Almost a year after it received a standing ovation at its world premiere (a first for a Punjabi film) in the Cannes Film Festival where it was screened in the Un Certain Regard section, National Award-winning film Chauthi Koot (The Fourth Direction) is set to hit Indian theatres on August 5.
The film will be released in 50 screens across Punjab. In Chandigarh on July 20 with the cast and producer, Kartikeya Narayan Singh, director Gurvinder Singh hopes that the film marks a new wave in Punjabi cinema and restores its lost sensitivity. “Finally Punjab will get to see this film for the region is the heart and strength of it,” he said.
Based on two short stories by award-winning writer Waryam Singh Sandhu, Chauthi Koot evokes an atmosphere of suspicion, fear and paranoia in the Punjab of 1980s.
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As Singh connects the two stories — of two Hindu friends trying to reach Amritsar and a farmer facing the impossible decision of killing his dog — Chauthi Koot plays up a palpable anticipation of fear, a feeling the director is not alien to.
Barely 10-years-old when Indira Gandhi was assassinated, Singh recalled how they were bundled in a school bus and his teacher, while pointing at him, said, “ihna sikhan nu sabak sikhana chahida hai” (we have to teach a lesson to these Sikhs).
“One can never forget that feeling of fear, of staying locked in and Hindu families protecting us. Chauthi Koot is a story of a common man living in an atmosphere of fear, even an animal is a silent witness to it. I guess that too attracted me to the story, the dog being
disposable and easy victim,” said Singh.
As the recent terror attacks create a similar air of fear, his story finds relevance and resonance even today, “for history revisits itself”.
An integral part of a cinema that goes beyond the rigmarole of box office collection, Singh’s films are made for artistic reasons. Though he makes films in Punjabi, they are seen in the world over for they carry a universal appeal.
A film, Singh believes, always finds its audience and vice versa. His debut award-winning film, Anhey Gorhey Da Daan, despite a limited release, is still being watched and talked about.
“A filmmaker is a prophet, poet and philosopher. He/she is also a risk taker, for no art or culture progresses without risk,” said Singh.
He added: “The courage to tell different stories is missing in Punjab. Where is Punjab today in terms of art, culture, theatre, music, dance and visual arts? There is not a single institution from here that is at the international level nor any institution dedicated to the arts. The folk expression has died and the decline in arts in Punjab has been spectacular. In its place are pop music culture, youth in drugs and the aftermath of the turbulent Eighties that damaged our virsa,” said Singh, adding how state funding is crucial to survival of arts.
Perceived as a “boisterous, material society instead of a thinking and reflective community, our own society has difficulty digesting the truth,” he said.
“I want to see the Punjab I see, read and observe in my films, not some caste superiority or a Punjabi discourse around the Jat identity.”
Here to make character-driven cinema instead of personality or cult-driven cinema, post Chuathi Koot, Singh is working on an existential comedy, and writing and making a film for acting students of FTII.
“It is partly influenced by the writings of Gabriel García Márquez,” he said.
Given a choice of translating any works of Márquez on the big screen, for Singh it would be Chronicle of a Death Foretold, with Ranvir Singh in the lead.