Umber Singh is a Sikh who loses everything during the separation of India in 1947 and is forced to leave his homeland. He obsessively wishes for a male heir. When his fourth daughter is born, he decides to wage a fight against destiny.
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Colorful film about Punjab region with amateur actors beautifully portrayed
I saw this film as part of the Rotterdam Film Festival 2012. The film director was present and started his introduction by telling us that India produces many films per year, mostly for the masses, of which at most 10% can be deemed of the "art house" category. He attended film school not long ago, and always wanted to develop his own style. And I can say upfront that he did with great success.
He spent five years in the Punjab region, while himself coming from an other province. He preferred not to shoot with "actors" (=people with this title on their business card), but employed local people instead. He had to specifically instruct them to behave normally (=do not act).
These amateur actors were beautifully portrayed (in more than one meaning of the word) by virtue of long close ups and also long silences. This perfectly blends in with the way of living in this region. The same can be said about the overall slow pacing of this film. Even a still scene can create its own sound and tell what's going on, if I may quote the director. It leaves the concept of time open for interpretation by the viewer (the story can cover days, weeks, whatever).
Plenty of local color was thrown in as a bonus. We witnessed some colorful, creative cursing by one of the women in two different instances. Also, a quote from one of the men is worth recalling: "When God gave wisdom, we were overlooked". The general attitude of the locals is to accept their fate, having the feeling that they can't (won't) do much about it.
As a matter of fact, as told by the director, life is becoming very difficult for the common man in that region. We saw a few men with money and power, very few I assume, and the rest tries to make ends meet but is bound to fail eventually. By the way: I could not help myself wondering what all these people do for a living.
All in all, a perfect inside view in a part of the world we never see. The average Bollywood movie provides us with a very different view on the country, and this film is a welcome exception. I gave he maximum score for the audience award when leaving the theater.
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