IN the colourful circus of action, comedy and romcoms of Punjabi cinema, writer-director Jatinder Mauhar is perhaps one of the rare filmmakers who consciously chooses to bring the people of Punjab face-to-face with the real Punjab. His films Mitti and Sikander are fine testimonials to a state of chaos, its youth in distress and unwitting pawns to political games. With these two powerful stories, Mauhar practically changed the rules of entertainment, or as he likes to define, “the rules of engagement”. Being different is not a USP, but being engaging enough so that the film stays with you is, feels Mauhar. No wonder he is drawn to stories that have more than two characters, subjects that are diverse, intense, thought-provoking and conversation starters. “I am trying to strike that conversation with Qissa Panjab that releases this October 16,” says Mauhar.
Produced by city-based Annu Bains under her Pukhraj Production House, the film unravels the lives of six young people, the choices they make, and the destinies they shape accordingly. The starcast is relatively new, including Preet Bhullar as Arjun, Kul Sidhu as Kismat, Dheeraj Kumar as Heera, Jagjeet Sandhu as Speed and Harshjot Kaur as Sukhjeet.
On Monday, Bains and Mauhar discussed problems being faced by the youth of Punjab with college kids at PVR Elante. “Because that is the purpose of any film. It’s a medium to converse, to initiate a dialogue,” says Mauhar.
A multi-narrative with all the elements of thrill, mystery, emotion, drama, Qissa Panjab is a film that reflects life. “And in life, there is no black and white, just shades of grey. My characters are not heroes or heroines here. They are the youth of Punjab, helpless and hopeful at the same time,” he says, penning a mystery thriller next.
The grey tones also dominate the cinematography of the film. Shot during the foggy months of Punjab’s winter, “it also transforms into a metaphor, for the grey shades represent the dark period of struggle in lives of these people, and how, there is the hope of spring at the end, of a new leaf,” explains Bains. Pointing out the relevance of the story today, Bains, through the film, wants to revive the spirit of Punjab. “The youth has moved into a direction that is ruining their future. Indiscriminate use of party drugs and substance abuse is affecting the next generation. I am hopeful that this would be a wakeup call for all youngsters,” says Bains.
Its proximity to reality notwithstanding, the idea was not to appear preachy or roll out messages. “We are presenting six lives, and these can be anyone’s. The aim is to stir some realisation and empathy, and apply that in one’s own life,” adds Bains. Mauhar, who has been connected with the youth of Punjab through his films for long now, feels that as a state and society, we have conveniently ignored and sidetracked the youth.
“We’ve relinquished our claim to them, shirked off our responsibility to guide them, to support and help them. This was our duty and we failed. All we do is abuse and ridicule them for getting into drugs, or other questionable activities,” feels Mauhar, whose biggest challenge was to keep the film fast-paced.
A girl dancing in an orchestra is not characterless, or a basketball player who is unable to get a job is not useless, nor is the one taking drugs a criminal, adds Mauhar, raising questions and unearthing the human nature through Qissa Panjab. Meanwhile, college students of Chandigarh University, Chitkara University Rajpura, Patiala University and Rayat Bahra University joined in the conversation on the film.