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Chauthi Koot -
The Fourth Direction:
Internationally Acclaimed Filmmaker Looks At 1984 -
Gurvinder Singh





Whispers and rustles in the neighbourhood at night are perceived as a threat. There’s an emergency-like situation even in a public space like a railway station. The personal space called home is violated.

That is what the 1980s did to Sikhs in Punjab. That is what they did to award-winning film director Gurvinder Singh who was growing up in New Delhi, India’s capital, during that period. That is what led him to make ‘Chauthi Koot’ -- The Fourth Direction -- his new film.

Two years after internationally acclaimed “Annhey Ghorrey Da Daan” (Alms For A Blind Horse), Gurvinder is ready with his film about the state-sponsored crimes of the 1980s and the resistance movement it spawned.

“There were unspeakable excesses and brutalities from both sides -- the State and the Police, as well as the freedom fighters. The film does not try to uncover the reasons for these excesses or who was to blame. It deals with what turmoil does to everyday living for the ordinary person,” he says.

As a boy growing up in Delhi, he felt the repurcussion of those events, especially the pogroms unleashed against the Sikhs after Indira Gandhi’s execution by her own guards.

“The disturbing news from Punjab grabbed the headlines for so many years to come. And when I read Waryam Singh Sandhu’s collection of stories, “Chauthi Koot,” I realized what impact those events had on the mental and psychological constitution of the Sikhs of Punjab. The stories compelled me to make the film,” he shares.

Shot in Ferozepur and Amritsar last year, he calls “Chauthi Koot” an atmospheric film. He says there’s also the question of the form and craft of cinema, which stands largely ignored.

“For me, cinema is a philosophical medium for reflection on life and events, time and space, the visible and the invisible, the said and the unsaid. And any event, significant or insignificant, can lead to that reflection. I am not guided by the desire to ’succeed’ commercially or play up to the popular notions and sentiments of that period. Yet, I hope the film is widely seen,” he says.

And you’ll know what he means by that when you’ll go back to how “Annhey Ghorrey Da Daan” played out.

The film had a dream debut at the Venice Film Festival. It was the first Punjabi film to make it to this, the world’s oldest film festival, and then had screenings at the Munich Film Festival and the Abu Dhabi Film Festival and overwhelmed filmmakers and film viewers across the world.

Like its predecessor, “Chauthi Koot” does not have any professional actors. Gurvinder explains why:

“I am more interested in the human being, whether an actor or not. If a person’s presence on screen can resonate with the character I am trying to portray,” he says, adding he might never work with film stars. He is also not sure if they would be willing to go the length he would wish them to.

“They are more concerned about their public image,” he says.

He also chooses a non-Punjabi musician, in this case Marc Marder, a Frenchman of American origin, and says that since his films are extremely rooted in the space and in the people, they don’t need music to reinforce that feeling.

“Music is a strong, independent art form and if used without discipline, ends up undermining the form of cinema. Modern experimental music works better for cinema, I think, as it does not come with the baggage of a preconfigured emotion and is open to interpretation,” says Gurvinder.

Annhey Ghorrey …” set a very high benchmark. I ask him if it was a challenge for him.

“I don’t know,” he shrugs. “An artist has to move on and look for new expressions,” he says.

He is looking forward to release the film at an international festival this year and in Punjab and India later in the year.

[Courtesy: Times Group. Edited for]
January 7, 2015      

Conversation about this article

1: Sunny Grewal (Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada), January 07, 2015, 1:44 PM.

Hopefully a film by such an amazing director will be able to replace "Maachis" as the best representation of the era. Especially since Maachis slants towards being biased towards the Indian state.

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The Fourth Direction:
Internationally Acclaimed Filmmaker Looks At 1984 -
Gurvinder Singh"

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