Chauthi Koot: Could have been more effective

Film: Chauthi Koot (Fourth Direction)

Cast: Gurpreet Kaur Bhangu, Harnek Aulakh, Kanwaljit Singh, Suvinder Vikky, Taranjeet Singh, Rajbir Kaur

Director: Gurvinder Singh

This celebrated award winning film ‘Chauthi Koot’ based on the two short stories by Waryam Singh Sandhu, takes us back to the 80’s when the Khalistani movement in Punjab was at its peak leading up to the army entering the Golden temple to flush out the terrorists and the consequent assassination of Indira Gandhi and the anti-Sikh riots.

Two select incidents mark the epidemiology of fear, paranoia and suspicion in this minimalist drama that lays bare the socio-psychological aspects of a community in the throes of a collective trauma.

 Two Hindu friends walk through the bylanes of their city en route to the station where they plan to board a train to Amritsar. And cutting into that spiel is a 5 month old event wherein a young Hindu couple and their daughter seek shelter in a Sikh home near their village in the middle of the night, in a place where militancy is known to be rampant.

The Sikh farmer is in fact told he has to kill his dog because its bark could alert both the militants and the authorities. The stories flip back and forth and the telling is deeply entrenched in mood and moments while the momentum is largely sedate. Director Gurvinder Singh fashions a treatment that is totally raw and entirely no-frills in its assay.

There’s hardly any exchange of dialogue here. The ominous nature of the set-up pervades the atmosphere rendering every character within, cautious and tentative. The mistrust between fellow travellers is quite palpable. It’s an intimate tapestry woven from earthiness and devoid of conceit. The narrative is rather experiential – wanting the viewer to generate his own conclusions regarding the experience. The sounds and voices heard in the background make the urgency real.

As you travel further into the vortex of this narration, the tension and the helplessness in the common man caught between two dark evils – the excesses of both the militants and the military becomes apparent. It feels like a Damocles sword hanging over their heads just waiting to strike. Such is the potency of Gurvinder Singh’s narration – well-aided by Satya Rai Nagpal’s robust camerawork and Bhupesh Micky Sharma’s compelling edits. This film may not play out as an entirely affective drama but it has its heart and mind in the right place for sure.

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