By Sukant Deepak
New Delhi, June 11 (SocialNews.XYZ) Violence lurks somewhere in the dark. Maybe inside. The restless calm, the suggestions of consequences. The minimal bottom score ensures comfort is far from close. Cool looks do more than cold metal in leather cases.
But then it’s the Punjabi cinema of Gurvinder Singh (‘An Ghore Da Daan’, ‘Chauthi Koot’ and others), Anup Singh (‘Qissa’), Jatinder Mauhar (‘Qissa Punjab’, ‘Sade Ale’) or Rajeev Kumar (‘Chamm’).
And they rarely get full houses.
While for many serious Punjabi filmmakers even a theatrical release is a distant mirage, mainstream Punjabi cinema with a lab-tested formula — a medley of love stories, gang warfare, part shot in Chandigarh (even though the film is based in rural Punjab); it’s about setting the box office on fire effortlessly with loudness in every department imaginable. Here, the thematic essence, social relevance and technical prowess are not there.
For an industry that produced its first sound film, “Heer Ranjha” in 1932, and a society where the mode of complacency has become a way of life, it is ironic that despite producing fine literature, its Cinema has generally failed to look beyond the physicality of violence and failed to unearth the various draws and contrasts that plague society here, as everywhere else.
The argument that this is an easy way out for filmmakers is flawed, that this is what people want to see – a very superficial reading of the phenomenon.
For those who have watched Jatinder Mauhar’s ‘Qissa Punjab’, which revolves around the drug problem in Punjab, it’s obvious the script had plenty of room for violence – but it chose to hold back, intentionally suffocating the audience sometimes. This is precisely why the impact of an impending disaster can be seen in almost every image.
He tells IANS: “Unfortunately, for most directors here, only two types of films can be made: love stories or an action film. There is no grey. In this clearly brutal classification , love stories are about chasing a woman even if she’s the least interested, but will eventually give in, full of slapstick comedy and enough two-way dialogue.”
“When it comes to action movies, just follow the stunts straight out of South Indian or Hollywood movies and make sure the protagonist is more flexible than Superman. How can you suppose what’s shown on screen won’t affect young audiences, that they won’t ape their idols?”
In his latest film, ‘Sade Aale’, where violence plays a central role, not even a slap was shown on screen…”Where is the need? Also, when you show violence in its manifestation physical, isn’t that a way to normalize it?”
He has the impression that seeing the action represented, one wonders from which part of the state does it come? Stressing that the argument that people want to see such films, the reason they are made, is unfounded, he adds: “The public never decides. It is the prerogative of the director and the producer. They show what they love and lend that perspective to the audience,” he says.
Citing the example of Marathi cinema which mostly saw comedies made before the year 2000, Mauhar says, “After a few serious films have become blockbuster hits, most producers want a socially relevant and serious project. What does that mean ? major production houses in Punjab decide that out of 10 films they make, two should be serious and problem-oriented. Wouldn’t that be a doable experiment? »
The well-known poet and writer Desraj Kali, who has observed Punjabi society closely for decades, also as a Dalit activist, believes that the vulgar display of wealth, the obsession with weapons and the deep caste divisions that are reflected in Punjabi cinema and new-age songs dating back to the Green Revolution.
“In the 1980s, a new wealthy Jatt farmer emerged. There was immense wealth, but not the education and exposure on how to use it,” says Kali. “The need to celebrate economic development has led to several socio-cultural shifts. This has manifested in jeeps, licensed guns and all things noisy.”
“Now even the Jatts with small land holdings who didn’t have that kind of land and wealth yearned for it. It created a market for those singers and filmmakers to cater to. Young people listening to such songs and watching those movies had to necessarily be magnetized.”
Talk to her about the violence and male pride reflected in the region’s mainstream content, and Kali says it’s not a new phenomenon. “Look at the singer Chamkila, who is almost revered. His songs were mostly double meanings, for him being a Punjabi man was about beating his wife. Even the sexual act had to be violent.”
Affirming that this does not mean that serious work is not being done in the region, he regrets that the quantity is far too low. “Many filmmakers here whose films go to Cannes and Venice don’t even have a theatrical release in Punjab. What more can I say?”
On the growing obsession with personal firearms, Kali observes, “Someone should research the large number of gun licenses that were approved under Akali’s regime.”
“A few years ago, no Jatt wedding would be complete unless a few shots were fired into the air at the wedding palace. Now try to explain to me the logic of firing at a ceremony of wedding ?”