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Punjab 1984 – The story of a mother

If I had to encapsulate the theme and emotional power of Punjab 1984 in a few words, I’d never be able to ace these couplets from the movie’s soundtrack :

Haadh Diyaan Paindeyan Ch Vichchdi Hai Chaan Bann Ke Bedard Haakma Tu V Vekh Kade Maa Bann Ke Mudh Aa Ve Laadleya Ghare Ammi Udeekdi

Mere Pind Di Oh Paun Nu Suneha De Dyo Mainu Lorriyan Sunaave Kitte Maa Banke Ni Main Kujhe Wich Aunga ‪‎Swaah‬ Bann Ke Ni Main Kujhe Wich Aunga ‪‎Swaah‬ Bann Ke

That’s all Anurag Singh’s Punjab 1984 is, and all it had to be, a story about a mother looking for her son. The film opens with a brilliant scene during the attack on Golden Temple, a scene so poignant, I’d have to look long and hard to find anything which matches its simplicity and sincerity while depicting such an important and sensitive event for millions of Sikhs around the world.

The movie then movies to a year and a half later, with Kirron Kher as the main character of a mother looking for her son. Like she says, she used to be worried that he returns home in time, and she still is. The opening credits carry a serene sense of  her morose life, her daily routine, as she visits the police station daily, and waits for news about her son. This is of course not a unique or isolated case. It is the story of upheaval in the lives of countless families in Punjab during the period of the Khalistan movement. It is the true story of thousands of mothers, whose sons went out on a day as ordinary as any, never to be seen or heard from again.

The methods used by the police to suppress insurgents during this period, and politics of the situation is well documented and well known(Click here & here to read more). Family feuds, and personal grudges intertwined into the political war that was underway. Many policemen misused the sanctioned power. As the general sentiment goes, who watches the watchmen?. Our protagonist’s story is one such incident, with a land hungry neighbour, and a power hungry policeman. The mother’s powerlessness in the situation is reflective of our own impotency in face of political power even today, especially today.

The backstory moves briskly, with the serviceable blend of a happy go luck protagonist, loving mother, strict father, ‘love at first sight’ song and dream sequence before getting to the actual meat of the plot. Of course the mother is portrayed as righteous as any can be found in the breadth of the hindi or punjabi film industry, without any flaws or intricacies of a human. She is perfect, kind to any and all, even to those who have wronger her. The only humanizing characteristic she possesses is her loss, and her resolve to find out what happened to her son. But Kirron Kher’s acting truly liberated the character and saved it from crossing over to the territory of melodrama.

The moments chosen to elucidate the mother’s situation are a step away from the cliche’d moments we’re used to witness in movies. Here, they’ve used small moments, dialogues, to evoke the sense of loss and frustration. A moment that particularly stood out for me was when she has to go through the pictures of boys recently killed in Police encounters and shootings. The camera lingers on her face as she is handed the album, and it is kept steady, as we feel her hesitation. She slowly starts to look at the album. The camera still lingers but zooms in a little, as we feel along with the mother, the fear before the turn of each page, and the small respite before gathering enough courage to turn the page again. The scene transitions to reveal a few glimpse of some of the victims. As the mother reaches the end of the album, she hides a smile of relief behind her chunni. The acting by Kirron Kher is top notch in this scene. The direction and photography is particularly masterful. Frankly, I was surprised with this level of finesse in a punjabi movie.The film is so engaging that when the words ‘intermission’ appear on the screen, I had to check my watch to confirm that 90 minutes had indeed slipped by.

The second half starts strong with an incident inspired from real life, and a terrific scene, where the mother learns that her son might have died. Her son’s friend informs her that her son might not be bound anymore, he is finally free. The agony and restlessness is brilliantly depicted using the mother’s reaction. The director might have overstayed to milk the scene for some extra tears, nevertheless, it’s a very powerful scene. Why couldn’t it have stayed that way? The movie changes gears and the story starts to falter, like the writers were unsure where they should go from here. Then scenes start to fall flat, emotions and melodramatic dialogues start to fly high and it completely derails in the last thirty minutes.

-Spoilers-

The plot shifts to the going ons of the present day as the drama and body count starts to rise. There’s some unnecessary resolution of the land acquisition plot. Granted, it did set the whole plot in motion, but the follow up and resolution fell flat, and frankly, felt unnecessary. Also, the romantic sub plot overstays its welcome and acts as a distraction sometimes. But it still adds to the realness of the movie, and works to a certain extent. The depiction of the ‘movement’ is cheapened to cheap ploys of a couple of power hungry politicos. But of course, our hero saves the day, and how.

After this point, the movie goes from being a grounded representation of the reality of Punjab to generic masala fare. The last thirty minutes might be inspired by any number of the mainstream ’100 crore club’ bollywood movies. I literally cringed at the Salman Khanesque moment when the ‘hero’ challenges the arresting officer (the villain in this case) and throws away his gun to have a hand to hand fight.

At first, I balked at the writer’s poor choice to go this route, but then it occurred to me, that perhaps the writer had was so deeply emotionally invested in these stories and so frustrated with the powerlessness of the common man, or even his helplessness as a writer, that it was a chance for him to let off some steam, to exact some revenge. It was a masturbatory exercise by the writer, where he was literally bashing the shit out of such policemen and the system and the movement who were responsible for such mishaps. Whatever the reasons were, in my opinion it nullified all the respects and dedications it wanted to pay off to the victims and their families, a message so explicitly stated at the end. It was almost an insult, that those boys weren’t strong enough to change their fate, or fight to survive… only if they’d been heroes. Anyway.

The film climaxes when our protagonist finally returns home with his head and chest held high, just as he had envisioned it. It should have been a touching and a much needed emotional payoff, but I was still barfing from the last fight scene. The movie ends with such a weak and tailored scene, that it seemed like they cobbled it together at the last minute when the writer finally gave up on the story. The only saving grace of the climax was the acting of Diljit Dosanjh and Kirron Kher, which supplied some much needed emotionality, and grounded it to a certain extent. The haunting lyrics of the song ‘Swah bann ke’ also help.

Apart from the acting, the cinematography and editing are considerable well done. The movie has a bleached look with a yellowish tinge used effectively to illustrate this bleak period in Punjab’s history. The frames, shots, and length of scenes are mostly perfect with the camera lingering just long enough to leave an impact. The music of the film is very strong, especially the songs ‘Sawah bann ke’ and ‘Ammi udeek di’. It’s the first time I’ve seen music so well used in a Punjabi movie. Here it’s not a distraction, but helps further the story forward and acts as a beautiful supplement to help effectively portray the emotions of the characters. Overall, I would say that it’s a must watch, even if for the beautiful first half.

P.S. If you want to listen to the songs, click here.

P.P.S. For a political analysis/review of the movie, read this.

Fanaa…

Anjaan hain dil k halaato se hum, ghumon ki surahi se khushi k jaam peete hain

Yu ulajh chuke the zindagi k dhaage, k tod kar hi sukoon sulajhne ki ummed karte hain)

Ikk aakhri dor atk rhi hai saanso ki, tut jaane ki dua kabool ho ye dua krte hain

Gir rhe hain andhere karmo ki gehrai mein, ab bass jahannum k darwaaze ke sahaare liya karte hain

 

Naa jane kab girne lagi fir ankhuli aankho par roshni, Ikk farishte ki tasveer si tatolte hain

Beshaq koi khel khel rhi hain ye ummed ki kirne, inn ankhon par bhale ab tak bharosa kar kiya karte hain

Saari umr lga kar nafrat k khazane kamaaye hain, kayi paak dilo par dhoke k daag lagaaye hain

Iss noor k aakhri deedar ki ijaazat yu farmaan hui, iss kismat par pakiza hone ka ilzaam ab lagate hain

Gar maut ki panah haasil kar chuke hain.. kisi ki dua k sadke hi jannat ki jhalak ka mazaa utha rahe hain

 

Purani yado ka bawandar kuch aisa panapne lga fakat, uska wo aakhri kalma hawayein gungunati hain

K kya fark hai batao meri chahat aur tumhaari mohobbat mein, jo farishte bewafaai ke ilzaam lgate hain

 

Kya kehte hum dil ka haal ye soch kar katrate the, fir bi sadaiyo se chupe raaz kuch yu sunate the

Tum chahat mein apne dil ki zidd ki hifaazat karte ho, hum mohobbat mein teri ruh ki ibaadat karte hain

Tum shayad hume paane ki beparwaa umeed karte ho, hum beparwaa anjaam tumse mohobbat karte hain

Ikk zindagi ka khayal bhar hai kisi benaam shayar ka, ikk zindagi ka sarmaya sa bayaan karti hai

 

Inn yaado ke nashe mein bass zindagi ko alvida kar dein, issi ummeed mein roshni se mu fer lete hain

Qayaamat tak le ske khuda ki har sza hass kar, iss manzar ko hum aankhon mein to ab yu kaid karte hain,

Jisse zindagi bnaya uske haatho maut ka taufa mila, iss tameel ka shukriya ada hum roz karte hain

Therapy

Sometimes, writing is therapeutic, sometimes I write to calm myself, to see the truth, to not be lead astray…

Dil chodd de ye zidd inn dilkash lamho ki,

Inke Haq mukammal ho chuke zamaano ki baat hai

Inn aahton ki dhoop ki chahatein naa kar

Inmein jalke zinda rehna parwaano ki baat hai

 

And then sometimes, it just flows out of me.. like a stream I have no hopes of controlling, I can only wait for it to pass.. and hope that I can hold on, keep my feet on the ground and keep moving

Sab jod k ab chodd de, Iss waqt ka pahiya tod de

Dil dil ka chakkar chod de, Iss mod se ab muh mod le

Kuch dil k tukde baant de, Iss gum ka rasta chodd de

Gumm jaa hadd k galiyaaro se, Ab sharm ka ghunghat oddh le

 

Par maan le kaise baat ye, Iss dil ka dard prakop hai

Lad lein iss duniya se bhi ab, Iss zid ka koi naa tod hai

Ladna mushkil sa hai par ab, Uss nadaani si soch se

Uski baato ki nok se, Usske dil ki uss chot se

 

Anjaan bane baithe hain bass, Ikk  darr se naata jod k

Hain choron ki hum basti mein, aur dil bhi humse chor hai

Lutt kar baithe hain kabse hum, ikk parde ka afsos hai

 

Inn bikhri tooti yaadon ka, kuch mol nhi unn nazro mein

Inn lamho aur tasweero ko anmol banaye baithe hain

Dil se ladne ka zor nhi, Kya haal banaye baithe hain

Random thoughts of a kukoo heart

I had a horrible dream.. it was very sweet and enjoyable actually.. but it left me disturbed when I woke up, at the thought of my inner screwed up sense of love and relationship even if I’m outwardly very enlightened and intelligent about dealing with these matters now.. Anyway, I calmed myself by writing couplets and these are the choice couple out of half a dozen.. halfway decent I’d say :P

Chahat ke bazaar mein roz ek nayi chahat se dil behlaate hain..

Mohobbat ke deewano ka yaha koi kaam nahi

Perhaps not self explanatory, cuz I had to actually explain it to the couple of people who read it.. here chah carries its literal meaning ‘want’. So what it’s trying to say is that the heart is a jitterbug.. chanchal you know.. it gets attracted to something new everyday.. it gets obsessed with something new everyday.. and it’s very selfish.. the heart wants what the heart wants.. and these wants change everyday as old attractions fade and new ones develop..

Mohobbat here refers to love, which is eternal, not limited to lovers, flowing in all directions, maybe more concentrated towards some people, but it’s not selfish.. it’s a positive feeling.. how can it be negative when there are no expectations.. there are expectations in relationships.. not in love.. it’s boundless..

Anyway.. here’s another one.. self explanatory

Shamaa ke bazaar mein parwaano ka sauda kar aye..

Iss khel ko yaaro hum uski chaukhat par khatm kar aye..

Boht laanat di dil k saudagro ne..

Hum dil k tukdo ka ikk aur taufa kubool kar aye

Ship of Theseus

I just finished watching Anand Gandhi’s Ship of Theseus. It’s an amazing piece of art by the way. One of the most beautiful and moving films I’ve ever seen. Anyway, I visited their FB page and there was a contest for free DVDs or something, and I just entered on a whim. In the form, there was a question, Is it still the same ship? Huh.. that got me thinking. So I just wanted to repost my response here, which came pouring out of my heart, through my fingers, some thoughts I didn’t even know existed. I just wanted to keep a record of this here.

From an outside perspective, for all intents and purposes, I’d argue that it’s still the same ship, because it’s playing the same role and the same part with respect to all the people that interact with it. We are not primarily defined by our own inner thoughts and ideas, but by our actions, our relationships, our gestures, our place in society and how we effect the world around us. It’s like batman said, it’s not who I am underneath but what I do that defines me.
As far as the innermost self is concerned, it’s constantly changing. Each moment, each thought, each realization changes something inside of us that we can’t undo. We keep learning, we keep unlearning, and so we keep changing. Something that was so important to us moments ago, may no longer hold any value. So are we ever the same even if the body, the cells remain the same? Aren’t we reborn with new thoughts and ideas every second? Yet, we perceive our inner self to be the same.
You can choose to look at it any way you like, just as described so beautifully in the film, you don’t know where you end and where your environment begins.

P.S. You can watch the movie for free here: http://cineoo.com/sot/  Do watch it, it’s pretty brilliant.

What is Hope

Originally posted on Happy Heart:

hope1
Hope is an abstract thing that means expectation and belief in something over which one has little or no control at all. Hope is priceless to me. I find hope priceless because it leads to other feelings. If someone enters a contest, the hope of winning will turn into excitement. Competitiveness is another emotion brought by hope. If someone enters a race and hopes to win, they will feel competitiveness mixing with hope.

Hope can bring surprise, too. If someone is almost sure there is no way to succeed at something, and they manage to succeed, their hope will burst into surprise. Hope helps people live.

Hope is a lifeline to me. If I am in an inescapable hole, I hope for the best. This hope is like a light in my mind hiding the dark so I can look on better things. Then when I make it through, and…

View original 107 more words

More on relationships.. and their perceived importance

Relationships can’t really be defined. Sure, we put labels on them, like friends, family, partner, lover, but there is no line that defines each of them separately. I mean is the difference between friends and lovers only sex? but don’t people have sex with strangers? Let’s just say they have different meanings for different people at different points of time. I always defined them as any form emotional connect between two people.

Maybe because of this simplistic interpretation, I’ve always been aloof about relationships. My rationale is pretty full proof too :P. I mean, we have not seen or experienced life without our parents, there is no version of reality where we existed without them. Still when we lose them, life doesn’t stop. We still go on, we learn to live without them. So we must be able to live without anybody. Sure, it might take us time to get over them, but no matter how important they were to us, no matter how dependent we were on them, life doesn’t stop and we learn to cope.

But what about those relationships that we lose along the way. The friends we haven’t called for years who were our other halves, the lovers we thought we couldn’t live without, the acquaintances we lost touch with. What makes these relationships different? Why is it that some relationships leave gashes of despair when they are broken, and some end without so much as a whimper. It’s not like they weren’t deep connections, it’s not like you weren’t dependent on those people, it’s not like you hadn’t shared secrets with them, or hadn’t spent countless hours contemplating the stupidest bullshit, and yet you don’t even feel their absence, you don’t feel that connection slipping from your heart.

So where does the difference lie? I don’t have the slightest idea.

I know it happens, I’ve seen it, I’ve experienced it. And I do have a theory. I think it’s because of the fact that human beings are selfish assholes. I think the reason we don’t feel the loss of some relationships, is we don’t perceive the importance of the relationship based on the person, but on the role that relationship plays in our life right now.We need certain people to play certain roles in our life at different times, and we value them for that. But, as soon as that role is no longer important, the person loses importance as well.

Maybe that’s how relationships deteriorate. People change, and their needs change, and maybe you are just not needed anymore. Your emotional needs are more like baggage, and there is always a breaking point for how much someone’s willing to carry. Maybe that’s why some relationships sustain, when people change together, you know, “You have gaps, I have gaps, together, we fill gaps”.  I think that’s why it’s a little easier later in your life, to cope with your parent’s death as well. You don’t have that strong a need for that role of a guardian and guide anymore.

Maybe.. but your guess is just as good as mine..

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