Perhaps the first Punjabi film for which the audience literally struggled to get hold of tickets was Mel Karade Rabba that released in 2010 and went on to be declared a hit in Punjab, Canada, Australia, US and UK. It’s director, Navaniat Singh, who later made the film Dharti (2011), is mighty proud, for the film is the first Punjabi movie to be screened at the ongoing 11-day 43rd International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa. Singh, who is currently shooting in Punjab for his latest venture, Singh Vs Kaur, talks about making the soon-to-release Rangeelay and his foray into films.
When asked how Dharti managed to reach the IFFI, Singh surprises us with, “I had no idea it had been selected until actor Avtar Gill informed me. Usually, one has to fill in a form and complete other formalities to send in a film’s entry. This time, three regional movies (a Punjabi, Telegu and Marathi each) are being screened over there.”
The screening of Dharti took place at IFFI on the opening day of the festival on November 20, and ever since, Singh is busy receiving congratulatory calls. “People from Bollywood don’t even know that Pollywood exists. I’m delighted that our industry is receiving appreciation at the fest,” smiles he.
However, not many know about his background in films. Says Singh, born in Jalandhar, based in Mumbai, “My father Harmeet Singh is a cinematographer who has worked for films such as Deewana, Ladla and Judai. So, I was sure I would pursue a career in films. After graduating form RD National College, Mumbai, I did a film appreciation course at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune, in 2001. Later, I was the assistant cameraman for the Hindi film Mohabbatien, and acted as the chief assistant director to Manmohan Singh for Punjabi films such as Jee Aayan Nu, Asan Nu Maan Watna Da, Mitti Wajaan Mardi and Yaaran Naal Baharan.”
Singh finally debuted as a director with the Punjabi film, Tera Mera Ki Rishta, in 2008. His last film as a directo was Taur Mittran Di, and Singh is credited with using new faces for his films — be it Rahul Dev, Amita Pathak, Angad Bedi or Neha Dhupia. “Even Diljit (Dosanjh), made his first film appearance in Mel Karade Rabba,” he adds.
But we notice that some are a constant in his works —actor Jimmy Shiergill, screenplay and dialogue writer Dheeraj Rattan, cinematographer Harmeet Singh and music director Jaidev Kumar. Singh says, “We are all like-minded and so have worked together. But we ensured the plots of the films remained different.”