Celluloid and Compact Disks in Punjab
Abstract: Two different trends have been noticed in Punjabi film production, i.e. celluloid and Digital. These have success as the common factor otherwise they are quite different not only of production format or length but also of content and treatment. Celluloid is exploring global market with emotional dilemmas (emigration, relations) whereas digital is turning out to be community cinema by focusing on social-economic crises. This study is an attempt to understand the different aspects of these twin trends of success.
Bio: After doing my masters in Ancient History from Punjab University I started writing for different newspapers. I write about socio-political issues concerning Punjab, especially rural Punjab.
I worked as Auditor in Defense audit for three years and then resigned to be a documentary filmmaker. My dissatifaction with the images of Punjab usually presented as representative of Punjab was the driving force to be a filmmaker. I want to explore the pains and cost of ‘prosperity’, ‘health’, ‘richness’ and ‘advance’ etc. that the Punjabi is undergoing. During this exploration i made a film about agriculture labour in Punjab, “Born In Debt”. I have made six other films on different issues. The study ‘Celluloid and Compact Disks In Punjab: Twin trends of Success’ is a part of attempt to know Punjab in a better way.
Contact: daljitami @ rediffmail.com
I am a freelance journalist and documentary films. After completing my masters in History and I did diploma in journalism. I am writing in Punjabi newspapers and magazines for last ten years. I have written about the socio-cultural and political issues of Punjab. I have also written on national and international issues with reference of Punjab. Rural Punjab remained focus of my writings. Six years ago I started making documentary films. I have made films about agriculture labour in Punjab that got commendation award from IDPA festival. I have done biographical films and an anti war film, Zulm Aur Aman. In Zulm Aur Aman I juxtaposed Second World War with second Gulf War on the poetry of two great Punjabi poets (of Urdu) Habib Zalib and Sahir Ludhianvi. I have made six films. In my study that I am suppose to do on SARAI fellowship I will study the contemporary films being made in Punjabi. Here is the abstract below about my study.
In recent past Punjabi film production has gone through tremendous changes of comprehensive magnitude. Two different trends have been noticed. Big budget (as compared to earlier Punjabi) films have been made on celluloid and have been able to not only recover the production cost but also earn heavy returns. With the popularization of Digital technology low budget small films have been made in large number. These small films made on video format have been successful in the market. These two trends have success as the common factor otherwise they are quite different from each other. The difference is not reduced to production format or length of the film. They are different in content and treatment. They are meant for different audiences.
Video is trying to be group or area specific whereas celluloid is broader in canvas and reach. The budget of celluloid is ranging between 20 to 30 million where as small films are being produced within one lakh. Celluloid is trying to rope in big stars from Hollywood and NRIs into its cast. Video is dependent on local artists graduating from Punjabi theatre or fresher.
The subject matter of celluloid has changed with last few years from caste or land holding based fights and triangles to emigration and lifestyle. With the change of subjects the locales of films have also shifted from open fields, tractors, horses and motorcycles to urban villas and North American landscapes. These film explore the nostalgia and problematic of settling abroad. Human relations stretched towards extreme ends under the pressures of emigration and love for motherland has been projected in these films with an eye on overseas market. Rustic males and rural females working in harem have been replaced by refined educated male-females speaking Punjabi-English mix.
The success of Bollywood films having Punjabi background opened the door for Punjabi films. Punjabi pop was already established as big hit, internationally. Punjabi films started exploring the subjects of patriotism (Sheed Udaam Singh), lovetales (Sheed-e-Mohabat Buta Singh), comedy (Mahoul Theek Hai) and emigration (Je Ayaa Nu and Asa nu Maan Vatan da). Here the producer targeted at the global market explored by Punjabi Pop and Jash Chopra-Karan Johar brand of bollywood films. A new creed of producers and actors emerged. Few years old Punjabi films and subjects started looking primitive within no time.
The decreased price of Compact Disk and its players converted lots of people into consumers of a commodity previous almost non-existent i.e. films made on video format. This medium is consumer friendly in terms of time, as it does not depend on Television or Cinema’s time schedule. Here you can see a film at your convenience. It has converted those people into audiences who don’t afford to visit cinema halls. The low cost production enables many people to make films. People involved in Punjabi theatre jumped with their subjects from stage to Compact Disk. Script of plays with minor altercations or as-it-is has been worked out into films. The market has seen a glut of such films. The subjects of these films range from social to political and economic. The films have rustic language and cheap comedy as its prominent features.
The comparative study of both these trends will help us understand the taste of audiences, constrains of medium, concerns of producers and different aspects of media economy. The comparative study of contents and treatment in both the media will be useful to understand the role of medium in shaping the subject. The limitations and possibilities of media and individuals need to be studied to understand the role of media in shaping the media tastes. The comparative analysis of both the audiences will help us form an opinion about the choices of audiences. The importance of economy in shaping the media will be interesting to explore.
The video films are uncensored or they don’t go to the market through censor board. How and what extent social censorship on these films work can be understood through interactions with people involved in the making of these films. Both these trends are trying to work out a combination of entertainment and message. This combination has been tried in different ways. The massage depends on the target audience. What massages are being coined in these trends will be an interesting variable to judge the composition of target audience. Compact Disk is delving into social problems and economic crises whereas Celluloid is exploring the emotional dilemmas.
Both these trends are economically successful although the scales of success are different. How media review these trends is another interesting variable to access the attitude of media towards these trends.
waiting for your responces
This is my second dispatch on my topic, Twin trends of success: Celluloid and Compact Disk. My exploration on the subject leads me to many interesting interactions with filmmakers who are making films on Digital format. Most of these filmmakers are beginners without any training or experience. These interactions open the space of exploration in many directions. These people are trying their hands in a profession, which was earlier considered for trained professionals. The wide range of subjects they are covering is another dimension of this phenomenon. Lack of technical training or prior experience has made them evolve their own terminology to communicate with each other while shooting. You will not hear the routine sounds supposed to be part of shooting ambience i.e. order, silence, roll camera, rolling, action, cut and okay etc. I will be writing in detail about the new language in the making in my further dispatches.
The defined roles of different departments like direction, camera, costumes, make up, sound, cast and lights have been blurred into many two/three/four-in-one types. The role of post-production has been reduced to arranging the shots and adding little bit of music along with credits and titles. I will be writing in detail about this in coming dispatches. Dialogue oriented scripts have too little to offer as far as creative space for artist is concerned. Lots of new artists can be seen imitating other well-known artists.
This trend has many interesting case stories those need to be told. I think I need to interact more and see the films more. I will come up with some case studies very soon.
Please let me know if you think there is a variable I need to take care off. Your comments and queries will help me a lot.
Failed urban exploration subjecting rural audience through compact disks
Meeting Parwaz Kaur turns out to be a very good experience. She is M.Phil in Punjabi and her topic in M.Phil. is Puadi Jalsa (a folk dance of Punjab). She is a good singer and actor herself. After doing theatre for five-six years she along with her colleagues turn out to be initiator of the trend of films made with small budgets and sold as compact disks in local market. She is an insider of the story but her dispassionate analysis do not carry insider’s hang over. She identify this trend as rural as she stresses that its audience as well as language and topics are those with whom rural audience can identify themselves. Most of the films have been constructed from the scenes taken as it is or adapted from mainstream films or plays. Mainstream formulas of item songs have been used in these films as the rural characters (in kurta pyzama or Chadra-kurta) dance with models in their dreams. Hindi blockbuster Mugley Azam has been distorted into Murge Hazm.
Parwaz explained the economy of these films from artists’ point of view, “Payments depend upon your equation with the producer. Only few artists are paid not to talk of well. Rest of the artists are makeshift or are Bollywood aspirants. They are there either for fun or to improve their acting skills. Some aspirants from well to do families even pay to act in these films.” While talking about the female artists Parwaz is very candid but certain that ‘on the sets female artists are treated as items and in their cases the exploitation is not only economic in nature.’
What drive these people to be part of this small industry if it has too small to offer and that too to a selected few? Parwaz responds, “Many reasons are there. Different people come for different reasons. There are artists who wants to act and move to Bollywood for better opportunities. They are there to rehearse their skills. Some established models are working on token payments as they feel that the career of model can’t be long so they need to learn the things that can be learnt while working on fiction. Some people want to invest in the industry they are there to explore investment options. These people will do business of equipment related to filmmaking. These are trying to feel the pulse of newly developing profession. There are failed artists trying to assert their worth and looking for opportunities on the bigger screen. Some people are Bollywood-returns who are improving their bio-datas. A selective few are making money.” Her response if stretched further can lead us to conclude that this small industry in just a via media for personal ends. Those who could not assert themselves at urban place are subjecting rural audience to their ends. Technology helped them reach out to the audience that was out of the reach of mainstream. How these films respond to the aspirations of makers and audience is to be analysed? Are the makers imposing their understanding on the audience or are they responding to the audience’s aspirations? These are the questions that arose from the interaction with Parwaz. Thanks Parwaz.
Farmers’ suicides and Compact Disks.
With the collapse of Green Revolution the peasantry of Punjab is in crisis. The manifold crisis is being manifested in rising debts, increasing social tension and suicides. Social scientists and journalists are obviating it through studies and reports. The telefilm industry has also responded to this through two films i.e. Karza (Debt) and Rulda Jatt (Suffering Farmer). These two films are exception in the overall trend of comedy and masala films. Both these films have been released by a Bathinda based Audio-Video company Priya. These films have remarkable similarities of theme, language and end. The language is Malbi (a dialect of Punjabi spoken in the south of Satluj river), the theme is indebtedness of peasantry and end is suicide by the farmers. In Rulda Jatt the farmer commits suicide and in Karza the farmer’s whole family commit suicide.
The treatment of these films shows the story is to narrate the things rather then things being natural part of the story. The films have one location (village) and most of the action happens in the house of farmers. The dialogue seems to be lines of an article rather then part of natural conversation.
The sound track of these films has been made in completely unorthodox manner. We are familiar with play back singing but here we have play back artists. The dialogues are recorded in advance and artists take care of lip sync during shooting as the dialogues are played on audio player. In Karza a male voice has been used on three characters whereas a female voice have been used for two characters. No location sound or ambience sound is there whereas there is action going on that is supposed to make sounds. In both the films the tradition story telling singing style (Dhadhi) has been used. In Rulda Jatt the singing and dialogues are in continuity of story whereas in Karza the songs are to add masala (dream sequence, item song) or emotive appeal.
Almost all the artists and both the directors are new to the medium. The Director of Karza has experience of making music video so the hand held camera, crane and track has been used as they are being used in music videos. In the films village seems to be laughing at itself, as there is no other reason to laugh.
Ghabbar’s son is grown up; Poolan and Laden are in the same gang
When Jai and Biru killed Gabbar Singh in Sholey his wife migrated to Punjab with their son, Jabbar. On his father’s footsteps Jabbar is the name in Punjab, mothers use to make their kid keep quiet. Jabbar is equipped with Baseball sticks leaving his father’s two-barrel guns in the hills of Ramnagar. His mode of mobility is new brand motorbikes rather then horses running in hill terrains. Hairstyle and costume is similar to his father. His choices are different from last generation. This time his art-loving nature does not entrap him in police ambush rather Mahbobba-Mahboobba is performed at his Adda. He has to take revenge of his father’s death from Thakur who kick his father to death. Jabbar got the news that Thakur died sometime ago — Jai and Basanti are untraceable. One day Jabbar lands in police station by mistake in an over-drunk state to be freed by his colleagues under the leadership of Sambah’s new incarnation Tambah.
This time five colleagues of Jabbar have returned unsuccessfully so they have to be punished but his revolver has six cartridges. Unlike his father he does not fire the extra round in air as he value ammunition so a sixth person is added. This is not about Sholey remake that Ram Gopal Verma is attempting. This is Dilawar Sidhu directed Murg-e-Hazm released by T-Series on compact disk. Punjab police equipped with rickshaw, cycle and sticks is chasing Jabbar.
The lower caste women fight on trivial issues and expose each other’s pre/extra marital relations with upper caste men. The husband-wife fights seem to be perennial part of their lives. The film is an eighty-five minute long melodrama placed in central malwa region of Punjab. Two spoilt brats are making fool of everyone and promise to convert a donkey into man at the cost of rupees five hundred. When converted man is demanded they identify Jabbar who has refused to accept that he was a donkey. The two ladies (played by males), dressed shabbily and speaking foul language chase and allure him with green grass.
The mood swings of the characters and film are far better then any electrically operated seesaw. Police personnel use every opportunity to make money but change themselves, suddenly, to take care of needy and arrest Jabbar. When police is back to its money making business Jabbar break jail in his father’s style.
Continuing the same story in the second part, Sabh Pharhe Jaange (Everyone will be arrested) Jabbar has new allies and foes. In the changed situation Jabbar want to revenge his arrest. Those who arrested him have been suspended. Jabbar and police are following two suspended police personnel, separately. They are trying to save themselves by disguising as different characters. Jabbar reaches the home of police officer to find that his lost sister is married to the police officer. The sister pledge to avenge his brother’s humiliation and kill her own husband. Here is Phoolan in the Jabbar’s gang. They have the support of Mr. Lenh Denh (literally give take). He is look like of Bin Laden and ready to train Jabbar in hijacking the plain to hit them into the two-storey house of Police Officers. This way Jabbar has cross border connection to avenge the humiliation he suffered when he was arrested.
Suspended police personnel (dressed as females) survive molestation as Jhabbar lends helping hand to free them from the rival group. Jabbar is in love with his enemy who is in female attire. Jabbar chase her (him) and wash dishes for her (him) at roadside Dhaba. Mr. Lenh Denh bombards the Dhaba to take Jabbar back.
In the end police did what even America could not. They arrest Mr. Lenh Denh and an award is expected from the American government. Mr. Lenh Denh talks of his human bombs whereas Jabbar is hopeful that his sister will return after training abroad to get him free.
It is quite possible that we may get the third film in which Phoolan is central character; Biru and Basanti have been traced with their two-dozen children and many more grandchildren… imagine Biru as doing finance business or driving old modeled tractor and waiting for Basanti. What about Basanti coming on her moped named Dhano…
Rendezvous with Mahboob; Content and audience are important
Meeting Mahboob Brar and talking about the recent trends in film making in Punjab turned out to be very good experience on more than one account. He is 23 years old Punjabi Documentary filmmaker. His debut film, The Golden Curse, is about agrarian crises in Punjab which received critical acclaim. He has recently taken the exams of Masters in Mass Communication from regional campus Jalandhar of Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar. His views are of a documentary filmmaker, young urban student and concerned Punjabi being. He is serious about filmmaking and is aspiring for admission in Film and Television Institute, Pune.
Mahbood had just finished a short film as assistant with a debut filmmaker, Shiva. This upcoming film, Alia, seems to be different from the ongoing trend. Mahboob told that it is based on a story written by Mohinder Singh Sarna. Alia is a period film which belongs to pre-partitioned Punjab. We need to wait for this film. Mahboob let Shiva know that we are waiting for his film.
Mahboob shared his views about the recent Punjabi films, short as well as full length feature films. Mahboob feels that this trend of short films is not serious about film as it is mere commercial venture. He feels that profit making is an integral part of the filmmaking but it is not the end in itself. He asserts, “Content is very important. It should be sensible. When these films set the standards it makes audience used to meaningless entertainment.” He goes on and questions, “What about film as a medium, its constructive role and developmental communication?” Mahboob thinks of films as visual literature which should be long lasting and thought provoking.
When it is the issue of audience Mahboob has a responsibility which he feels that every filmmaker should carry. “Apart from solutions and catharsis the filmmaker should make sure that audience does not feel cheated.” he adds, “Solutions and ideologies are must. If you claim to make entertainer it should be pure entertainer.”
Talking about celluloid in Punjabi Mahboob feels that Manmohan Singh made trend setter in the form of ‘Jee Aya Nu’ but after its success they are just repeating the same formula. Mahboob sees versatility in South Indian cinema and feels that it is possible in Punjab also which is not short of talent and ideas. He is off the opinion that new maker are capable of executing the change. A change that is sensible and serious about film as medium. Only new initiatives can change the content and make issues more important in addition to film as serious engagement. Film is an important tool for him that enables the maker to interact with larger audience.
While comparing the short and full length films Mahboob analyse the similarities and dissimilarities. He thinks that catering masses, entertaining and raising issues are the similarities while the content and market are different. He emphasise that celluloid is more professional, sensible and serious. When asked about the possible life of the trend of short films he replied that this is going to be there. Format can change to any new innovation as it has happened from VHS to Compact Disk now it can be from CD/DVD to any thing new. It is high time to edit the scattered thoughts of Mahboob in a coherent idea. It sounds certain that we have a thinking filmmaker in the making. All the best, Mahboob.
Role of entertainer and market forces
Gurchet Chitarkar started his career as painter and went on to be a filmmaker. During his journey to a filmmaker he worked as theatre artist, orchestra dancer (transvestite), folk dancer, comedian and coordinator. He experimented with the video medium and produced the trendsetter for films on Compact Disks. His theme, language and audience remained, predominantly, from central Malwa. He familiarized the rural audience to the commodity hitherto unknown to them and effectively translated that initiative into consumer base. The crashing prices of Compact Disks and Compact Disk players contributed as they coincided with his audience. His audience was devoid of films so they took whatever came to them. Gurchet Chitarkar used this ignorance or vacuum to his benefited. His content started with glamorized/stylized social issues and went on make mimicry of serious issues. His producer become T-Series as they realized his consumer base and initially purchased his film from local Cassette company then produced his films. The profitable market left him with no space to think. He went for quantity leaving behind rationality, cultural sensibility and human dignity. His film Family-420 is proper representation of this trend. Abusive children trivialized family relations. Septuagenarian grandfather brought a Haryanvi. The woman has agreed to live-in because of her greed for good food. She has left behind a good number of children behind; the reality got exposed in the end. Most of the film is has dialogues, which are either to tease other one or conspire against other one. Every relation (involving male-female) seems to be bondage and they seem to be living together just to demean each other. Grandchildren talk as they are talking to newly wed elder brother. The low caste women are conspiring to make the father and sons separate.
After Family-420 Gurchet went on to make Family-421, a desperate attempt to maintain market. His efforts to continue after Family-420 make him leave the meaning of 420 (fraud) irrelevant. This time Grandfather went on to purchase a Bihari woman. Rest of the matter is same; children are more abusive, castist and conspiring. The hollowness of dislodge has increased every character has a personal motive and scores to settle with other. These films are just demeaning women in general and in-migrated women in particular. I kept on thinking by the dialogues given to children should not be charged under legal provisions against child abuse. What are limits of space and time in which these dialogues can be placed? These films provide ample space to discuss the role of entertainer in society and market forces. Is entertainer just a non-thinking supplier to meet the ‘demands’ or they have a role in society?
Historical episode ahistorical names and trivialising history
Religious theme is no exception for the new trend of Compact Disk revolution. The exception is not confined to the fact the religious themes have been tried on new medium but the treatment to these themes in also not exception. An hour long film, Saka-a-Sirhind by TPM is one such film. The film directed by Dilawar Sidhu, a theatre artist turned film director, is based on an episode from the life of Guru Gobind Singh’s younger sons. They were killed by the Nawab of Sirhind when their cook, Gangu, handed them over to Nawab along with their mother Gujri better known as Mata Gujri. The film has dialogues on the pattern as described in my previous dispatches. The long one to one dialogues have no sense of historicity or authenticity. The anchor based film has certain notable points. The anchor dressed in the headgear associated with males or a section of religious sikh females is an attempt to make the narrative masculine whereas this episode revolves around Mata Gujri for her courage, affection and conviction of thought. Her character has been further trivialised in the dialogues where her character loose the feminine grace it is suppose to have.
Recently a trend has been initiated by a section of sikh fundamentalists where they have appropriated the names of certain historical figures to suit their own ends. The change of Mata Gujri to Gujr Kaur is one such appropriation. The anchor of this film addresses Mata Gujri as Gujr Kaur. Similarly another character is addressed as Anup Kaur. It will be worth writing about the role of Kaur as second name for females. Kaur was similar to Singh for females. It became popular during late seventeenth and early eighteenth century. In this context writing Kaur as second name for those who lived prior to that period is anachronistic and ahistorical. Above all there seems to be fundamentalist design behind such appropriations. The film simply lacks any sense of time. The anchor does not mention about the time and space the whole story is placed in.
Over acting by the cast (with no exception) and larger than life gestures trivialise history. Two characters are offering prayer in very uncomfortable situation but sitting very comfortably in a quilt. The whole vocabulary is of contemporary sikh religious preachers rather than of the time this particular episode is supposed to represent. The epithets bestowed to characters posthumously by next generations in lieu of the help they lend to younger sons of Guru Gobind Singh have been offered in the film by contemporaries on the condition of help required.
This film has almost all sort of thematic and technical problems. This film can be an example of use of the technology without any justification. The use of crane, track and wide angle lance further vulgarise the content.
How the audience receive such film can be an interesting variable to understand their perception of the film. The composition of the audience of this film can enable us to understand how this film can be approached by the audience? Is that audience has other options or not seems to be the most important question at the moment.
ANACHRONISTIC COMEDY; WHO THE AUDIENCE ARE
The film named Fauji Di Family (Soldier’s family) is claimed (on wrapper) to be a family comedy film. The film could have been a comedy on Punjabi society during fifties or sixties. This sort of comedy used to be part of All India Radio broadcasts during those times. During these times the society has been more literate and with the passage of time many words of English and Hindi have become part of Punjabi language. These reach of these words is not confined to literates as it used to be. When the literacy used to very thin any word from other language used to create confusion and laughter. With the increase of literacy, larger service sector, better means of transportation and influx of migrant labour the scenario is not same again. It is not going to be same again. The comedy that AIR used to broadcast was not only comedy but awareness also.
The film under discussion relies on those days comedy although it is no way period film. A soldier posts a letter to his parents to send his family. The whole village is unaware of the word FAMILY and search every nook and corner of the surrounding. Similar situations are there when the soldier goes to his in-laws’ house and ask for SALAD, when he complains about the loose CHARPAI (Hindi word for cot), use of words like LATIRINE, LOOSE MOTION and PATLOON (trousers) create comedy situations. These words are everyday use in Punjab irrespective of the literacy levels.
These words have entered in the social milieu through social practice and intra cultural interactions. Punjab has large number of migrant labour that made many words part of Punjabi language. It is beyond imagination to find an audience which is unfamiliar of these words like. The large number of English and Semi English medium school definitely add English words to the social interaction without any distinction whether you go to those schools or not. Large number of students are coming out of those schools and interacting in the society. Now marriage is no more a function which involves voluntary community labour for cooking and other arrangement. The function involves large number of cooking, serving and arrangement professionals. The vocabulary of these professionals caters to urban-rural, rich-poor and literate-illetrate masses, irrespectively. How can this society laugh at confusion crated by words like SALAD? How can these commonly used words create confusions?
This film is one of the successful ones in the market. It is really interesting to imagine the constituency of its audience. The film maker, Gurcharan Virk, claims that common people are like this and they want this. This is the logic behind most of the masala Bollywood films and music videos shown on television channels. When we look for that common person like this and wants this, search became endless. Every person talks that this is for common person. This comment is always by an outsider, be it maker or critic. From the surface this perception sounds shallow and gross underestimation of rural illiterate people. It seems that the audience of this film is choice less as rest of the means of entertainment are out of reach. This type of film shows characters which are of lower status than their own. This imagery lower status person and thoughtless vacuum created by these films makes them successful at whatever small scale they are. The production of such films for imaginary common person sounds superiority complex of middle class which lower class share as audience as they have someone (inferior to them) even if as characters of the film.
Hello every body
Meeting Amarjot Bhasin, Executive Producer, Choice turn out to be very god interaction in order to understand the Compact Disk trend in Punjab. Choice is a Ludhiana based company which deals with production and whole sale distribution of Audio and Videos. Amarjot has the experience of marketing and production. He was able to comment on the over all trend, its audience and production stakes.
With the introduction of Compact Disk in market films became assessable for those who don’t afford to go to theatre and who don’t have their own Video Cassette players. In the beginning when manufacturing was foreign based, Malaysia and Singapore the manufacturing cost of Compact Disk used to sixty to seventy rupees with additions of transportation, commissions and profit the MRP used to be between 400 to 500 rupees. When the manufacturing started in India the whole cost and prices collapsed like any thing, Delhi based production costs 20-25 rupees and MRP happens to be 100 to 150. The local manufacturing contributed to further reduction in prices. With manufacturing costs decreased to 15-16 the MRP became 55 to 65 per compact disk. Now the manufacturing cost is Rs. 8/- which gives lower MRP i.e. Rs. 35/-.
The phenomenon of media (CD) prices is not isolated from the prices of VCD Player. Branded VCD Player by any company used to cost above six thousand rupees. Local made VCD players made the prices crash down to fifteen to twenty hundred. Now the prices of VCD players are 1000 to 1200 rupees.
This crash in prices created new buyers for the unfamiliar item. Those who were fed up with monotonous television programming and do not have the option of multi channel television network or theatre became the automatic buyer. This enable buyer and experiment in short film were perfect in timing with each other. Earlier VCD of films made on celluloid was available in the market, video music was there but local made film to be circulated on new medium turn out to be new entry.
Amarjot told that with the successful experiment of two short films the market become glutted within no time. Many people tried their hand on the film as the lower production costs enabled them to produce. Amarjot watched this phenomenon very closely and he feels that these films were of comprehensively low quality but they utilised the vacuum in the market. He found that it was really difficult to connect with the silly characters. The sudden demand made available saleable and give the impression of desirability. Every company produced or purchased from the producers to meet the demand. The companies purchased the films in the range of one lakh to seven lakhs. This trend was short lived and crashed VCD player’s way. Amarjot made it a point that many producer invested money for profit but very soon they found no buyer. He shares that some producers very ready to give films without any money they just wanted companies to release these films under their banners and pay according to sale. This phenomenon was mainly rural based and buyer got fed up with monotony very soon. Market reached the saturation point.
Poorly made ‘social’ films were no more in demand, comedy replaced. Market enabled producers were no more in demand. Now it was time for established comedians to try their hand. Amarjot produced four comedy films with established comedians, Jaspal Bhatti as one of them. The production cost of these films in high due to star cast. These cost six lakh to sixteen lakh depending upon the cast. The comedy trend is not rural or area specific it is pan Punjab trend reaching rural and urban audience.
Amarjot support his argument about the poor quality of films with whom the trend started by the fact that many company were not ready to produce this sub standard stuff under their ‘prestigious banners’ so they floated new companies for such productions. Choice as mother company floated ‘Ting Ling’, ‘Desi Tunes’ and ‘Amrit Sagar’ for different kind of productions. Plasma started Grind music, Velocity Records started Music Velocity, Speed started B-line and Music waves started 4sure Music. These new companies were floated to release region or genre specific productions but very soon it turn out to be division of work and tax saving exercise.
IZZAT: dishonouring life
Imagine you have been invited to see a newly made film in a private circle by the maker. What sort of questions can you ask? Would you ask for the caste composition of the team? I, personally, dislike such questions. But that is the question I asked, for I say the situation left me choiceless. So I asked, and the response was very quick, firm and certain. The respondents were the producer, the director and the co-producer. The reply was that not only they but their whole cast is from Jat Sikh (upper caste sikhs) background. The answer was not unexpected but certainly left me even more uncomfortable. The other questions in my mind were about their understanding of women, minorities, patriarchy, masculinity and caste equations. I could not ask these questions and choose to understand these issues from the film.
Gurchet Chitarkar has remained usual name in my earlier postings. He initiated the trend of short films in Punjabi and is still supposed to be the most successful entrepreneur. His recent film is IZZAT, a real story. He was in my city, Chandigarh. His colleagues invited me and I was quick in response as I was desperate to interact with Gurchet. I have talked to him on phone and had a short meeting earlier but never got the chance to talk to him at length.
To begin with, an off the cuff remark: this film is technically (cinematographically) better compared to his earlier films. With fewer continuity jerks and less jerky editing it can be said that this team is growing in grammatical aspects. Three different locations have been used whereas rest of his films are based in single locations. The transitions of the film are based on stock shots of location and nature (sunrise and sunset) which looks awkward.
I will focus on the content of the film. Like rest of his films this film is also placed in Malwa region. The film starts with a happy family of parents having two sons and a youngest daughter. The daughter (Channi) is the most loved in the family. This upper caste family lives in a big house supposed to be of any big landlord family. The brothers have a lower caste friend (Gurmukh) whom they treat as a family member.
An upper caste youth had an abusive interaction with lower caste women. The exchange of chosen gendered and castist remarks crosses every limit of decency, after he teased them. The village panchayat punishes that youth after similar exchange in their presence. Gurmukh and Channi are in love with each other and they run away with jewellery and cash. Channi’s parents commit suicide and younger brother got killed in a fight with villagers when they tease him about the elopement of Channi. The elder brother got the revenge and landed in jail.
Channi was sold in Uttar Pradesh. A Hindi speaking well dressed woman (pimp) living in huts has purchased her for two lakh rupees and sell her to earn one lakh rupees as profit. Why such profit making business is being run from huts? The pimp let a customer rape her in her hut. The door of the hut has prominently written 786 on it. These alphabets are prominent characters as compared to the living matter moving around.
The return of Channi from that place has been punctuated with two more rapes. One of the rapists is temple priest. What better treatment one can expect after questioning the patriarchical norms? Her journey is full of taunts, teachings and remorse emanating from patriarchal values and masculine hegemony. Her repentances forcefully endorse these values. The only ‘help’ she receives after sermons of patriarchal honour of males is a compulsive favour from a baptised Sikh.
The youth punished for eve teasing exposes Gurmukh to fulfil his ‘moral responsibility’. This exposure leads to a jailbreak and subsequent murder of Gurmukh. The lower caste women welcome Channi with all sorts of explitives; honour, moral, social and class issues. Channi losses her mental balance and in the last shot she is being stoned by children. The background scores states that honour is ‘ones lost for ever’ matter and ‘impure women can’t be purified’ and so on.
After this film would you like to ask the question I asked violating my own ethics?
Seriously understanding the non-serious
Ferozepur, faridkot, Gurdaspur, Amritsar and Pathankot are Districts of Indian Punjab bordering with Pakistani Punjab. This area has unique features on cultural, linguistic, and geographical accounts. This area could not contribute much in Film Industry after partition despite having big names of Bollywood like Muhammad Rafi and Balraj Sahni from this area. Partition of Punjab happens to be cultural displacement of this area from broader scene.
During recent trend of Compact Disks, film aspirants from this area also tried their hand on film making. The reason and aspirations of the film makers from this area are not different from those of other area. Harinder Bhullar did his BA, B Ed., DPEd., ITI, ETT and is about to join as elementary teacher in a government school. He was ignored as comedian by college seniors and cultural co-ordinators during college days. He could not get chance on stage to show his talent. He tried his luck in films as artist (in short films) but nobody offered him role without money. He did a role in a religious film (Dhan Baba Badhbagh Singh) but the role doesn’t have any dislodge. Irritated Harinder Bhullar decided to produce his own film. Meanwhile he was writing articles on entertainment industry and sports personalities. He developed good relations with established Punjabi comedians. When he produced the film, Duniya Bigad Gayi, he took six bites of these people as best wishes and used these bites as prelude of the film. He says that he was unknown so these stars provided known faces which facilitated his film to reach the audience. These six faces are on the CD Cover which definitely makes audience think about their role in the film.
This first film is a compilation of skits, one find really difficult to laugh upon. Leaving apart the treatment part this film rustically introduces the phenomena of music industry and Multilevel Marketing from rural prospective. This film has found new minority to demean, linguistic. Two characters of the film speak a particular dialect of Punjabi which Rai Sikh community speaks. These are foolish characters demeaning Rai Sikh sensibility. Rai Sikh community lives on the border in Ferozepur and Faridkot districts of Punjab. Despite being educationally backward thin minority, they are known for their wisdom. Most probably this dialect has been introduced in the film for the first time.
Through his links Harinder Bhullar found an NRI, Avtar Lakha, who agreed to be the presenter of the film if his photograph is added in the film and published on the cover. He paid 50, 000 Indian rupees for this. Harinder spent 80,000 on the film and sold it to Peritone, an audio video company for 65,000.
After producing his first film in 2004 Harinder produced his second film, Desi Sholey, in 2006. This remake of Sholey, a super hit Bollywood film of seventies, could not attract the buyer. Harinder ended up requesting the companies to release the film free of cost. World Touch, another local company, agreed to release but asked for the cost if posters are to be published for advertisement. Harinder paid another 3,000 to get the posters printed.
Harinder is no more interested in making films as he feels that the trend has reached saturation point. He is planning for a comedy cassette as he thinks that ‘audio cassette can fetch stage shows’ for him. People don’t take film seriously as they think us to be artists not comedians.
Is the person not taken seriously by college seniors, fellow comedians, film audience, and video companies deserves to be taken seriously? My answer is YES, he is important to understand the ongoing phenomena? Aspirations, market equations, desperation and technology have brought us face to face with a situation never experienced in History. Harinder is a character who is living this piece of history.