Gurvinder Singh on his award-winning Punjabi movie, Chauthi Koot, which was showcased at Cannes
With films such as Sairat (Marathi) and Thithi (Kannada) making waves for good storytelling and poignant narratives, another regional movie is now grabbing headlines. Gurvinder Singh’s second feature, Chauthi Koot (The Fourth Direction)—which has gained accolades in India and abroad—is slated for release in theatres next month. Adapted from two short stories by author Waryam Singh Sandhu, the National Award-winning movie is the first Punjabi language film to be showcased at Cannes (2015). Though set in 1980s Punjab—in the backdrop of militancy and the separatist movement following Operation Bluestar, Indira Gandhi’s assassination and the riots in the capital—the director says the film is not about political events. “It’s about the common man, how they were at the receiving end from both sides—from the militants and the state,” he says.
Belonging to a Sikh family, Singh, who was 10 years old when the riots took place in Delhi, remembers seeing the angry mobs and the neighbourhood gurudwara being burnt. “We were locked up in our house for almost a week,” he shares. Singh says it is times like these that one is made aware of one’s religious identities. “We were just the same as everybody else, but suddenly I felt because of my turban and long hair I could be singled out.” He cut his hair after school because he didn’t want to see himself “belonging to any religion”. With many up in arms against the drug-dominated portrayal of Punjab in Udta Punjab recently, the Himachal-based director feels the portrayal of the state has always been one-sided. “(People) have these romantic ideas of Punjab, of sarson ka khet,bhangra and gidda. Of course, that is a small part, but not the only Punjab.”
An FTII alumnus, Singh, whose characters have been praised for showing multiplicity of emotions without a dialogue-heavy script, feels that playing with silence was an important part of the narrative. “Before violence there is silence and even after violence people are stunned into silence. So the film alternates between silent passages and then a rupture, where all hell breaks loose. The anticipation of violence is a bigger fear in the minds of the audience when they are watching the film almost in the Hitchcockian sense,” he explains.
The music has been provided by Marc Marder (of The Missing Picture fame) while the sound design is a collaboration between Singh’s recordist, Susmit Nath, and French sound designer, Bruno Tarriere. A Raju Hirani fan, the director, who just finished a short film as part of an international omnibus, also credits international filmmakers such as Robert Bresson, Abbas Kiarostami, Kenji Mizoguch, John Cage and Theo Angelopolous, among others, for inspiring his work.
Chauthi Koot releases on August 5
— Simar Bhasin