Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Its an ugly truth,which resides at the heart of this weeks Punjabi release,Sikandar. Its a film that comes from the mind and soul of an idealist writer-director Jatinder Mauhar (who has made Mitti) and attempts to expose the manipulative and exploitative game of power at the university level. The dark horse,the passive but aggressive leader Sikandar,essayed brilliantly by Kartar Cheema,the villainous crook Harjang played by Yaad Grewal,a feisty fighter of justice Beant Kaur portrayed by Gul Panag,supported by an impressive ensemble cast including Raj Singh Jhinger,Victor John,Manav Vij and Nishawan Bhullar.
Mauhars characters are real and endearing,and his storytelling impactful. The fact that a majority of the cast comes from a theatre background and have lived through the volatile student union elections in the interiors of Punjab is an icing on the cake.
The film is a stark representation of the clash of ideologies the good,the bad and the ugly. Student union elections are the ground for future leaders,but how this ground is poisoned and the crop is allowed to wither away is the story of Sikandar. From the mafia mundeers on campus to the addicts
and the boys waving country pistols and teasing girls,Sikandar draws a picture of wars within Punjab,riddled with
a dangerous kind of violence. At the helm of this are national political parties,just as Shakespeare wrote,Like flies to wanton boys,are we to the Gods,they kill us for sport.
Mauhar earns points for bringing the Ram Gopal Varma genre of cinema to Punjab,particularly the one we got from Satya. His use of Sector 25 colony and Anandpur Sahib was a masterstroke,and so was his weaving in the element of women empowerment.
It was sheer delight to watch a film as a film,listen to Rabbi Sheirgills Chhalla and not just while away time on a cut-copy-paste version of just another romcom. Mauhar needed to build a little more on the background of the characters,but nevertheless,the film in all its starkness,darkness and minimalistic approach gives us a glimmer of hope that Punjabi cinema is in good hands. It also gives us a rising star,Kartar Cheema.