Director, Gurvinder Singh:
Chauthi Koot teaches you an important lesson about humanity. It takes you through the evolution of human behavior—how circumstances trick the evil out of you. There are two stories that run parallel in this movie; both set in the troubled times of Punjab. With some brilliant performances and an impeccable background score, Chauthi Koot definitely deserves your time. The long shots, the stillness and the quiet that prevails in the feature, keeps you on the edge and makes for a remarkable film.
The director, Gurvinder Singh is best known for Punjabi language films and more recently for Chauthi Koot that marked his debut at Cannes Film Festival this year and even got him the National Award. The film released across India last week and has been garnering some great reviews. We managed to get in touch with the director to know more about his thought process. Excerpts.
Early on in life, you cut off your hair because you did not want to belong to any religion… What brought such strong views at the naïve age?
Blame it on Salman Rushdie! I am joking. I read Midnight’s Children at the age of 16 or 17. I was already growing skeptical about religious identity and religious institutions, how they preached and functioned. Somehow, after reading this book, my beliefs got firmed up. I declared to my parents that I have turned atheist! However, it took me a long time to convince them that I did not want to have any religious identity. Eventually they came around and accepted it.
Chauthi Koot looks past the lush meadows and shows the other side of Punjab… it shows an approach consistent with its own idiom—The Fourth Direction. What was the impetus behind making this film? What inspired you?
I was looking for some content to make a film set in the political turmoil of 1980s in Punjab or around the events of 1984 in Delhi post Indira Gandhi’s assassination. When you ask of Delhi, one of the most vivid memories is of being locked up inside the house for a week as mobs roamed the streets. The Hindu neighbors patrolled and protected the Sikh houses. I saw the gurudwara set on fire in the neighbourhood. In addition, the news of killings and arson kept poring in from Punjab for many years, which I would keep following in the newspapers. So when I read Waryam Sandhu’s stories of that period in Punjab, I was hooked. These were micro events, but quietly revealed much more than they actually portrayed. They had a sense of foreboding, mystery, fear, paranoia, feelings characteristic of the period, feeling we had experienced living in Delhi. In addition, more than just being confined to that period and space, the stories resonated beyond and could be anybody’s narrative living in conflict zone in any part of the world, of which there is no dearth today.
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