Director Anup Singh was in the city for a special screening of his second film Qissa. Sholoana Bangaliana correspondent caught up with the talented director. Excerpts from the conversation..
Priyanka Dutta, Sholoana Bangaliana- Welcome to Kolkata!! Can you throw some light on the story of Qissa.
Anup Singh– Thanks!! The film Qissa is about Umber Singh who wakes up one morning to find that all that gave him his identity is lost. This includes his home, land and also his country. Now in an attempt to find himself again, he chooses to bring up his youngest daughter as a boy. This is a decision which he takes and which he believes will change his future. It is a way of thinking and unfortunately this thinking still continues in India.
So is there a feminist trait in the film?
There is not a feminist trend but if you look at the Qissa form, you will find that the stories are called Soni-Mahewal, Heer-Ranjha, Laila-Majnu. The woman’s name comes first. In that way my film celebrates womanhood.
Why were you attracted to the Qissa form?
I think it is simply because it transgresses. It also attracted me because it deals with two different individuals of two different worlds. There is a river in between which the lovers have to be crossed. There are boundaries that have to be crossed. While we live, what is death? That is the ultimate type of crossing that one has to come terms with.
So do you support rights of women?
There is no question of not supporting. As I believe that I am half a woman myself. I support to the fullest my affirmation of living life as fully as possible.
What motivated you to make again a film on Partition, as your first film “The name of a river” was also based on Partition?
Well, that was homage to my favorite director Ritwick Ghatak and was more of a documentary film. There are two things. After years of Partition, there were violence and these continue even now. Take up a newspaper and news on violence abound. As an Indian I am completely distraught by these recurrences of violence in our hearts. What are the sources of violence on a historical and political level?
Secondly there is a story which I end up telling everyone. My grandfather was a refugee and I grew up listening to refugee stories. I saw within the stories the anger and trauma of men. But it was very rare to hear from the women. An older man once told me about his daughter. She jumped in the well when the village was attacked and died. Even now he dreams about his daughter. To me this has been a primal image of writing the story of this film Qissa. I wanted the remembrance to stay with us. These stories are part of our history and deserve our attention.
Why did you select Irrfan Khan for the role of Umber Singh?
When I was writing the script, I thought that Balraj Sahni would suit the role very much. But he was already dead. And I thought that after Balraj Sahni if there was any actor who would do justice to the role then it was Irrfan. He does not manipulate the role and he is not a Punjabi speaker. This is wonderful as Irrfan will be like my grandfather who had to find himself again as a refugee. The joy of working with Irrfan begins when he starts playing with his sense of self. He comes as a refugee on set and hence no role that he acts in is similar to the other.
What is your next project?
I am going to start a film in October. The film is called Mantra. The film is about a young musician in Rajasthan who is trying to find a song which will heal her because she is slowing dying due to the poison of the man who is living with her.
Director Anup Singh’s Qissa released on the 20th of February in select theatres in the city and you must watch it to unravel the mystery of the Qissa that the film tells.
Priyanka Dutta takes a keen interest in lifestyle and entertainment related news. She also enjoys interviewing celebrities and other renowned personalities. Priyanka holds a post graduate degree in English and Mass Communication. Journalism is her passion and she has reported for many a reputed international web portals.