by Diditi Mitra
The Punjabi movies playing on a small screen at the head of the bus going back and forth between Ludhiana and Jalandhar was a genius idea to keep the passengers distracted from the assault of the high temperatures that is characteristic of summer in Punjab! The fans attached to the windows did not help keep the passengers cool. No curtain on the bus window was thick enough to keep the sun away. And, even the air-conditioned buses did not stop the profuse flow of sweat from all the glands in the body. Focusing on the films playing in the bus, however, kept us entertained. Clearly, the two gentlemen shown in the photograph were watching the screen, oblivious to the sweaty and hot realities of the journey. Will the Jatt ever find his Juliet? I surely wanted to know.
Curiosity did get the better of me. So, after returning to America, on one of those aimless and restless nights while surfing through YouTube, I chanced upon the film, Jatt and Juliet, and watched it!
Interestingly, the film is set in Canada. It is a story of Sikh immigrants from Punjab. The lead characters in the film are Pooja (Neeru Bajwa) and Fateh (Diljit Dosanjh). While Fateh’s dream of financial success led him to Canada, Pooja made the journey to fulfill her educational desires. The two did meet in Punjab first on one of those visits to the American embassy in preparation for their departure. As fate would have it, from then on, they kept running into each other. The power of fate was such that they ended up sharing the plane ride to Canada where they were seated, accidentally of course, next to each other. And, the endless gifts of fate also led them to the same house in Canada where they lived as roommates. Quite predictably, after overcoming much differences, including their disgust of each other, the Jatt and the Juliet discover their undying love.
In reality, Neeru Bajwa, the actress who played the part of Pooja in the film, grew up in Canada. I first came across Ms. Bajwa in the documentary Bollywood Bound. Before venturing into Punjabi cinema, she had tried her luck in Bollywood – the most prestigious and glamorous of all film industries in India located in Bombay. But, her dreams were not realized. Ms. Bajwa began her career with Hindi television drama and then moved onto Punjabi cinema. Today, she is one of the leading ladies of popular Punjabi films. Bollywood has not been completely out of her reach though. She has performed in some Bollywood films as in this song with Akshay Kumar in the film Special 26.
For non-whites like Neeru Bajwa, who have grown up in North America (presumably, in other western nations too) and would like to pursue careers in cinema, the options are likely to be limited. Non-white faces like hers are not going to be accepted as American or Canadian, in her case. Additionally, racial marginalization in the society as a whole is likely to push the second and subsequent generations to cultural practices of their parents. A connection to something like Bollywood films, like the one felt by Neeru Bajwa, is to be expected. Looking to their parents place of origin can therefore become a way to overcome racial/ethnic barriers of the society and realize those goals.
Diljit Dosanjh, on the other hand, is a prominent Punjabi film actor and singer. Recently, he has starred in the upcoming, and much awaited, film Udta Punjab made in Bombay on the drug problem in Punjab.
Regardless, I am sure neither Neeru Bajwa nor Diljit Dosanjh ever imagined their immense value in the lives of perspiring, exhausted, and sometimes irritable passengers on those buses. They are their messiah. As such, they liberate those riders from the torturous summer heat of Punjab!
(Go here for the first post in the series)