New delhi: The Punjabi film industry is churning out 40-45 films a year and getting recognition too, but it feels the need to make real life stories like Iranian cinema and improve production and technology.
In the last five-seven years, the Rs.50-crore ($1 million) industry has edged its way to success, though not going beyond love stories and potboilers. People from Punjabi cinema are however hungry now for quality content.
Film writer Amrik Gill, who has written scripts for both Hindi and Punjabi movies, told media: "Iranian cinema is known for its meaningful and quality content and we want our Punjabi cinema to be at par with Iran by providing good stories."
"It is high time Punjabi filmmakers realised that we need movies which are closer to real life, depict the life of the common man and project the rich culture of Punjab. However, for the past five to seven years, we have seen some very good Punjabi films."
The industry has come a long way - from one or two films a year, it churns out 40-45 films a year today.
In 2011, at least 47 Punjabi films were released, according to Rawail Singh, secretary Punjabi Academy, Department of Art, Culture and Language, Government of India.
"If we see the history of Punjabi cinema, it was very good in the beginning but in the 1990s, the cinema was in bad shape as there were no good movies at all," Rawail said.
"But now it has come of age with directors like Manmohan Singh, Mandeep Benipal and Amrinder Singh producing good films. In earlier days, there were one or two films in a year. Today we have at least 20-25 films on the floors. In 2011, as many as 47 Punjabi films released, which is indeed a good sign.
"We don`t need superficial cinema, which we increasingly see in Bollywood. We want to have meaningful cinema, similar to that of Iran," he added.
Director Manmohan Singh, also a well-known cinematographer in Bollywood, has been a pioneer of change in the industry, with movies like "Jee Aayan Nu", "Asa Nu Maan Watna Da", and "Yaaran Naal Baharaan".
Bollywood movies have been an unofficial brand ambassador of Punjab as many filmmakers extensively use Punjabi music, dialogues and culture in their films, but when it comes to actual Punjabi cinema, it has had limited viewership.
Singer-actor Jasbir Jassi is happy to see the growth of the regional cinema, but stresses that Punjabi films need to improve the quality of content.
"Punjabi cinema is witnessing good growth, creating a market for itself. If the quality of films improves more, it would help grow at an international level," Jassi told IANS.
"We require good filmmakers. I have seen that many Bollywood filmmakers are ready to take the plunge into Punjabi cinema. We need such people who are technically sound and understand Punjabi cinema," he added.
Most top rated stars of Punjabi films are singers such as Gurdaas Mann, Harbhajan Mann, Babbu Maan and Jasbir Jassi. Mika Singh will also be making his debut soon.
However, according to actor-comedian Gurpreet Ghuggi, the Punjabi film industry lacks good actors.
"The Punjabi industry lacks a lot in terms of good production houses and actors. Actors who are talented try to take a jump and start their career from Bollywood. But when they don`t get enough recognition, they come back to other options," he said.
However, actor Jimmy Shergill, who has made it big in both Punjabi and Hindi films, says people have started having faith in Punjabi films.
"It has been almost eight years since I have been doing Punjabi films and there is a lot of progress. It is high time more Punjabi films started becoming big hits because the audiences across the world have got faith in it," said Jimmy, whose recent release "Dharti" won accolades at the box-office.
"They know Punjabi films have a standard. They have started making some interesting stories, good music and entertaining stuff. I think now is the time it should do well," he added.