News East West
MUMBAI: For the first time, two Punjabi films – Qissa and Zinda Bhaag – are being screened at the on-going seventh Abu Dhabi Film Festival. The festival runs from Oct 24 to Nov 2.
Before this film festival, both these films were screened abroad in Toronto where Qissa premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. In fact, Qissa was voted as the best Asian film at the Toronto festival.
Zinda Bhaag (Run For Your Life), which is actually from Pakistan, premiered at the Mosaic film festival in Missisuaga in August.
With Irrfan Khan in the lead role, Switzerland-based director Anup Singh’s Qissa deals with dark haunting experiences of human beings that make them highly vulnerable as well as ruthless for the rest of the life. Umber Singh (played brilliantly by Irrfan Khan), a Sikh patriarch from a village near Rawalpindi who is forced leave leave his home and hearth by the Partition of India, is that human being who cannot exorcise the demons that the events of the Partition planted within him.
The story of Qissa begins with the Partition of India when Sikhs of Umber Singh’s village in Pakistani Punjab are forced to leave their home place by violence. Loading their cargoes on bullock carts, Sikhs, including Umber Singh, his wife Maher (played by Tisca Chopra) and three daughters, leave their native place for India to build new life and new identity as refugees.
As he rebuilds his life in India, Umber Singh is so blinded by his yearning to have a boy that when his fourth daughter is being born, he rushes into the birthing room, grabs the baby from his apprehensive wife’s arms ( as she asks him a little frightened: Won’t you like to have a look at your new-born daughter?) and announces that his fourth child is a boy.
Named Kanwar (played by Tillotama Shome), the fourth girl is raised as a boy whom Umber Singh puts under the care of a wrestler so that he (she) becomes an iron man. Tender towards Kanwar, Umber Singh is sometimes ruthless with his daughters.
Raised as a boy, Kanwar becomes a truck driver and is finally married to Neeli (played by Rasika Duggal). That’s when the story becomes bizarre as Neeli finds that Kanwar is a girl and tries to run away at night. Umber Singh grabs Kanwar’s runaway bride, but Kanwar wakes up and shoots Umber.
With Naseeruddin Shah in the role of a pahulwan (don), Zinda Bhaag (Run For Your Life) from Pakistan revolves around less privileged three young men Khaldi, Tambi and Chitta who try to seek greener pastures abroad and face huge difficulties. Both these films are a must watch.