Entertainment

Punjabi filmmakers are uncertain about the immediate future of their projects, so what’s stopping them from exploring the digital medium? : The Tribune India


Sheetal

Bollywood has a digital option for its content, yet filmmakers are suffering insurmountable losses. Now, guess the damage Covid has done to the Punjabi film industry which is facing double the blow because not many producers or directors are keen on releasing their films on OTT platforms.

The producers, directors and actors of Punjabi film industry didn’t sit idle during the pandemic; rather they made films expecting the Covid situation would change for good. Now that it hasn’t, we ask a few filmmakers and producers whether they will hold on to their projects or explore the digital platforms.

Positive thinking

For Humble team, last year was a huge success and with the beginning of New Year, we hope that the ongoing third wave of Omicron virus ends soon and we switch back to the previous times. We have planned quite a number of surprises for our audience and are looking forward to release our movies Posti, Maa, Snowman and Yaar Mera Titliyan Warga in cinemas. As a producer and owner of Humble Motion Pictures and Humble Music, my only wish is to create fresh content without worrying about the losses. – Gippy Grewal, actor and producer

The unending wait

To bring Punjabi films directly on audiences’ flat screens has not been experimented enough. Only four films made it to the same digital platform, Zee5, three of which—Puaada, Fuffad Ji and Qismat 2—were released in theatres for a month before they took the OTT route. Only the fourth, Jinne Jamme Saare Nikamme, had a direct OTT release. After some back-to-back releases, Galwakdi, starring Tarsem Jassar, was the first film which had to be postponed to an indefinite date. Gippy’s production banner Humble Motions Pictures had announced January 28 for Posti, the trailer of which was released on March 6, 2020, days before the first lockdown. But seems like, it has a long wait now.

Producer and distributor of Punjabi films Munish Sahni says, “As of now, it’s once again a challenging situation for Punjabi film industry as a lot of planned releases have been pushed and we have no clarity when exactly will the situation improve. The backlog of ready-to-release films is increasing.” The exciting and distinct line-up he hinted at includes Galwakdi, Main Te Bapu, Phatte Dinde Chakk Punjabi, Dakuaan Da Munda 2, Golak Bugni Bank Te Batua 2, Posti, Maa and Kali Jotta.

Growing stage

The first and the only digital release, Jinne Jamme Saare Nikamme, had an ensemble cast, but not a single actor was happy about their digital outing. The Punjabi audience gave a hard time to those films backed by Zee Studios during the farmers’ protest. Are makers consciously distancing themselves from digital platforms? Munish denies it and says, “Punjabi industry is still in the growing stage and is on its way to make the best of these platforms. For any film, be it a theatrical or a direct-to-digital release, it’s important to match a recovery pattern and once it starts happening with Punjabi films, you’ll see the best of Punjabi content on OTT platforms. In the past two years, the growth of digital platforms has been phenomenal. We believe that these digital platforms are not a substitute for theatres but are complementary. So, if a film is suitable for the digital platform and it matches the recoveries, then yes, we can take the digital route.”

Loss in numbers

Is it the backlog of Punjabi films that has forced producers to sign a four-week contract with the interested digital party? “By the time Qismat 2 entered second week there were about three to four films which were released, so a month’s time seemed more than okay. But for Covid, Qismat 2 would have made Rs 10 crore more than what it did, which was roughly around Rs 28-30 crore,” says Jagdeep Sidhu. The director is gearing up to shoot another film, titled Moh, which he wishes to release on September 23 if everything falls in place and theatres function in full capacity. Starring Sargun Mehta and Gitaz Bindrakhia, Moh is a love story, Jagdeep’s favourite genre. And, one thing he will do differently this time is not sign copyrights unless it has a six weeks gap between the theatrical and the OTT release. On filmmaker not taking the OTT route, Jagdeep holds a rather distinct view, “Major platforms of India are not ready to bring Punjabi films under their banner and the ones interested have set a lower price. Series like Tabbar on SonyLiv has generated an interest in Punjabi stories but it is limited to web series. I don’t see myself making one right now.”

Tough recovery

Sandeep Bansal, owner of regional OTT platform Chaupal, says, “Producers go for theatrical releases first because they have to recover their money. With OTT alone, they cannot recover the money they have invested in the project. We have been acquiring films for our platform. A good number of theatrical films are available on Chaupal which includes Yes I Am Student, Moosa Jatt, Jinde Meriye and Dil Diyaan Galan, to name a few.”

There are Chaupal original films like Umran Ch Ki Rakheya, starring Raj Babbar and Poonam Dhillon and Chamm which will entertain the audience while theatres have not much to offer.





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