Ground Reality

As his short film Nooran travels to Canada for a world premiere,filmmaker Navtej Sandhu stresses on the need for a more rooted Punjabi cinema

Written by Jaskiran Kapoor | Published:September 19, 2013 3:01 am

For a relatively young regional cinema,a world premiere,and that too of a short film,is a rare occurrence. But it is indeed happening this month in Canada. Amritsar-based Navtej Sandhu’s debut short film in Punjabi,Nooran,will see a world premiere on September 22 in Brampton,Ontario,by Punjab International Film Festival (PIFF) and International Film Festival of South Asia (IFFSA). Three days later,on September 25,the film will have an India premiere at Khalsa College for Women,Amritsar. Again,on September 28,there will be a special screening of the film in Vancouver,Canada,organised by Sandhu’s group,Sur Saanjh. Needless to say,the filmmaker is ecstatic.

“When I started working on the project six months ago,I never expected this kind of a response,” says Sandhu,whose association with the entertainment industry dates back to the early ’90s,when he started organising concerts for Punjabi singers under Sur Saanjh. “These concerts were never done commercially. It was all on the basis of word of mouth and support from like-minded institutions such as the Holy Heart Group of Institutes in Amritsar,” says Sandhu,who continued doing this alongside his teaching job.

Soon,he got into film promotions with Jee Ayan Nu in 2002 and started the Punjabi Film Awards in 2007 in Amritsar. It’s only this year that Sandhu felt the need to contribute something more substantial to Punjabi cinema. “I decided to make a film,and because I choose to stick to ground realities and serious subjects,finding a producer became a challenge,” says Sandhu. He started working on Nooran,which was inspired from the story Rabbo Marasan,written by acclaimed Punjabi writer Balwant Gargi.

“Punjab has a rich collection of literature,and I wanted to create one such work through my film. While researching for the film,I read Gargi’s Rabbo Marasan,a women-oriented subject and couldn’t put it down.” At the same time,Sandhu was also encouraged by lyricist Amardeep Singh Gill’s short film,Sutta Naag,and so he roped in Gill for Nooran.

Set in a village in Punjab some 40 years ago,Nooran throws light on the plight of women,how they are bartered by men like property and are reduced to being the objects of sex and desire. “No one can own a woman by pressure,coercion or violence. It’s only love that wins her over,” says Sandhu,about the premise of his film. He says he wanted to recreate a traditional Punjab for its backdrop. “The star of any film is the story and the script. Our literature offers many stories,human interest angles,powerful emotions and complex characters,and I would rather explore these stories than showcase teenagers and their college road trips.”

Made in a budget of Rs 4 lakh,and shot in just five days,this 32-minute film stars veteran Punjabi actor and theatre artist Sardar Sohi,actress Kul Sidhu (who was seen in Anhey Ghore Da Daan),and theatre actors Jaswant Jass,Gurinder Makna and Gurbinder Bhatti.

Sandhu says that Punjabi cinema today is all about “stand-up comedies and singers posing as actors”. “It’s unfortunate that even the audience is lapping it up,and serious cinema is finding no takers because of an immature audience and non-film producers who eye only profits.” He adds that the state government has never paid any attention to the entertainment industry. “It’s a self-funded,self-run industry whereas so much can be done to generate and harness its potential in the form of film schools and film festivals,” says the filmmaker.

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