By Thomas Mathews:
Gurvinder Singh’s Punjabi feature film “Chauthi Koot” is undoubtedly the best crafted film we have seen in recent times. “Chauthi Koot” which has many feathers in its cap including a National Award apart from receiving critical acclaim worldwide has finally released in the theatres for the general public.
The separatist movement that shook the peace of living a normal life in Punjab and the rest of the country in the 1980s and later on which led to the killing of one of the most powerful political figures in India as an aftermath of her decision to flush out terrorists from the sacred Golden Temple under the garb of Blue Star Operation is very well woven in Chauthi Koot as the base of its narrative.
Cinematographer Satya Rai Nagpaul captures fear, silence, helplessness, resistance, belief, revolt and hope through his lens so well that the film leaves you awestruck. Bhupesh Micky Sharma’s editing is noteworthy. Chauthi Koot breaks the set norms of the traditional structure of storytelling.
Gurvinder Singh’s film is a fusion of two stories – “Chauthi Koot” (The Fourth Direction) and “Main Theek Thak Haan” (I am Feeling Fine Now) written by the Punjabi writer Waryam Singh Sandhu who won Sahitya Akademi Award in the year 2000 for his collection of short stories – “The Fourth Direction and other Stories”. The film begins with two Punjabi Hindu men rushing to a railway station to catch a train to Amritsar and missing their train by a minute. Their wait on a desolated platform for hours, the checking of an empty Amritsar-bound train by a bunch of army men, pulling down the shutters on the windows of each and every coach of the train by the army men and not allowing them to board the empty train raises your curiosity to know what is happening and why? The silent train journey without the consent of the conductor and finding a few other passengers already huddled in the compartment looking at each other with mistrust and sometimes for assurance galvanises the sense of fear and uncertainty to a greater level. There are moments we as the audience also feel the fear of the unknown.
The film takes us a few months back to tell us another story about a Sikh farmer called Joginder (Survinder Vicky) and his family. The tale of political and social disruption and lack of peace in a commoner’s life is very well depicted. A barking dog that senses every rustle in the dark as a threat to the family is hell bent to protect its master’s family and the family who loves the canine is equally disturbed by its bark because it attracts the ire of passing militants at night. Caught between the patrolling army in the day and by the militants at night, the family portrays the plight of a commoner. The threat that looms largely in individuals and their social life is beautifully captured and in every frame we pray for their safety and are equally tensed to know what is awaiting next. Gurvinder Singh and his team have done a brilliant work because their work diminishes the barrier of the screen between the viewers and the characters in the film.
In short, “Chauthi Koot” which was screened at Cannes 2015 and later on won a national award should not be missed. Every single actor is distinct and stays in your mind especially Survinder Vicky as the farmer under stress. The film stands out because of its craft, storytelling and the realistic recreation of the disturbed times of Punjab in the 1980s. “Chauthi Koot” doesn’t have high emotional melodrama, political statements, news splashed on the screen by various newspaper cuttings, or a revolutionary to speak about the importance of rights and freedom rather it is the silence, the dark nights, the rattling train, fear in the eyes, the dogs bark, the turbaned heads and non-turbaned heads that convey the message you want to carry home with you – a message if we walk together closely then no turbulence and internal turmoil can disturb the unity of our countrymen.
Cast: Survinder Vicky (Joginder), Rajbir Kaur, Harleen Kaur, Taranjit Singh, Kanwaljit Singh (Jugal), Harnek Aulakh, Nakul Vermani, Gurpreet Bhangu, Tejpal Singh
Director: Gurvinder Singh
Producer: Kartikeya Narayan Singh
Written by: Waryam Singh Sandhu, Gurvinder Singh
Screenplay: Rohit Dhawan, Tushar Hiranandani
Based on Stories: Chauthi Koot and Main Theek Thak Haan by Waryam Singh Sandhu
Music by: Marc Marder
Cinematography: Satya Rai Nagpaul
Edited by: Bhupesh Micky Sharma
Production: Film Cafe
Release Date: 5th July, 2016
Duration: 115 Minutes