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Ananth Narayan Mahadevan
Konkona Sen Sharma,
You'll come across many movies made on troubled Punjab of 1980s. Khalistani movement. Rise of Bhindranwale. Operation Bluestar. Fallout resulting in Killing of Indira Gandhi. And then the riots. Chauthi Koot, directed by Gurvinder Singh, refrains from giving you any historical recount of that era or for that matter taking sides but it gives human touch to the sufferings of the people caught in a dreaded atmosphere of fear.
The movie is based on the short stories 'The Fourth Direction' and 'I am feeling fine now' from author Waryam Singh Sandhu's collection 'Chauthi Koot'. Set around mid 1980's, in a Punjab caught between Khalistani militants and Indian armed forces battling them. Plot revolves around two stories, one in which militant diktat asking a family to keep their dog quiet at night and other is about two Hindu friends illegally boarding near empty train to Amritsar. The two narratives are effortlessly weaved together to give us a beautiful piece of cinema.
Amidst the clear battle lines drawn between the militants and armed forces, there were the common people who were afraid to side with either of them in fear of their life. In 'Chauthi Koot', Gurvinder Singh authentically recreates the atmosphere of fear through these two stories.
There is a family headed by Joginder who love their dog Tommy but are also afraid that he may be the reason for their killings at the hands of militants. At night,militants take refuge in the village and they don't want barking dogs to alert security forces about their presence. Story unfolds at an unhurried pace and you are completely engrossed into it. We feel helplessly for the innocent family and root for their survival. Joginder has option to turn into a militant, kill his dog but he is not ready to trade his humanity over fear. In the growing tension between Hindus and Sikhs over Operation Bluestar, he safely escorts a Hindu family, who had lost their way, to their village at night hours. Humanity wins for the moment. At the end, a thought lingers on to your mind, be it war, militancy or calamity, it is the common man who has to bear all the sufferings.
This film was screened at the Cannes and also won Best Punjabi Film at Nationa Awards. Kudos to the director Gurvinder Singh for intricate handling of such a sensitive subject. A must watch movie!
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