The Challenge To Survive; The Challenge To Live Or To Kill


In 2015, Gurvinder Singh’s Chauthi Koot (The Fourth Direction), made history by being the first ever Punjabi movie to make the cut for Cannes Film Festival. Despite having won the National Award for Best Feature Film in Punjabi, the movie failed to create an atmosphere of publicity that would induce the audience. The film released on 5th of August, and when I went for it, it was almost a no-show.

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.

The movie is set in the backdrop of 1980’s Khalistan Movement of Punjab, and successfully takes us back to that era, amazingly portraying the fear, and the silence that plagued the nation. The movie depicts the impact of the Khalistan Movement and the State-imposed action on the common people, who reeled under it. The move itself takes us back to the roots of the cinema, making the viewers all nostalgic using its visuals and sounds. The focus on sound and light rather than on color and scenery, and the essence of minimalist dialogues indeed does a magic on the viewers, swiftly carrying us from the techy world to the old era of simplicity.

The narrative of this Gurvinder Singh film unfolds unhurriedly, and one watches with a growing sense of dread, praying for safety of innocents in the frame, both two and four-legged. Their struggle was much beyond than a lost internet connection, the people struggled for life and the fear, the restlessness is beautifully depicted in the movie.

The movie has two parallel storylines, wherein, few of them are trying to catch the last train going to Amritsar, a train that isn’t supposed to carry any passengers. In the second storyline, there is a family comprising of a dog, but the dog has a bounty over his head. The Khalistanis have warned them to kill the dog, because the barking of it, alerts the security forces who are already extremely vigilant.

The movie is about how the Khalistan movement generated disbelief, suspicion and fear among people. But to convey this, no long speeches or flashy visuals have been used. The message is conveyed through artistic use of visuals, sounds, and techniques that a stage actor uses to take the attention of the audience towards himself. It’s a movie that stumps you, while you are carefully sitting in the sanctuaries of multiplexes, you are gripped by a sudden fear that cannot be explained or worked upon.

The movie is based on two short stories by Waryam Singh Sandhu: Chauthi Koot -The Fourth Direction, and, Main Theek Thaak Haan -I Am Fine.

It was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. It won the Singapore International Film Festival Silver Screen Award for Best Asian Feature Film in December 2015, and hopefully, our own country would be as receptive as all these international platforms.

I watched this movie, and lived that time with dread, with fear and with utmost anxiousness. The movie is like walking on eggshells, something Punjab lived for long. It’s a journey taking us back to history, though it’s scary, but my experience say the journey is worth it.

Yugansha Malhotra

Image Sources

The Viewspaper