My Journey Directing the Punjabi Market Livestream Celebration

My 31st 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the Punjabi Market in Vancouver. A bastion of Punjabi culture, food and history that coats either side of an aterial lane into the great city.

Some context

The Punjabi Market in its hay days featured over 300 retail stores. Street front market shops were the style, from food to fashion to music to meat and video combination shops. It was like you’re traveling through an actual Indian bazaar. I remember visiting the Punjabi Market when I was a kid. It felt surreal. This was before Surrey became the Punjabi powerhouse that it is today.

That was the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Since then the Punjabi Market has slowly depreciated into a much calmer statement of culture. Most retail shops have up and left; replaced by more general staples of a modern community. Locations that were once bustling sweet and fabric ships are now housing pharmacies and insurance agents.

Most of the herd has migrated over to Surrey. But there are still plenty of South Asian families living within the area. And their kids want to bring some of that flavour back.

The Punjabi Market Regeneration Collective

A few more of the affluent first (or second) generation kids from these families have banded together to form the PMRC. A non-profit organization that’s working to revitalize the cultural significance of the area by way of introducing permanent installations like art and community spaces.

This was actually a story that I was hoping to cover for the re-introduction of INVANCITY. But alas, the COVID-19 crisis put their and my plans on hold. The PMRC is still working diligently to turn the Punjabi Market into an arts and culture corridor that would invite the rest of the city to come and celebrate the ways of the Punjab. But one of the key initiatives in the books was to create a street event, much like Italian Days or Car Free Days, the PM50 celebration was going to be helluva a party.

COVID-19 put a halt to that, but it opened up an opportunity to take things online.

The Punjabi Market Regeneration Collective

My Involvement

Gulzar Nanda from the PMRC gave me a call to see if I might be interested in directing and producing a livestream event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Punjabi Market. I said “of course!” — (Admittedly I didn’t immediately realize that he was asking me to volunteer, teehee).

After meeting the rest of the team and hearing about their ideas as to why this celebration is so important it became important that we did it right. There are so many livestreams for great causes that are well natured in heart, but trade off quality and showmanship for an endearing notion that they put in the effort of putting it together. We didn’t want that. We wanted show to be a spectacle, because that’s Punjabi.

So we hashed out a plan that would involve filming on location and in studio with social distancing and good hygiene in mind. We filmed the song,  dance and spoken word performances in studio. Our production crew consisted of just myself as the director, camera operator and sound recordist. We had the help of Cliff Hokanson to set up the lights. And a couple of production assistants (Jamie Sekhon, Roman Gill) to help with an extra hand here and there.

Kushwant Singh, Amarjeet Singh and Baljit Singh perform classical Indian music for the PM50 celebration.

For the interviews and interstitials it was again myself working as the production crew (directing, camera, lights, sound), Amrit Gill stepped up to be our host and we had Amber Mann on hand to serve as the production manager.

The entire show was edited and finalized by me; delivered in a week’s time to air on May 31st 2020.

I’m very grateful to have worked on this project. It’s been a fantastic way to meet more people within the Vancouver Punjabi community and celebrate a unique history that we share in this city.

Me behind the scenes of the PM50 celebration.

Watch the entire celebration here: 

Written By
Inder Nirwan
Co-Owner & Filmmaker