Punjabi Music Industry, at present is a nearly 300 Million (approx) industry, if we talk about it's annoual turnover. Punjab has close to twenty thousand singers (could be even more but let's say mota mota around 200 most popular faces who are major role players in building this industry and providing work to thousands (models, junior artists, technicians, choreographer, make up artists, assistants and many more).
Lets go back to where it all started. With the arrival of TV, Jalandhar Doordarshan was born. It's new year programs were the most awaited shows and one artist who rose to fame through one such Jalandhar Doordarshan based musical shows was Gurdas Mann. Even Jaspinder Narula got a major platform through Jalandhar Doordarshan. Malkit Singh's Tootak Tootak Tootian was the most selling album of that era and it's video increased Malkit's popularity even more. This young turbaned boy in a shimmery jacket caught everyone's attention.That was probably one of the first popular video of any Punjabi singer.
Singers and Companies were into releasing albums but they never really needed an extra expenditure of videos, as audio cassettes was a business which was at its peak. Most of these videos were made by Jalandhar Doordarshan for their musical programs, and were shot at indoor studios. The singer lip synced to his own songs with a Bhangra team dancing in the background.
Hardeep Singh's Shehar Patiale De was one of the first songs to have been shot outdoors, on the busy city roads of Patiala. Singers performed solo and the need for a female performer was not felt at that moment. Hans Raj Hans's song Vanjaran Kudiye was amongst the first attempts where a female artist Neelu was given extra importance in the song along with Hans Raj Hans. Neelu, a law student, got popularity as Vanjaran Kudi.
She later went on to do comedy albums with Jaswinder Bhalla. Post the success of video album Gidha Pao Kudiye, music companies started making videos for songs and also inculcating female perfomers in it. Most of the female artists were college going Gidha Group students. Soon, Punjabi film actresses like Manjit Kular & Ravinder Mann started getting featured in video songs for artists such as Hans Raj Hans, Manmohan Waris, and more. Earlier, only singers used to perform during their World tours but soon, the demand for female artists started heating up. The female artists were required to dance on songs or host stage shows. Rano Mann was among the first professional dancers to have shared the stage with many A-list singers.
By mid 90s, with Daler Mehndi's song Tara Rara, the concept of video albums saw a complete makeover. His next song Dardi Rabb Rabb Kardi featured Deepshikha.
Big Music Companies such as T-series and Tips started eying on the Punjabi music market. Soon, most of the popular singers got their videos made in Bombay and in them featued well known faces such as Aaisha Jhulka, Varsha Usgaonkar, Deepti Bhatnagar, Kanchan, Kashmira Shah, etc.
Surjit Bindrakhiya's album Mukhda Dekh Ke became a big success, followed by Lak Tunu Tunu. Now, to cut costs, companies started making one song with a mix of other songs in Mumbai, and one or two songs in Punjab. For example, a song with an urban feel used to have big budget. In such cases, top models from Bombay were made to feature in the song.
Mallika Sherawat was also there in one of Surjit Bindrakhiya songs. But a song with a desi or rural touch was shot in Punjab, with the then models like Gurleen Chopra, Aarti Puri and more.
With the arrival of a new millennium, majority of Punjabi singers got a huge popularity in many other states beside Punjab. Harbhajan Mann, Hans Raj Hans, Sardool Sikander were few of those who had even appeared in dance numbers of Hindi Films. In 1999, Babbu Mann appeared in very low cost video of his song Pind Pehra Lagda but within a span of two years, this man was seen romancing popular names such as Shama Sikander and Sakshi Shivanand onscreen, for his next album.
Majority of Punjab's youth was now aspiring to become a singer, or simply enter the music scene, with or without professional training. With an overflow of new songs, fresh faces and new companies, there rose a need of publicity. Once a senior singer mentioned in an Interview, "Aajj kal gaiki sunan wali nahi, dekhan wali jyada ban gai hai." While big companies like T-series continued with lavish scale, Punjab based companies were also forced to follow the same route of making music videos of audio albums. New Punjabi music channels arrived by 2000, which helped new age singers to reach out to more people. Companies and singers with little resources continued with smart budget videos.
Mannat Singh was one of first, most popular faces of desi Punjabi music videos. She was then known as Sukhi Pawar. She fondly remembered the old time and said, "I did my first video for free and got paid eight thousand for second. Today girls are provided proper team, make-up artists, costume designer and a lot more but earlier, we would get such facilities very rarely. Mostly, I had to manage on my own. I never complained because the main thing was that I was getting work. We would start in the morning and finish the whole video by evening.
Saniya Pannu, who started by 2004, had a similar take on this. She shared, "I recently did a Punjabi music video after a long gap and I could see the difference in every aspect of video making."
Actress Aarti Puri, another popular face of Punjabi music videos, feels that with time everything changes and gets improved..that is law of nature.
Though female models still feel that they are not given their due credit for the popularity of songs, as it is the singer who takes the cake but male models feel otherwise. Actor Baljit Mathoun, who did few music videos in the 2003-04 period, said that there was dearth of girls in the industry back then and only three or four girls were in circulation for work. They were more popular as compared to the male models, who were more in number.
Similarly, most popular male model of that time, Navi Verma, says, "At times I was not even paid, forget about providing basic facilities."
Gavie Chahal, Navtej Singh, Daksh Ajit, Goldy Somal, Angad Hasija and many Delhi based male models were active in Punjabi videos from 2002 to 2006.
Punjabi female superstar Neeru Bajwa, too started her journey with Punjabi Entertainment Industry as a model for Kamal Heer's music video for his song Kainthe wala. By the same time, the era of Audio Cassettes came to an end. CD's got replaced with MP3 and not just the Punjabi music industry but Indian Music Industry was at its worst phase because of piracy.
By 2006, Miss Pooja came into the scene and with countless number of songs, she became the major face of Punjabi video songs, replacing the female models. This left popular female models with less work and most of them moved to Mumbai for work. Some girls did some popular songs, but vanished soon..Reason?
When some of these girls would ask for more money, they were shown door. There were many in number to replace them, so no one could establish themself. Besides that there were few incidents of casting couch as well.
Miss Pooja's phase continued for the next few years, till she cut down on work. Surprisingly, male models got more popularity and work in this period (because some singers back then were middle aged, or younger and failed to get their act right in their music videos). Navi Bhangu, Jimmy Sharma, Aman Sutdhar, Kartar Cheema, Victor John were faces that were seen in nearly every second Punjabi music video.
According to Navi Bhanghu, "Today, everything is well planned. Earlier, we were informed about the shoot at last hour. In case I was busy, I would recommend Jimmy or Victor and they would recommend me, when they were busy."
Then came the Rap based songs, and after Miss Pooja, Honey Singh became the face of video songs. With more number of young singers being the face of their own song, male models shallowed down on work. Punjabi Cinema was getting back on its feet and work started coming from films and Hindi TV serials. Few years down the line, concept of a music album almost vanished. That's where singles came into the picture and also number of young singers joined the Punjabi music field adding a humoungoes number to the industry. Mp3 was gone and pen drives took over and are still sustaining. But, it was the power of social media which brought a radical transformation by bringing the world together on one platform.
Technology rocked the music scene and with YouTube's arrival, more money and earnings started being pocketed. Melody took a backseat and all the hard work went into making a flashy music video.
Himanshi Khurana and Sara Gurpal are two popular names in the current Punjabi music scene. Besides them there are many more active models in this field. They are working on their own terms and conditions. They are provided proper team and have a huge fan following on social media. Their fan base can be compared to a mid level Hindi film heroine. Though Punjabi male models are still struggling to get that place but not many names come to our mind when we think about them. The reason, probably is, that majority of male singers prefer featuring in their songs themselves.
Rimpy Prince, model turned video director Sukh Sanghera, actor-director Parmish Verma, Navjit Buttar, Jashan Nanarh, Arvinder Khaira are big players in the music video scenario, who come out with videos that are not only rich in looks, but far superior in camera work with aerial shots and low-high angles. At times, in fact most of times, even an ordinary song would click with people if it's video is directed by these aforementioned names.
Sadly, in some cases, even a good song has gone unnoticed due to its visual presentation not being apt. But in case both work, then the result is always phenomenal.
From a 12 by 12 indoor studio to outdoor, from green fields to hills, from local to foreign location, Punjabi music video industry has come a long way for sure.