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'This is just the tip of the iceberg'
Jimmy Shergill is the biggest star in the Punjabi film industry today. He talks to TOI-Crest about the new buzz around Punjabi films.
How did you get into Punjabi films?
Manmohan Singh was the cinematographer of my first film, Maachis, directed by Gulzar saab. One day, he asked me if I'd like to work in a Punjabi film and I said I'd love to. It was a youthful film, Yaaran Naal Baharan, which targeted the Punjab and the NRI market. It was a blockbuster and became a big hit with young viewers.
The Punjabi film market is currently worth Rs 50-crore. How far do you think it can grow?
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Punjabi movies have big potential not only in Punjab but also abroad, in countries like Canada, Australia and the UK. The US is still largely untapped. Within India too, there are regions where Punjabi movies could do well - the Delhi-NCR region, for example. Then there are pockets like Patna, Kanpur and areas in Mumbai.
What is the strength of Punjabi films?
The Punjabi culture has a unique appeal. A film with a Punjabi backdrop or a Punjabi song has its own USP. Punjabi culture also cuts across societies. For example, two songs by Mika and Rabbi Shergill from Dharti were played on channels like MTV, Channel [V] and Colors, reflecting their pan-India appeal. Secondly, the Punjabi filmgoer is very emotional and potentially, might show the madness you see in movie fans down South.
One allegation against the current crop of Punjabi films is that they could be set anywhere, that there is no Punjabi culture in them.
I would say that we are still in the early stage of revival. For example, I am often asked why there is no Punjabi period film. The fact is that period films cost a lot of money. To make an off-beat film, we first need to get people into the theatres. I would say there has to be an gross return of Rs 20-25 crore per film for money to be invested in offbeat films;if the figure reaches Rs 60-70 crore, that would be fantastic.
Your production house has tied up with Eros International to produce four Punjabi films ...
Yes, the first one, Taur Mitran Di, is out and the second film is almost ready. I am not acting in these two but have a role in the third film, Rangeeley, which we start shooting in September-October.
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