The Evolution of Punjabi Cinema: From its Infancy to Contemporary Times

Let’s look at the fascinating journey of the Punjabi film industry from the past to contemporary times.

The Punjabi language has acquired significant popularity worldwide, thanks to Bollywood, which has promoted the language, music, dance, and culture through many movies. There is a distinct Punjabi flavour in every other Hindi movie that has made it one of the country’s most understood languages. However, while Punjabi flavour has flourished in the mainstream cinema, the Punjabi film industry is still limited to a specific target audience.

The Punjabi film industry is over a hundred years old and one of India’s first internationally recognized regional film industries. It started before India’s independence in 1923 and became one of the most technologically advanced movie industry before 1947. India’s partition took a toll of the film industry as its workforce and artists also got divided with many of them shifting to the newly formed Pakistan. Sadly the Punjabi cinema languished in scale and stature for many years. May attempts were made to revive the movie industry by many people to its past glory. Still, it took many more years to improve the budget, quality and technology of Punjabi movies.

A few known Punjabi cinema faces were Gurdas Mann, Satish Kaul, Guggu Gill, Mehar Mittal, and Preeti Sapru in the 80’s. They would frequently appear in similar movies of low budget about stereotypical hero and villain story. However, during the turn of the century, satirists like Jaspal Bhatti made some quality movies before becoming a humourist of a national repute. Along with it, some intense and meaningful movies like Shahid-e-Mohabbat Boota Singh were able to impress the audience.

In recent years, there have been some commendable efforts of bringing the quality cinema back in Punjabi movies. Movies like Yaraan Naal Baharaan, Jatt and Juliet, Carry on Jatta, Super Singh and so on have been quite popular both in India and abroad. Along with these, movies like Chaar Sahibzaade have done a lot of business worldwide. The success has brought in the commercial value and investment of big media houses in the industry and made many Punjabi film industry stars into national level celebrities. People like Daljit Dosanjh, Neeru Bajwa, Surveen Chawla, Jimmy Shergill, Jassie Gill, Sargun Mehta are all reputed stars of Bollywood and Pollywood (Punjabi Cinema).

With a sizeable population of Punjabi diaspora worldwide, especially in the US, Canada, England, Australia, and New Zealand, the world has seriously started taking Punjabi cinema. It is much more than Balle-Balle, Bhangra and stereotypical slapstick humour.

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