By Vishal Gulati
With the Punjabi music industry facing major cash flow challenges with live performances and recordings being hit the most by the coronavirus pandemic, the industry — with longer delays being even more devastating — is limping back with ways to monetize music consumption.
For Punjabi music video director Navi Lubana, the ban on mass gatherings and live streaming is unlikely to be reversed until 2021. So it’s time to go back to business amid health protocols to engage the fans digitally.
He launched his 25th directorial four-and-a-half minute song ‘Giddha’ featuring Canada-based Elly Mangat and Afsana Khan on July 18 that attracted nearly 3.3 million live viewers.
“The Punjabi music and film industry is facing insolvency. Job losses have been reported on a mass scale with small-time artistes and part-time shooting crew the worst hit,” he said.
“The ‘Giddha’ song was recorded in a day with the minimum crew in a heritage property in Ropar. The present norms are limited only to indoor shooting and the scenes are to be adjusted within the new circumstances,” he said.
In the pre-Covid days, the crew strength was usually 75 to 100. “Now we have to limit less than 50.”
Lubana, 29, earlier directed songs featuring singers like Shehnaz Gill and Sultan.
Chandigarh-based Punjabi film critic Sapan Manchanda told IANS that the industry with an annual turnover of Rs 300-Rs 400 crore was the worst hit by the pandemic.
Contrary to the single-track videos, he said films were very badly hit.
“On an average 40-45 Punjabi films are produced in a year. The working schedule of a Punjabi film is from March to December owing to foggy weather in the plains in the winter. This year only two films were released in March and after that there was no release. There was no shooting of a film,” he said.
“With cinema halls shut, the coronavirus has threatened the box office numbers of upcoming releases that were shot before the pandemic with a budget that can go up to Rs 5 crore,” he said.
Music venues have been closed since mid-March, and the government has not allowed the return of live performances.
Trade insiders say at least 70 per cent of the technical crew in the Punjabi film industry are daily wagers and they have been badly affected.
To help the industry tide over the grim period of zero revenue during the lockdown, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on July 23 approved detailed guidelines for shooting of films and music videos during Unlock 2.0, with a restriction of 50 people at the shooting venue.
Singer Ranjit Bawa and actors Gippy Grewal and Gurpreet Ghuggi have thanked the Chief Minister for accepting their request.
“No film has so far announced its shooting schedule. But a few music video directors have come forward with the fresh state guidelines and started shooting songs,” a trade insider told IANS.
Upbeat over the government’s decision, energetic Lubana, who started his career in showbiz by walking on a ramp while studying at California State University, said he has plans to direct two music videos this month at locations across Punjab.
He said in the absence of Punjabi films output, fans are playing song videos.
State Special Chief Secretary (Home) Satish Chandra said the state has issued comprehensive guidelines granting permission to shoot films and music videos, subject to certain conditions.
The guidelines stipulate that the duration of shooting should be restricted to the minimum possible time and not more than 50 people should be present.
Shooting would commence only after all persons involved are thermally scanned and cleared.
In order to avoid crowding, adequate number of view-cutters and enforcement of crowd control by private security personnel should be ensured.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)