The latest Punjabi film, Ammy Virk, Sher Bagga, is set to hit theaters on June 10. But the untimely death of singer-rapper Sidhu Moose Wala on May 29 forced them to postpone the film. In a statement, Amy said the team was “not in the mood for it.” The film is now out on June 24, but Amy initially wanted to push it even further back. Compulsion, however, held him back. Speaking to Hindustan Times, the actor, his co-star Sonam Bajwa and writer-director Jagdeep Sidhu spoke about the film and the state of the film industry in Punjabi. Also read: After the death of Sidhu Moose Wala, Ammy Virk postpones the release of Sher Bagga: ‘We are not in a state of mind’
The film’s delay played into Ammy’s mind. When you say that the mood is not festive in the Punjabi entertainment association, he replies, ‘Even if we want to, we can’t do anything. Majboori hai (It is a compulsion). We must do that. We have no data available. From now on, there are two Punjabi movies and one Hindi movie every week. It is a full program from now until mid-October. Then, in the winter, our overseas business slumps because it’s snowing in North America, which is a big market for us. 50% of our turnover comes from abroad and that affects us. Then we had already released the trailer. If that hadn’t happened, we wouldn’t have released the film.”
But Ammy is grateful that the Punjabi film industry came together at such a time to help each other. He shares: “But we asked other creators, who came out on June 24, to postpone theirs for a week. Then someone else postponed theirs to house them. Everyone was very cooperative.”
Sher Bagga is an unusual story for Punjabi cinema, which thrived on simple family entertainers. It is the story of an unwanted pregnancy and how the “couple” raises a child together despite not being married. About the audacity of the subject, director Jagdeep Sidhu says: “If you go further back to 25-30 years ago, films have been made about these daring subjects. Suddenly there came a time when everything became taboo, be it religion or personal relationships. Everyone was afraid not to talk about things or show things. In Punjabi cinema, heroes would be afraid to hold the hand of the heroine. But now people are becoming open-minded again.”
Ammy Virk agrees that in such a tricky subject, it’s hard to keep the comedy clean and family oriented. But he trusted to be natural. “My first thought is not to do anything extra. I want to keep it normal, like a Punjabi boy next door. It must be natural. The amount of comedy that happens in a Punjabi family, an Indian family is unlike anywhere else in the world. You get together with family and laugh. And what you say there has no double meaning. It’s all positive comedy. We have kept that here too,” he says.
Sher Bagga sees Sonam Bajwa in a challenging role and the actor is grateful for that. She says: “The cinema in Punjabi has seen all kinds of movies. And there have been movies where the female actor didn’t have much to do. And yes, a lot of our stories are based on middle-class villages and families, and there in a just housekeeping how much glamor can you show But even that is what I love so much When people watch Punjabi movies they get that old world charm But then there were times when female actors still didn’t have much to do on in the field of performance. Now times have changed. There are topics that are so strong today.”
Over the past year, the South’s film industries have scored well at the box office with the likes of RRR, KGF: Chapter 2, Pushpa: The Rise and Vikram also calling money in Hindi. Ammy thinks it’s time for Punjabi movies to do the same. He says: ‘In the south you see more than life-sized fictional stories. When you watch the biggest movies, they’re not very grounded. If we’re making history here in Punjab, why not. You know how rich our history is. We can make a 300 type movie about Hari Singh Nalwa, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, our original heroes. we are approaching 100 crore now as soon as that happens the producers will come too. In the Punjabi cinema, we make family entertainers. We don’t just make films for young people. You can see how KGF: Chapter 2 earned 6 crore in East Punjab on the first day. That means there is a market for such films in Punjab.”
This multilingual success has enabled actors to work in various industries as well. Ammy made his Bollywood debut with 83, while Sonam has worked in Tamil cinema. However, she reveals that she has also had to let go of several lucrative Bollywood projects. She recalls, “There were times when I wasn’t sure about a certain movie. Sometimes I didn’t have time. Something or the other has happened. I missed a few movies that ended up doing really well. But if you look back now, you feel ‘it happened for a reason’. It’s OK.”