The moment one thinks about a film producer, the picture that flashes across one’s mind is that of a wealthy old man who’s got enough money to finance a movie. Yes, a lot of people think, especially, in India that the only job of a producer in the entire process of filmmaking is to finance a film project and reap in the monetary rewards incase the movie becomes a hit. However, here’s one producer and that too in our very own Punjabi film industry, who has successfully, shed all the wrong notions associated with the role of a producer. Ballewood takes pride in introducing you to a man, who actually needs no introduction at all. Meet J.S. Cheema, a Punjabi film producer, whose film Chann Pardesee (1981) was the first film in Punjabi cinema ever to bag the coveted ‘National Award’. His Hindi film, Waaris (released in 1988) was another masterpiece that earned him rave reviews from the critics and the masses alike.
Having got introduced to cinema at the age of five, Cheema’s curiosity about the world of ‘make-believe’ soon metamorphosed into strong passion. “I remember that my grandfather had put up a ‘makeshift’ cinema in my village (Bassi Pathanan) in Punjab which ran shows for the village people. I was only five then but I do remember being present there to watch all the shows. Then during my father’s posting in Pune, he introduced me to Hollywood movies. One movie, “The Robe” (1954) left an indelible mark on my psyche and perhaps, that was the beginning of my dream to become a filmmaker,” he reminisces.
His passion and enthusiasm for movies only amplified with time. With scarce sources of information available those days, Cheema as a young graduate, began his own research to find out more about the process of filmmaking. From writing letters to producers and technicians to reading books and manuals, he worked hard for years to get closer to realizing his dreams. He also handled sound effects, music recording and mixing etc for plays for a few years. Finally, in 1981, he was able to do something that he had been waiting to do for long. He produced ‘Chann Pardesee’- a movie that brought some of the best actors from Bollywood for the first time, in a Punjabi film together- earning the film a National Award as well. The movie had some memorable performances in the form of Amrish Puri, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Raj Babbar, Om Puri, and Rama Vij and was based on a subject which despite being bold was well received by the masses because of a believable storyline and remarkable presentation. So, what led Chann Pardesee to bag a national award, and also be a commercial success at the same time? “In my opinion, it’s not that difficult for a film to do well both commercially and artistically, if it is backed by producers who know their job well. Besides good direction, writing, and performances, if the film doesn’t have a good producer attached to it, then its chances of becoming a huge success may not be that great. A lot of people confuse the term producer with that of a financer. However, a producer is actually the one whose involvement in a film project is the greatest- from conception to distribution to theatres; supervising and packaging the project while dealing with studio and managing work of hundreds of people involved in it,” he says. “A movie producer is the person responsible for making sure an appealing, high-quality movie is produced on time and within budget,” he adds.
(A still from Chann Pardesee)
His take on Punjabi movies of today:
In 2002, when Harbhajan Mann’s Jee Aaya Nu was released, Punjabi film industry’s fortunes changed, leading to the resurrection of almost dead Punjabi cinema. Perhaps, not many are aware that Cheema had a significant role to play behind making this movie a smashing box office hit, as he managed the entire production of Jee Aaya Nu in India. Since then a lot of filmmakers are trying their luck in the industry with a couple of films doing extraordinary business at the box office recently. According to Cheema, this situation has given rise to a lot of unprofessional people also to enter the industry which might prove detrimental to the health of our cinema in the long run. “It’s really sad to see that people having zilch knowledge about films are turning into producers today, and spinning out movies which don’t even last for a week in a theatre. ‘Sab chalda hai’ trend is the ‘mantra’ that some people follow and make movies that are utter trash. One of the saddest things is that people are entering film industry not because they’re passionate about cinema but just to ‘diversify’ their business. The result is that bad films are coming in and my concern is that if the ratio of bad to good films becomes higher with time, then a lot of good films might also not get noticed,” he says.
However, Cheema still feels optimistic about the future of Punjabi cinema as there’s no dearth of talent available in Punjab. “The need of the hour is that trained and talented people come in the industry, who take their profession seriously and don’t just believe in following the ‘trend’,” he adds. He also urges people to make movies that bring out the real talent of actors and not just sticking to dialogue based movies. “Right now the comedy movies that we see, it’s the dialogues in them that make us laugh, not the actors, not their expressions! A real actor is the one who can make you laugh, cry or happy through just his/her gestures and facial expressions.”
Gabhru Des Punjab De- His upcoming movie: