Who am I? Let’s just say for the purpose of this interview you can call me Baljeet, I have known J since 1992 after a chance meeting in the UK. Over the years we have become very close and are in regular contact, he approached me and asked me to discuss how I helped fund Punjabi films with money that was not clean, I was happy for him to put this out as I knew he would not twist things I would say. I will talk about how black money was invested in Punjabi cinema by me and why. Over the next two days I will go into how the Punjabi film scene is now trying to distance itself from those dark days, but how that has lead to threats and extortion, from the very monsters they helped create.
My history, I created my wealth via selling in liquor in several states around Punjab, as well as liquor I moved large amounts of electrical goods from India to Pakistan, that is how I made money, now my money is invested in real estate across various cities and countries.
I’m no longer involved in the film scene, and I am no longer based in Punjab. But, I was happy to talk about those interesting times. Punjabi cinema then and now is still funded by investors who wish to clean money, the difference being today, the stakes are ridiculously higher than In the time when I was around.
Gangsters are like vultures, as soon as something or someone is failing then that is when they strike, the Punjabi film industry in the late 90’s went through a tough time, films were not having an impact at cinemas and the artists who were starring in them had become old and stagnant. Films were suffering, so as a result people who wanted to make films were struggling to find cash, banks were at that time not loaning cash to film makers as they were deemed to high risk and the law forbid it.
So film makers had no choice but to come to us, some would come directly and some would send their people to meet us, they didn’t want to be seen as being in our company. So let me tell you how things worked, we had large amounts of cash, and it was not about us making the money legal, cash was king and washing the money we had was not an issue. When cash is king and you are making large cash deposits, no eyebrows were raised, I had bank mangers agreeing to sweeteners, so money was moved easily by us. I had had contacts with people who had used films to clean money, but this was not our issue at the time. Property and construction was how we then cleaned money.
I will use the example of a film that I had funded to break down why it was good for me and good for them in the film industry to work with us. Like I said film directors were stuck, plots, scripts but no funds.
The Punjabi film industry had always had links to the underworld, that is not something anyone can dispute, even the murder of Varindera was a paid hit, they can lay the blame at the feet of Sikh terrorists, but that was a convenient cover. In the late 80’s and early 90’s so many Punjabi film actors were hanging out with criminals and not hiding the fact, many were dripping in black money, and they did not hide it. No social media at the time meant unless you knew of it happening you were oblivious to it.
I was in Ludhiana, in my office when a group of people came to see me, I knew exactly what they wanted and why, they wanted money for a film and they were trying to explain to me how it would benefit me to invest and the potential returns for the investment. I did not ask for the films name, I think it turned out to be “Jorawar” a small release that just about made it to cinemas. I agreed to “Loan” the money for the film, and would push it through as a part of my construction firms, I asked for no other involvement at that time, I agreed to pay the money cash, but in return I wanted a 75% return on my investment.
Once a week, I would have a driver take cash sums to the production team and pay out people in cash, all the actors were paid weekly as were the crew, everyone was given cash, the actors could try and deny all knowledge of “black dealings” but they knew exactly where the cash was coming from, and they preferred it this way. For 4 months I had drivers dropping money off in cars to the film set.
The film house within 12 months had returned my investment, once I had realized how easy it was I started throwing money at films, I always kept myself to myself and my circles were very different to the those of actors and directors, but they knew where my money was coming from, I even rang some actors to wish my children happy birthday, hence i know they knew the money was dirty. Films like Truck driver, Jaali Passport, Zakhmi and Khhon Da Daj were all partly funded by my money.
The return on my investment was too easy, only once did I struggle to get my money, and that individual has never directed a film since, I had to be ruthless, and me and my associates insured he was never funded for films ever again until I got my money, I am still owed.
Other players who are much bigger than me, then started to see how easily money was being made, and without us having to lift a finger, all of a sudden the Punjabi film industry was swarming with black money and the rise Punjabi cinema again was all down to money from people like myself and others. It was not surprising to witness cash payments being made at film shoots, cars were pulling up at shoots handing out cash.
The whole game changed with international money black moneyfrom the UK and Canada. Money was being ploughed into films at an amazing rate and then, and almost overnight, the production quality of films was stepped up. Black money ran through the veins of Punjabi cinema in 2000-05 nearly every film released in that period was in some way in receipt of funds from criminals. The criminals may not be those running around touting guns and selling drugs in villages, many like me had moved into properties. I stopped funding films when two of my drivers were attacked and killed when delivering money to people financing films, basically set up.
The game was changing, and I was getting out, no longer were we the financiers of films, but we were now at the hands of what I called pindu gangsters, and it was those we helped build up, who had created these gangsters. Little did they then now that those monsters they created to get at us, would soon be turning on them.