Dominance of Punjab in Hindi Films
[dropcap]H[/dropcap]indi commercial cinema is all about larger than life, exuberant and vivacious film stories and Punjabi culture is the most classic illustration of it. Punjabis and Bollywood tremendously complement each other. For several decades, the Hindi film industry has been ruled by Punjabis who came from in and around Lahore that is considered to be the Punjabi city of Pakistan.
Be it Karan Johar, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Ekta Kapoor, Ramesh Sippy, Yash Chopra or Subhash Ghai, they all have Punjabi blood running in their veins and the same essence is expressed in their movies. Since they have been the most dominant players of Bollywood, it’s quite natural for them to exhibit what they know i.e. their extroverted cultural beauty. In one way or the other, they have brought their Punjabi sensibilities and understanding in the milieu and dialogues of their films. Their vital Punjabi genes seem fairly apparent in their approach of storytelling.
Not only filmmakers but a lot of actors also belong to this rich northern state. Since the golden age of cinema, we have had the good fortune of being entertained by talented stars like Dev Anand, Balraj Sahni, Jeetendra, Sunil Dutt, Dara Singh, Rajesh Khanna and Dharmendra who were all bred in the heartlands of Punjab. Even most of the star kids today such as Arjun Kapoor, Varun Dhawan, Aditya Roy Kapoor and Parineeti Chopra have had a Punjabi upbringing. Also, one cannot ignore the Kapoor clan of Lyallpur that has given us four generations of wonderful actors starting from Prithviraj Kapoor, his sons Raj, Shammi and Shashi, their children Rishi and Randhir, and the present generation of Karisma, Kareena and Ranbir.
Most of the great writers and lyricists that Hindi cinema has ever seen are also connected to Lahore. For example, Sajjad Zaheer, father of Nadira Babbar, Jan Nisar Akhtar, father of Javed Akhtar, Kaifi Azmi, father of Shabana, Majrooh Sultanpuri and Gulzar (original name Sampoorn Singh) share a deep and old connection with this historic town. Punjabi is one such language that India and its neighboring country Pakistan, both acknowledge as their own and that could be a major reason why most of our commercial films entail Punjabiyaat in them.
It’s actually quite intriguing to see how Punjabi culture has become such an integral part of Hindi films over the years. Even the artistic Indian cinema is now helmed by Punjabi filmmakers such as Gurinder Chadha, Deepa Mehta and Mira Nair. But what’s more surprising is the recent arrival of filmmakers like Shoojit Sircar and Imtiaz Ali who despite being non-Punjabis captured the Punjabi ethos so authentically that even the Punjabi filmy clan is amazed at it. Shoojit’s Vicky Donor and Imtiaz Ali’s Jab We Met both depicted true Punjabi characters such as Vicky and Geet on screen respectively. In fact Imtiaz’s next two films i.e. Love Aaj Kal and Rockstar also portrayed the innate feel of north, set against the backdrop of Delhi.
Then, there is a talented filmmaker like Dibakar Banerjee, who made the audiences believe in his Punjabi characters without even making them speak many Punjabi dialogues. In both his movies, Khosla Ka Ghosla and Oye Lucky Lucky Oye, he kept the authenticity of north and his desi characters intact.
There must be something unique about this culture that every established storyteller is profusely adopting the themes of Punjab. Their fun-filled rituals and wedding ceremonies impart a huge entertainment value to an otherwise simple film. ‘Bhangra’ has gradually become the customary Indian expression of celebration for filmy weddings. Punjabi language and tradition have such a universal appeal that right from the masses to the classes, nobody gets bored of a Punjabi overdose. Also, there is a huge NRI audience overseas that relishes the over the top extravagant Punjab-centered films. Punjabi culture being extremely loud and refreshing makes for natural entertainment for them.
After Saif Ali Khan and Rani Mukherjee who played turbaned Sikhs in Love Aaj Kal and Dil Bole Hadippa respectively, many other mainstream actors have had been cast in beautiful Punjabi roles. The real Punjabi Munda, Akshay Kumar actually became the first Sikh romantic hero on screen. He not only bestowed comic relief but also a sweet pining feel of love in his film, Singh is Kinng. Nowadays, you can see every subsequent film flavored with Punjabi words like makhna, soni, kudi, mauja, tussi, puttar and so on.
One of the hugely admired films that showcased Punjab with enormous glitter and glam is undoubtedly Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge directed by Aditya Chopra. There’s no other Bollywood movie that comes close to it in capturing the classic mustard fields, spirit of karva chauth and dynamic dhol beats. The appeal of Punjab is so engaging that even the most original filmmaker Anurag Kashyap got influenced and adapted the hardcore Bengali character of Devdas into a modern-day Punjabi version with Dev D.
Apart from the lively characters and stories, the trans-cultural Punjabi music is another element that peps up our Hindi films. Just look at any film of the Chopras or Johars who love to set their dance numbers around Punjabi lyrics. For example, “Sanu velle kehnde” from Student of the year or “Jhalla ki labhda phire” from Jab Tak Hai Jaan got immensely popular despite the fact that not many people understood their meaning. But our Indian audience still finds pleasure in this kind of music.
That is the magic of Punjabi tracks and beats, which get your feet tapping as soon as you listen to them. The escalating trend of item songs in movies has yet again increased the demand of Punjabi composers in Bollywood. The most recent rage among all is Honey Singh; the punjabi rapper who became a household name after his music album International Villager hit the market. Till date, he has composed tracks like “Main sharabi” from Cocktail, “Kikli kalerdi” from Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana and the latest one “Lungi dance” for Chennai Express.
The success of several recently released films such as Band Baaja Baraat, Do Dooni Chaar, Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya, Bittoo Boss and Son of Sardar has yet again reaffirmed the penchant for Punjabi settings and characters among audiences. Though, movies like Barfi and Kahaani garnered appreciation and introduced the audience towards a new variety of cinema, yet the tunes of ‘balle- balle’ and ‘shaava shaava’ continue to retain their own charm. Bollywood’s love affair with Punjab seems to be never-ending, as filmmakers’ obsession for Punjabiness tends to be ever increasing.