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This has been turned into a big issue: Ammy Virk on Sher Bagga's clash with Television

The two Punjabi-language films went head to head last week, resulting in the Television team hitting out at film distributors.

Sukhpreet Kahlon

Two Punjabi-language films, Sher Bagga (2022) and Television (2022), were released last Friday. Sher Bagga, starring Ammy Virk and Sonam Bajwa, clashed with the Kulwinder Billa-Mandy Takhar film Television at the box office, leading the latter's production company, Saga Studios, to hit out at alleged unfair distribution practices in the industry.

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Written and directed by Jagdeep Sidhu, Sher Bagga was originally slated to be released on 10 June. However, the murder of singer-actor Sidhu Moosewala led to several Punjabi films postponing their release dates. Sher Bagga's was pushed to 24 June, leading to a clash with Television, which had already booked the date.

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In a statement, Saga Studios said their film would not be given to those who discriminate between Punjabi films, seeing them as a "cinema mafia". The statement said, 'We, Saga Studios, today take this stand for our industry, that we are not going to settle for less! The film distributors and exhibitors, though, want to earn money from Punjabi films, yet, want to hold back and discriminate. When time comes to reciprocate, then we will refrain from giving our films to such people / theatres who support such distributors. We, as a production studio, are very connected to the roots of Punjab and its history of cinema, and we will continue to do so.'

Saga Studios and Unisys Infosolutions CEO Sumeet Singh said, “The world of cinema knows no boundaries, but the people running the business have created obstacles for others. The cinema of the South is so well received by each and every individual in our nation. Then why are Punjabi films being subject to these horrors of existential crisis?”

Kiddan.com reported that Gurpreet Ghuggi, who also stars in Television, stated at a recent press conference, “The release date of our movie was announced for a long time. The movie which had to change its date due to certain issues should have talked and discussed with us.”

Ghuggi reportedly added, “If we, the people of the industry, won’t give enough space to each other, it will create issues between them as well. When the release date of any film changes, they should be concerned about not affecting other’s projects.”

But Ammy Virk told Cinestaan.com in a telephonic conversation that there have been several instances of Punjabi films clashing at the box office in the past and this is nothing new. Even next Friday, 1 July, the Tarsem Jassar-starrer Khaao Piyo Aish Karo (2022) will be released along with Lover (2022). The following Friday, 8 July, will also see two big releases, the Jimmy Sheirgill-starrer Shareek 2 (2022) and Gurnam Bhullar and Sargun Mehta's Sohreyan Da Pind Aa Gaya (2022).

Virk also said that Sher Bagga was postponed owing to unforeseen circumstances and as the trailer for the film and two songs had already been released, postponing the film any further would have meant incurring huge expenditure.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, Shareek 2 was originally scheduled to be released on 24 June. Shareek 2 is produced by Thind Motion Films, which also produced Sher Bagga. So all that the producers did was swap one film of theirs with another.

“Our film was already there," Virk said. "Why will I do such a thing [to sabotage any film]? I would never do such a thing. No one called me about these dates.

"It is important that I tell my side of this [issue]," the star said, indicating that the matter had more to do with the financiers and distributors of the two films. "I don’t understand why this is happening. This has been made into a big issue, but it’s not."

Virk continued, “I have so much love for Kulwinder Billa. He is a dear friend and I have wonderful relations with everyone.” He said he was even invited for the film’s premiere. The singer-actor added that he was ready to sit with those concerned and iron out any creases.

The Punjabi film industry has been growing quite remarkably in recent times, both in terms of business and its varied content. Of course, it remains to be seen if the growth can be sustained and issues within the industry resolved.