A new web series – Gangland in Motherland – has fast become a hot favourite with the Punjabi audience. With each of its four episodes clocking over two million views, the show's unprecedented success has made the Punjabi film industry more confident about embracing the digital world. There have been Punjabi web shows in the past, but Gangland in Motherland is the first of its kind. Unlike shows like Yaar Jigree Kasooti Degree, a fun take on college life, Gangland is a tougher watch.
It's also topical. The show throws light on Punjab's youngsters falling prey to the state's notorious gang culture, a very real problem that frequently makes headlines. Just last year 29-year-old Vicky Gounder, who was once a state-level discus thrower before plunging into the world of crime, was shot dead by the police along with two other gangsters. Popular Punjabi singer and actor Parmish Verma was shot in Mohali by gangster Dilpreet Singh Dalhan. A few months later, Dilpreet was arrested after he sustained leg injuries in a brief encounter with the Chandigarh and Punjab police. And the list goes on.
Produced by KV Dhillon, Gangland in Motherland has been directed and written by Gabbar Sangrur. In a career spanning over a decade, Gabbar has gone from line producing Hollywood, Bollywood and Punjabi films to penning Punjabi songs, casting for films and serials, to arranging acting workshops in Punjab. He runs a Chandigarh-based line production company – The Theatre Army Films – that has worked on films like Udta Punjab, Mausam, Teen Thay Bhai, Nanak Shah Fakir, ABCD 3, and more.
Though Gabbar wanted to try his hand at direction, he didn't expect to make his debut with Gangland in Motherland. "Last year I had written and directed the Punjabi song Gangster. Post that KV, Nishawn (Bhullar) and the team of Geet Mp3 and I had been in discussion about some project for which I would keep narrating them incidents revolving around real stories. Tales about Punjabi gangsters you and I know of, or have heard stories about. When we decided of coming up with a web series that would show the tumultuous life of gangsters, I kept suggesting prominent names who can direct it. But KV was adamant that I should direct and write it," says Gabbar.
The success of the show and comments below each episode bear testament to how closely the youth of Punjab, even those residing in villages, have connected with the story. The first episode 'Subedar' has more than four million views. Within 24 hours of an episode being uploaded, it always joins the trending charts. Gangland's two songs – Toronto and Jawani have over 35 million and 11 million views, respectively. "Over the years, more and more gangs have mushroomed in Punjab, luring the village youth. Their huge fan following on social media is leaving the youth enamoured. Through this series, I wanted to show how Punjab is slowly turning into a land of gangs. Youngsters staying in villages often get enticed by the glorified images of gangsters, but the reality is different from what meets the eye," says Gabbar.
The show's greatest strength is its stellar ensemble cast including, Nishawn Bhullar, Yaad Grewal, Victor John, Vadda Grewal, Navdeep Kaler, Mehtab Virk, Param Baidwan, Japji Khaira, etc. "Since our company The Theatre Army Films have been doing casting for different Punjabi-Hindi films as well as serials such as Savdhaan India; we wanted the casting to be perfect. We cast a mix of actors – some renowned names to character artists, students from Department of Indian Theatre, Panjab University and newbies," adds Gabbar. All the actors went under an extensive acting workshop by renowned theatre actor Samuel John, who has played the lead in Gurvinder Singh's National Award-winning film Anhe Ghode Da Daan. Gangland even deserves credit for its impeccable cinematography by Shoeb Siddiqui, editing by Deepak Garg, background score by Gurmoh and sharp dialogues by Gabbar and Baljit Noor.
The fifth and final episode of the show is yet to drop but Gangland in Motherland has already given both viewers as well as talent in Punjab a taste of how powerful the digital medium can be. "A lot of regional Punjabi channels have approached us to buy streaming rights. And I have heard that a couple of web series have been announced in the past few days. This shows that the response received by this series and another fun series Yaar Jigree Kasooti Degree has surely given a push to Punjabi web content," concludes Gabbar.