Sidhu Moosewala shot dead: Is danger looming over Punjabi artistes? – #BigStory | Hindi Movie News

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It’s been two weeks since singer-rapper-songwriter turned politician Sidhu Moosewala was shot dead by unidentified assailants a day after the state government curtailed his security cover. While a judicial investigation is underway, the gruesome incident that sent shockwaves across the country, has left several artists worried. While Sidhu’s assassination is termed as a culmination of an inter-gang rivalry, it does expose the dark underbelly of one of the country’s biggest music industries, by bringing to light, once again, its connection to the world of gangsters. Canada-based gangster Goldy Brar has claimed that Sidhu was assassinated to avenge the killing of Youth Akali Dal leader Vicky Middukhera who was shot dead in August 2021.

Those who knew Sidhu would not stop talking about his bindaas, fearless attitude to raise his voice against the wrong. “Sidhu used to speak against the system. His biggest power was his lyrics,” says Punjabi film director Mandeep Singh Chaahal. “His lyrics would attract the youth. Whether pro or anti government, Sidhu would incorporate his unfiltered views in his lyrics and people followed him for that. He was a bindaas guy. He was always upfront and not scared to speak against anything. His songs were popular because they represented the current scenario. For the first time in my life, I am seeing that an artist has died, and no one is releasing their film, or song, or trailer in his respect,” he adds.

Actress Sonia Mann, who has worked with Sidhu and was also his close friend, says he was a very down to earth human being. “He was a superstar, but he still stayed in the village with his parents. He mingled with everyone, and was very grounded. His songs only spoke the truth,” she says.

Industry insiders suggest several Punjabi singers are being threatened and attacked by gang members, and the extortion calls are seldom reported. It won’t be uncanny if this series of incidents remind you of the assassination of Gulshan Kumar on the streets of Mumbai, that left an indelible mark in the consciousness of the entertainment industry. After that, Mumbai witnessed the rise of the underworld like never before and everybody who was a somebody was either a silent participant in their bullying game by not speaking out, or choosing to pay off the money demanded by them.

“It’s a deja vu of what happened in Bombay in the 90s. Gulshan Kumar’s murder in Bombay had haunted the nation for a long time. The whole narrative of Bollywood changed from that moment. The same thing could be happening in Punjab now,” says an insider on condition of anonymity.

This week’s #BigStory uncovers the deep, dark secrets of the Punjabi music industry and the gangster nexus related to it, the current state of artistes who are like sitting ducks, the security concerns, whether and how these gang wars can be contained and more. Read on…

The threat is real

The Punjabi music industry is one of India’s fastest-growing music industries, but there is also a supposedly inevitable proximity between the artists and gangsters, which often results in such incidents. “Most people will never know the extent of what you have to deal with as a Punjabi artist, behind the scenes, on a daily basis. With constant judgment, hate-filled comments, threats and negative energy directed towards people like us, who are just doing what we love,” Indian-born Canadian singer, rapper, songwriter and record producer AP Dhillon wrote in a post on Instagram.

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Singer, rapper Mika Singh too has had a brush with extortion calls early on in his career. Speaking to ETimes, he says, “For the last 5 years, I have been hearing that such gang wars are on the rise. They demand money and singers cave in, even actors have to. Gippy Grewal and Mankirt Aulakh too faced similar threats. Whenever such a thing happens, one should report to the police and the media immediately. Ignoring and delaying such steps have led to this situation today that a young guy has been killed in broad daylight.”

Producer, director Gabbar Sangrur validates the fact that this has been going on in the Punjabi entertainment industry for years. “I did a film based on the underworld threat in Bollywood in the 90s. What’s happening in Punjab is a very similar case. I can recall the deadly attack on Punjabi singer Parmish Verma that happened in 2018. Thankfully he survived after sustaining a gunshot in his thigh. Actor Gippy Grewal too faced extortion. Singer Prem Dhillon was harassed and threatened to be killed. There have been many such instances in the Punjabi entertainment industry,” he says.

Richa Chadha feels it’s tragic. “Artists and violence don’t go together according to me. One feels bad for the family. About Sidhu Moosewala, maybe the rest of India doesn’t know much about him. But I am a Punjabi, I know that his songs used to get millions of views. Likewise, there are rappers from other parts of the country who also talk about current affairs through their art. The artists should be far away from violence and artists should not be targeted for violence.”

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“I think this problem is not a recent one. I have done some research on it. The problem has been there for 20-30 years. When an artist is making songs and educating girls of his village. His songs are getting 500-600 million views. He has made his village better. So, when such an influential person dies, it affects the livelihoods of many people. This industry is not just entertainment, it is a source of livelihood for thousands of people,” she adds.

Fear looming among the artists?


Sidhu’s assassination has left the entire Punjabi music industry shaken. Several groups came out on social media vowing to take revenge for the singer’s murder. Davinder Bambiha gang, that was on the lookout for Sidhu’s assailants, reportedly sent death threats to Punjabi singer Mankirt Aulakh alleging that he was involved in the murder.

Aulakh then shared a video on Instagram with Sidhu’s mom requesting the media to not jump to conclusions. In turn, he also opened up about receiving threats. “From almost, one year I am constantly getting threats. It’s not a normal thing to live your each passing day with such a sensitive environment around you, both mentally and physically. If I have isolated myself in such a sensitive atmosphere to safeguard myself, what’s wrong in it ?,” he wrote.

Gabbar tells us many Punjabi artistes have moved to safer places out of fear after the incident. “Sidhu Moosewala had moved to politics, but he was a very genuine and transparent guy. These gangsters are operating from behind the prison bars. For us Moosewala was like SRK of Punjab. They have killed the singing king of Punjab. I went to the same university as Lawrence Bishnoi and I know it is no big deal for these guys to shoot someone like Salman Khan, it will take 2 seconds. Many artistes from Punjab have moved to a safe place, either in Mumbai or out of India. Now this gang has taken responsibility for Sidhu’s killing, and another gang wants to take revenge. Who knows who else could become a target?,” he says.

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Mika Singh feels sad that this is happening in Punjab, where he spent happy times in his childhood. “These gang wars did not exist earlier. Several years ago there were some problems, and we even heard about the underworld threats in Mumbai. Things were going smoothly for some time, but now, in 2022, if the same thing happens where humans are treated like animals, then it is very wrong. I won’t say it is the government’s fault or the police’s fault, somewhere it is our fault also, that we take things lightly. We don’t raise our voice. Twenty years ago, when I received similar threats, I did not take it lightly. I alerted the police. The problem is that we get scared of these threats,” he says.

Singer Jaspinder Narula feels what happened to Sidhu Moosewala was very unfortunate. “It is both shocking and painful, something that we could not even imagine. A mother lost her 28-year-old son in such a painful way. The government should investigate and get to the root of the matter, we can’t lose artistes this way. I hear that the Punjabi industry is shaken, but nobody is talking about it openly. I have been singing for 48 years, but I haven’t seen a time like this,” she says.

Punjabi film director Amarpreet Chhabra informs shoots in Punjab have been stopped as of now, but only as a mark of respect for Sidhu Moosewala. “There are generally no shoots in Punjab in summer when the temperature soars to almost 45-50 degrees. So in this period, films are mostly shot outside the state only. I shot for ‘Honeymoon’ starring Gippy Grewal and Jasmin Bhasin in London recently. It’s not about fear, when such incidents happen, people also take precaution. Threats keep coming, but after a long time, such an incident has happened with a popular artist who has been executed. This wasn’t a case of extortion, this was revenge, some personal vendetta,” he says.

Veteran actor turned politician Raj Babbar’s son Aarya Babbar was in a flight when Sidhu’s assassination happened. He recalls his father was petrified. “I was going to drive up and down from Ludhiana, Chandigarh. My father said I am not supposed to do that. It’s a very scary situation, darr bahot hai. The security checks have increased in the night,” he says.

“A lot of actors have taken PR for Canada, UK, Australia… it’s a fact. What is really happening is causing people to run away from their own motherland, which none of us would be happy about. I know what is happening right now… Even if you pick up new videos on YouTube, there are people getting extortion calls. Maybe these are fake, maybe these are the ones that went to Dhillon, Moosewala and others who have been threatened. It gives the same feeling like the gang wars in Bombay that happened in the early 2000s. I am glad how the people of Bollywood stood up against it and fought back,” adds Aarya.

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“The situation right now is a big blow to the Punjabi music industry,” says Mandeep Singh Chaahal. “It’s similar to the way the Hindi music industry was shaken after Gulshan Kumar’s incident. The artistes are in a panic situation right now, but things will get normal after some time. The police are investigating and shocking revelations could come forward. For such a thing to happen to a person who was the pillar of the industry is a big thing,” he adds.

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Fake extortion calls


Taking advantage of the situation, some miscreants also chance upon the first opportunity they get to extort a huge sum from artistes, who are nothing but scared for their life. “There are so many singers who receive such extortion calls, and they quietly give the money. There’s no way to even know if these extortion calls are from real gangsters or fake. If someone calls saying I belong to this gang, one won’t wait to confirm. They will get scared and ask what needs to be done. That’s where we go wrong,” says Mika Singh.

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Gabbar adds, “A singer can make upto 4-5 lakh per day, some earn in crores. But they also have similar expenses, most of the money is spent in making videos. They have to maintain a lifestyle, there are personal expenses too. But people only think that they are earning a lot. These gangsters keep demanding money, so the singers also have to maintain links with them because they cannot keep giving money. You can never know if the extortionist is real or if it’s a fake call. That’s also the case.”

Shoots postponed?


While some maintain that Sidhu Moosewala’s incident has caused no major changes in the shoot schedules in Punjab, Gabbar Sangrur has a different story to tell. “Shoot schedules have been impacted due to fear after the incident. We were shooting for a film and about 15 days of the schedule were remaining. But the lead artiste went out of India due to fear after this incident, so it has been postponed. This volatile situation has been going on for a long time in Punjab. In Sidhu Moosewala case, Sandeep Singh aka Kekda who did the recce and the other guys involved in executing this plan are not even educated, these are low level addicts. Punjabis are a strong community and this situation will come under control soon, now that the matter has come to light,” he says.

Can there be an end to gang wars?


There have been questions raised around Sidhu Moosewala’s security being withdrawn despite the looming threat to his life. While some maintain this had nothing to do with politics, others believe it was mere turf war and personal vendetta. In any case, a life was lost. Gabbar Sangrur points out how these gangsters are operating from within their prison cells. He believes only the government has the power to curtail this. “There are some agencies that are facilitating telecommunication for these gangsters behind the bars. They want to spoil the environment in Punjab as it poses a threat to the government. The Kisan Andolan was started here. Gangsters have even killed sportsmen here, like the international Kabaddi player Sandeep Nangal. If the government is serious about ending gang wars in Punjab, they should send these gangsters to jails in faraway states where they face language problems, like Tamil Nadu or Thiruvananthapuram. If they are locked up in the north, they will have their network around and keep communicating. Lawrence Bishnoi is in remand, but he continues killing Punjabi artistes. The Punjab police should get him in remand for at least 5-10 days so they can find out which other Punjabi artistes are under threat,” he says.

“Security couldn’t even save Rajiv Gandhi or Indira Gandhi,” states Punjabi film director Amarpreet Chhabra. “If someone has resolved to kill, it hardly matters. If Sidhu had taken precaution, he would have been alive. It’s unfortunate that it happened with a huge star who knew about it, and he still left without security. Within a month it will be clear who did it and things will go back to normal. The police are at work,” he adds.

Singer-composer Salim Merchant has worked with Sidhu Moosewala on multiple occasions. He notes Sidhu had a lot of security around him, but it never came across as if he was worried or scared for his life. “There were several cases against him… Anyone who gets success and power at a very young age, ends up having more enemies than friends. The gun culture has been prevalent since the very beginning in Punjab, perhaps since the 1970s. There are a lot of gangs. Looting and extortion are common. Not just music industry or entertainment industry, anyone who is wealthy can be targeted. If you look at the history of Punjab, the situation has always been volatile. Kabhi bhi goliyan chal jaati hain, celebration mein bhi goli chal jaati hai (Guns are shot at random, they’re shot during celebrations)… it’s madness. The only way to stop this is to have strict regulations. You cannot have weapons!” he says.

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Sonia Mann says that everyone is disturbed after what happened to Sidhu, but very few will come forward to speak, “because they are scared that they could be next,” she concludes adding, “These gangsters are already in jail and they are still carrying out their plans. The gang wars need to end.”

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