The first of Channel 4’s two Indian film seasons begins tonight/in the early hours of tomorrow with Qissa (2013), an award-winning social drama/fantasy is set at the time of India’s partition in 1947.
It’s the first of six films to be screened over the coming weeks that draw on “moving stories from across the country”, according to the UK television station.
Director Anup Singh’s tale – told in Punjabi with English subtitles – tells the story of Umber Singh (Irrfan Khan), a Sikh forced, with his wife and three daughters, to flee his village in the new state of Pakistan.
There Umber builds a new life on the Indian side of the border in Punjab, and becomes obsessed with having a son. So, when a fourth child is born to the family, Umber declares that, at last, they have a son, despite the infant being female.
Umber raises the child as a boy, calling him Kanwar (Tillotama Shome), assuring Kanwar of a confused and troubled identity. But the full extent of Umber’s folly only becomes tragically clear when Kanwar is forced to marry Neeli (Rasika Duggal).
Qissa will be followed by Mrinal Sen’s Bhuvan Shome, which heralded a new wave of Indian cinema in the 1960s. (This ‘New Cinema’ moved away from the conventions of popular cinema and favoured real stories in real locations.)
Comedy-drama Bhuvan Shome, also notable for providing screen icon Amitabh Bachchan with his first paid job in the film business thanks to Sen signing him as its narrator, centres around humourless and grumpy disciplinarian Mr Shome (Utpal Dutt).
The widowed railway official hounds his subordinates, particularly the crafty, bribe-taking ticket collector Jadhav Patel (Sadhu Meher), until he meets the vivacious Gauri (Suhasini Mulay).
Shome begins to loosen his rigid approach to life, but then he discovers Gauri’s romantic link to his errant ticket collector, whose job is in Shome’s hands …
And of note to this blog’s readers may be the fact that the 1969 film is in Hindi, Bengali and Gujarati (with English subtitles).
- Qissa – Monday 6 April, 01:00 – 02:50
- Bhuvan Shome – Monday 13 April, 00:40 – 02:25