Punjabi-English film shooting in Winnipeg ‘a dream come true’ for local actors, crew

A local cast and crew are shooting a feature film with dialogue in Punjabi and English across Winnipeg for the next 20 days.

It’s a pretty big deal for 11-year-old Gopika Kaplish.

“I’m like OMG I’m in the biggest movie ever! That’s so cool!” said the young actor, who’s playing a student.

The film, 13Teen, is about a boy who’s been neglected by his parents. He’s now going through high school, and the film follows him as he faces decisions like whether or not to try drugs.

11-year-old Gopika Kaplish and nine-year old Kareya Garg play students in the Punjabi-English film 13Teen, which is being shot in Winnipeg over the next month. (Sam Samson/CBC)

Kareya Garg, who’s nine years old, plays another student in the film. She says it’s no sweat to shift back and forth between languages on camera, since that’s what she does every day.

“Sometimes at school when we have our own friends that actually speak our language, it’s kind of like that,” she said. “Some lines we’re going to be speaking English, some lines in Punjabi. It’s realistic.”

Canada a big market for Punjabi films

Director Roshan Prince says it’s one of the first films to be shot in Winnipeg in both languages with an almost entirely local Punjabi cast and crew.

Prince moved to Winnipeg from Punjab in 2016. He’s been in more than 30 films in India, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. Some of his music videos have more than 14 million views on YouTube. 13Teen is his directorial debut.

“There are lots of Punjabis in Canada, even North America, so it’s a big platform and a big market for films,” he said.

“Most of the successful films have shot in the Vancouver area, so this first in Winnipeg — it will be good.”

The cast and crew gathers for an opening prayer before shooting 13Teen at Amber Trails Community School. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

Most of the cast and crew are students at Prince’s performing arts centre Fame School and Studio, which just opened in the fall. The school focuses on Punjabi Manitobans who want to sing, act and learn more entertainment production. Prince says he has almost 100 students.

“I’ve done a lot of work in this industry, so in my mind, I should give a platform to the youngsters, the newcomers,” he said.

“I’ve done lots of struggle in this industry and I didn’t want anybody else to see that struggle.”

Roshan Prince is making his directorial debut with 13Teen, a Punjabi-English film shooting in Winnipeg in August. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

‘We’re preserving our language and culture’

One face Winnipeggers might recognize in the film is that of Diljeet Brar, NDP MLA for Burrows. The politician — who will play a school principal — has also taught dance, language and theatre in Winnipeg for years. He says seeing a Punjabi-English film shot in Winnipeg is “a dream come true.”

NDP MLA Diljeet Brar is playing a school principal in the Punjabi-English film, 13Teen. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

“There are so many things,” said Brar, listing off the positives.

“One, the kids and local artists are getting a break to be in a movie. Second, we are preserving our language and culture. The third, we are educating the communities about sensitive issues…. so it’s education, it’s economy, it’s job generation.”

The crew will be shooting at Amber Trails Community School for 10 days, then moving to other locations like CF Polo Park mall and The Forks. The film is scheduled to be released online this November.

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