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TORONTO: Director Anup Singh’s Punjabi film Qissa was awarded as the top Asian film at the 36th Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday. It was the first time that any Punjabi film had entered the world’s top film festival.
A jury from the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema (NETPAC) voted Qissa as its choice for the NETPAC Award for World Asian Film Premiere.
The jury comprising Jay Jeon (Korea), Intishal Al Timini (Abu Dhabi) and Freddie Wong (Hong Kong) said, “The NETPAC Award for the best Asian film at Festival 2013 goes to Qissa, directed by Anup Singh, for its sensitive portrayal of the issues of identity and displacement that affect people not only in India, but in all parts of the world and for brilliance of cinematic craft and the choice of metaphor that has been employed to tell a moving story that is bound to provoke thoughts, spark debate and give its viewers an intense experience.’’
Reacting to the news of the award, Anup Singh said, “Today’s my wedding anniversary and my wife had just tucked away a bottle of champagne into the fridge when I had the phone call from my producer.’’
Anup Singh said, “What moves me is that this film about a refugee on this earth has finally found a home in the community of world cinema. What is of even more importance to me is that the award celebrates a film in Punjabi. I’m proud & gratified.
“My producers, my cast — Irrfan Khan, Tisca Chopra, Rasika Dugal and Tillotama Shome, and the international crew of this film all gather with me to give thanks to the people of the Punjab who so lovingly and generously supported us in the making of this film.”
Qissa, which was the first-ever Punjabi film to enter the Toronto International Film Festival, is the story of a Sikh refugee Umber Singh who is displaced from his village near Rawalpindi by the Partition of India in 1947.
As Umber Singh tries to rebuild his life after displacement to India, the loss of his home and identity unleashes forces within him that turn him against others and himself and his family.
According to Anup Singh, who is based in Switzerland, the film has been in the making for 12 years.
He says the film resonates with the the life journey of his family. “Our family was displaced by the Partition, and my grandfather was very bitter about being uprooted from his roots. He knew he would never be able go back to his roots. He remained very bitter.’’
With his slow but perfect Punjabi, Irrfan Khan has brilliantly played the role of Umber Singh in the film.
The Toronto International Film Festival concluded on Sunday, September 15, with the announcement of film awards in various categories. Not surprisingly, Steve McQueen’s film 12 Years a Slave won the audience award as the top film of the festival.
Many films chosen by Toronto film festival audiences have gone on to sweep the Oscars, including Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire which, interestingly, also featured Irrfan Khan in the role of a police inspector.
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