Category Archives: Cinema

Gurvinder Singh’s great gift to Punjabi Cinema Part II

(The second and last part of Punjabi writer Waryam Singh Sandhu’s review of Anhey Ghorey da Daan. Link to Part I)

The film narrates a story of one day. In reality as well as symbolically. Much of the story lies in understanding the meaning of the symbols. The film starts early in the morning and ends at midnight. But the dawn is not of “Remembering the Lord’s Name and High Thoughts’, but covered in soot. It is bitter and poisonous. Instead of peace, there is sorrow. There is tumult. The villagers are gathering. There is a powerful party that has purchased land for setting up a factory, they have razed to ground the worker Dharma’s house that was built there. Dharma’s family and his neighbours find this unjust. Brute force.

In Punjab and all over the country, this kind of brutality happens daily. Governments elected by the people themselves are party to this. Various industrial organizations and corporates are being given land. Villages upon villages are being uprooted. This is no longer the story of one village, but that of the entire country, where any protests against such brutality are answered with bullets and police batons. Poor Dharma is an easy prey. Behind the perpetrators stands the might of the state. Police jeeps, and uniformed men holding guns stand in the background. The new owner curses Dharma and, grinding his teeth, asks him to clear off ‘like a gentleman’.

The people of Dharma’s community come together and go to the village sarpanch (village head). They had to go. The lowermost representative of an elected government is the sarpanch. A member of the panchayat from their own community also accompanies them. Despite being aware of everything about the case, the sarpanch feigns ignorance. Instead, his men gather around him and curse Dharma’s men. They insult them. One of them holds a rifle in his hands.- a symbol of the power of those of wield it. Their moustaches are twisted up, bolstered up by their conceit. This is the outer face of the hidden political games that he has played.

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Gurvinder Singh’s great gift to Punjabi Cinema Part I

Waryam Singh Sandhu is a foremost Punjabi short story writer. These are his views on the film ‘Anhey Ghorey da Daan’. The author’s picture is by Gurvinder Singh.

by Waryam Singh Sandhu

A film based on Gurdial Singh’s novel ‘Alms for the Blind Horse’ (‘Anhey Ghorey da daan)’ is in the news. It has won a number of national and international awards. For the first time, Punjabi cinema has earned such honours. It has also won the national award for direction and cinematography. The film has come first among all languages in the national awards, and at the Abu Dhabi national awards, it has bagged the $50,000 award for direction and cinematography.

Recently, the film was shown at on the last day of the PIFF film festival at Rose Theatre in Brampton, near Toronto, Canada.

There is a big crowd at the theatre. I am told that the crowds were not so big for any of the previously shown films at the festival. When I enter the hall, the film has just started. The film is moving very slowly.There are no fast-changing scenes that rush through the film. The story is about the dalit community. In their everyday lives, there is nothing that is very dramatic that happens. So how could it happen in the story? Like the stagnant and stopped lives of those people, the story in the film too seems to move hesitantly.

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Anhey Ghorey Da Daan- A Review

It takes some time for the film to sink in, but when it does, Anhey Ghorey Da Daan (Alms for a Blind Horse) has mastery written all over it.

That Anhey Ghorey belongs to niche contemporary cinema is not insignificant, even more striking is that the film is in Punjabi. This is a dissonance- the film in every way is far removed from what one expects from a Punjabi movie, or even the Hindi movies that Punjabis make.

Isn’t any movie in Punjabi about a Jatt on a revenge spree? Isn’t every Hindi movie with Punjab in the background about lush green fields swaying with bright mustard crops? If not about the big fat Punjabi weddings, isn’t it supposed to be about the valour of militant patriots like Bhagat Singh?

Based on a novel of the same name by Gurdial Singh, Anhey Ghorey presents a contrarian perspective- something that isn’t found in the Bollywoodized versions of Punjab. The story is not about the revenge of the Jatts, it is not about a militant valour either. It is a life that at best is stoic, and at its worst is impassive in the face of hardships. It shows one day in the life of a Mazhabi Sikh family that lives on the fringes. The characters don’t jump into a frenzy of song and dance every few minutes- instead they eek out a  precarious existence against a a volley of brutal attacks on their daily existence.

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Nikolai Gogol

1st April seems to be an appropriate date to celebrate the 200th birth centenary of one of the great satirists of all times, Nikolai Gogol. Human nature, that of con men included, hasn’t changed much since his days.

Gogol’s prose is characterized by imaginative power and linguistic playfulness. As an exposer of the defects of human character, Gogol could be called the Hieronymus Bosch of Russian literature. (more)

Watch the entire film based on Gogol’s The Inspector General starring Danny Kaye (1949). Here is the first part:

Slumdog Millionaire- A Good- Bad Film

Amitabh Bachchan does not make an actual appearance in Slumdog Millionaire, though he purportedly signs an autograph for Jamaal, the main protagonist. Nevertheless, both he and Hindi cinema cast a long shadow on the film. Even the title consisting of binary opposite words is reminiscent of Hindi films like Gora aur Kaala, Raja aur Rank and so on. In the epic tradition of Hindi cinema, it has two brothers, one goes on to become a gangster and the other, predictably enough, the millionaire.

Based on the novel Q&A by Indian diplomat Vikas Swarup, it has an innovative plot based on the Indian clones of the American television show,  Who wants to be a millionaire? Jamaal, who has honed his ‘knowledge skills’ in the slums of Mumbai is the contestant who makes it to the end and wins the jackpot. The amazing thing is that he is an illiterate 18- year old who serves tea in a BPO.

Each question that he is subjected to in the show is followed by a flashback where an incident comes to Jamaal’s mind and he answers the question accurately, surprising everyone in the audience. For example, to the question about who wrote the bhajan darshan do ghansham, his answer is instantaneous- Surdas. The story behind that answer is longer, and macabre. One of Jamaal’s friends in the slums, Arvind, had been blinded by a local gangster who lived off the earnings of child beggars. The reason for his being blinded is that Arvind sang this bhajan very well and being blind makes him more “marketable”. The movie is very gripping in the first half as question after question in the show is followed by searing flashbacks like this. Subsequently, the film follows the well- trodden path- Jamaal wins the contest, finds his lady love and all ends happily.

There are other problems with the film. Continue reading

The First Drop of our Rain- Spartacus

Never spread democracy by force, let it always be by example.

I think Americans should participate in the responsibility of our past, present, and future.  A formal apology for the egregious treatment of African-Americans  before the Civil War and after – even to the present day – deserves an apology.  It would send an important message to the world.

It appalls me that racism still exists.  Even today, bigots are guilty of placing nooses on trees, using the “n” word, or expressing racism in other ways. Our formal apology for slavery would include all forms of slavery that exist in the world today.  We would send a message to the world that the United States is not too proud to admit our flaws or our mistakes.

- Kirk Douglas

Kirk Douglas, the actor who played the key role of Spartacus in the classic movie by the same name based on the first Roman slave revolt, now has  a blog at MySpace. The clip that appears below below is one of my favorites. (link via BBC)

Carry On, Kirk !

‘Turtles Can Fly’, a Kurdish Film by Bahman Ghobadi

One thing that does not make news about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is their debilitating impact on children. ‘Turtles Can Fly‘, (2005) a film made by Kurdish director Bahman Ghobadi, brings attention to that inglorious facet of war.

After watching this movie one shudders at the realization of how a whole generation, scarred, scalded, mutilated by war, is growing up in the middle east and other parts of the world.

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