One Bird, Two Nations

Gurvinder Singh’s latest film is a satirical take on the Indo-Pak conflict.

Written by Anushree Majumdar | Published:October 31, 2016 12:45 am
Ghuspaithia, Gurvinder Singh, JIO MAMI Mumbai Film Festival, Mumbai Film Festival, MAMI Mumbai Film Festival, Film Festival Gurvinder Singh.

The last thing Bhupesh Kumar is prepared for on his wedding day is an enemy attack. A white pigeon with a stamp on its wing flies into his bedroom and is caught by his cousins. Spotting the Urdu text, Kumar, a police officer in a village in Gurdaspur, takes the bird to the police station and an investigation is launched. Ghuspaithia (Infiltrator), a 15-minute short-fiction film written and directed by Gurvinder Singh (pictured below), is a satirical take on the Indo-Pak conflict, which, in the past two years, appears to involve Pakistani pigeons cooing codes on this side of the border.

The film premiered at the recent 18th JIO MAMI Mumbai Film Festival as part of In The Same Garden, an omnibus of seven short films that look at the long-lasting aftermath of the Turkish-Armenian conflict that began in 1915, when the Ottoman government systematically annihilated 1.5 million Armenians. Singh stopped for a chat after the screening; excerpts from the conversation:

How did the film come about, especially since it is the only one that doesn’t touch upon the Turkish-Armenian conflict?

In August the producers of the omnibus reached out to me and asked me if I wanted to make a film with conflict as the central theme. They were okay with the fact that it wasn’t going to be about Turkey or Armenia. I immediately remembered the news report about the pigeon last year. I sent them the idea and they liked it.

Ghuspaithia, Gurvinder Singh, JIO MAMI Mumbai Film Festival, Mumbai Film Festival, MAMI Mumbai Film Festival, Film Festival A still from the film.

Also, I hadn’t made a short film in a long time; this is my first after FTII. I was doing non-fiction, and then I made two features. For me, it was an interesting challenge to work with the form. Lastly, the budget was good. When they told me the budget, I said, ‘Of course’. (laughs). The kind of budget they gave me for the short film, young filmmakers would get that money to make a feature.

The film is close to the real-life incident. Was that intentional? 

Yes. I shot for nine days in Pathankot and Gurdaspur. Pathankot was where the actual pigeon was found in July 2015. We went by the newspaper report and visited the exact locations, including the veterinary hospital where they did the X-Ray of the pigeon. We met the doctor there. We were telling him about our idea and he said, ‘Wait, I have the real X-Ray.’ So, we used it.

There’s been another pigeon in the news this year and your film appears to have predicted the event.

Yes. What we’ve shown in the film is what happens whenever there is tension between India and Pakistan — forces are deployed at the border and curfews take place. All that came true in just the last month.
This time, the pigeon allegedly had a message for the Prime Minister. I just might make a sequel.