have started working on their first Punjabi project starring superstar Amrinder Gill. Mahesh Bhatt has also ventured into the industry with Dushman based on Indian-Pakistan's friendship. It will be helmed by Bhatt's prodigy Shagufta Rafique and star Punjabi actors Jashan Singh and Kartaar Cheema in lead roles.
On many occasions, Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan and some of leading names of B-Town have reportedly expressed desire to either act in or produce Punjabi films. Salman Khan has bought the Hindi remake rights of Jatt and Juliet (2012), which was a massive hit in Punjab and overseas.
Aamir Khan is rumoured to have shown interest in producing a film in collaboration with singer-actor Gippy Grewal
The blockbuster starred Neeru Bajwa and Diljit Dosanjh (who will be seen in Udta Punjab starring Kareena Kapoor Khan, Shahid Kapoor and Alia Bhatt) and the Hindi version will reportedly star Kriti Sanon. It was more or less a game changer for the regional industry. The response to Sardarji (2015) and Love Punjab (2016) has been a shot in the arm. Now, films are made on big budgets and the remuneration of those working on Punjabi films has also soared.
Another recent success is Taurani's Punjabi project Ambarsariya, which has made nearly R9 crore in its 10-day run overseas. The movie topped the international business chart for Punjabi movies and was ranked numero uno in the Canada collection chart for Indian movies, beating big-ticket Bollywood flicks Ki & Ka and Kapoor & Sons.
A still from Moranis' 25 Kille
Rakesh Upadhyay of White Hills Production says, "The Punjabi film industry has been on the up and up and the major chunk of revenue comes from overseas. The domestic market is limited to certain territories but the market has opened up for many big players. If you will look at sheer figures in the recent past, the international business of a few Punjabi films is individually more than what a Bollywood A-list actor's film manages to make."
The Moranis have also entered the Punjabi film market with 25 Kille starring Ranjha Vikram Singh of Heropanti (2014) fame. The film will bring Guggu Gill and Jograj Singh together on screen after a decade-long hiatus, and also mark Ranjha's debut as producer.
Lauren Gottlieb and Diljit Dosanjh in a still from Ramesh Taurani's Ambarsariya
Shirin Morani Singh of Running Horses Films points out, "Our production house started with Punjabi films because there are huge avenues that are yet to be explored. The market is growing by leaps and bounds and we have a large area to cover. We will be presenting the story of four Jatt brothers in 25 Kille soon with a different style of making that will bring freshness to Punjabi cinema."