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“In Punjab, if a singer is accepted, he is accepted for life”

Punjabi film Zorawar is all set to release next week and the film has the very popular music star Yo Yo Honey Singh as its lead actor. Here’s Vinnil Markan, the director of the film, in conversation with Rohini Nag

You have previously directed a Hindi film (Jayantabhai Ki Luv Story). What made you turn to Punjabi cinema?

Nothing in particular, really. I had a script that I had been working on and the producers wanted something on the same lines. To complement that, I had Honey Singh. So I did it. Also, Honey’s first ever music video was made by me, so he and I go back a long way.

How did Zorawar come about?

Zorawar was conceived by Sagar Pandya. He and I had worked on the script for a couple of years, so when I got the opportunity, I told Sagar that we must go ahead with it. The film is about relationships but in the thriller zone. Zorawaris based on the relationship between a father and son. It is about a son’s search for his father. The protagonist finds out that his real father is someone else, not the man he thought was his father. The story progresses with his search for the truth.

Was Honey Singh your first choice for the role?

Yes, Honey was my first choice.

Were there any similarities between the character and Honey that made you think he would be perfect for the part?

For this film, we needed a big-ticket guy as the scale of the film is large. We needed a larger-than-life hero, who already had a larger-than-life persona in real life. Honey was a huge plus because he is Punjabi and the number one music star not just in Punjabi but also in the Hindi film industry.

In Punjab, all musicians become actors and they continue to make music. The Punjabi music industry is huge. In Punjab, if a singer is accepted, he is accepted for life. The Punjabi audience establishes a personal connect with their stars. And Honey enjoys that, especially with the youth. So he was the right choice for us.

What, according to you, is the main USP of the film, apart from Honey being the lead actor?Also, I had worked with him when he was a 21-year-old. Back then, he was not Yo Yo Honey Singh, just Honey Singh. Even then, I could see that this guy was special and had the potential to make it big. Around 10-11 years ago, I was working with established artistes from the UK and India, and among them, this guy was making his space. Diljit Dosanjh’s biggest hit Lak 28 kudi da was in collaboration with Honey and similarly Gippy Grewal’s biggest hit Angreji beat, which was in Cocktail, also is in collaboration with Honey. Also, Honey has given many A-list Bollywood actors hit songs. Since he has done several videos, he was comfortable in front of the camera.

The songs and action. Actually, it is a pretty serious film. Since it is an action thriller, it is a pretty new zone for the Punjabi audience. It is a masala film.

What kind of release will the film have, beyond the typical Punjabi film regions?

The film will enjoy a pan-India release, keeping in mind Honey’s star status. We will also be releasing the film with subtitles. Since the language in the film is not the theth Punjabi, the pan-India audience will be able to follow the dialogue. Barring a word here or there, one can easily understand the film.

We had a press meet here in Mumbai, where we launched the trailer, and we had a song launch in Delhi. We have Anil Thadani of AA Films distributing the film across India and overseas, and he is one of the biggest players in distribution. We also have people from Hindi films doing the marketing and promotions. I head a company called Trigger Happy and we have a marketing division called Trigger Max, which is headed by Varun Gupta. He is an ex-Dharma employee and is heading the marketing of this film.

Why didn’t you opt to make the film in Hindi?

The opportunity was there to make the film only in Punjabi and Honey too wanted to do a Punjabi film as did my producers PTC Motion Pictures. Also, I had the script ready, so it all worked well at the time. You know how the film business works… when you get the right opportunity, you have to go for it. At the end of the day, it all depends on what an actor and the director can bring on board for the film.

This is a very healthy period for the Punjabi film industry, with so many different genres being explored. What do you think has triggered this change?

First, the acceptance of diverse content by the Punjabi audience because they have much more exposure now, plus the number of cinemas has increased. Also, the number of Punjabis all over the world is huge. If you present quality content, people will watch it and, lately, a lot of good films have been made in Punjabi. The Punjabi industry is on its way to growing by leaps and bounds. We are growing and learning and now with the tide turning positively, we have fabulous times ahead.

What’s next?

My next film is going to be in Hindi. Again, it will be a thriller. The cast is yet to be finalised and the script is being written by Shiraz Ahmed, who has written films like Humraaz, Race, Wanted, Rowdy Rathore, Aitraazand many more. He is a very dear friend of mine. We have finalised two scripts. I am working on them. In Punjabi too, Gippy and I are looking at something. But I want to do my Hindi film first and then the Punjabi one.

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