The Wager on Cinema, Screening 6: Chauthi Koot
The respondents for this film are Uma Chakravarti and Ravi Vasudevan.
Date: 11 February, 2017
Time: 4 PM (Tea will be served at 3:30 PM)
Venue: The Sarai Programme, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, 29, Rajpur Road, Civil Lines, Delhi – 110054.
About ‘The Wager on Cinema’-
How do we estimate the value, aesthetic force, and meaning of cinema today? As media experience, technological change has transformed it beyond recognition, its material forms altered by analog and digital video formats, and the modes of circulating, viewing, accessing cinema and making it have expanded exponentially. And yet, the dream and ambition of cinema as we have known it has not dissipated, the desire to congregate audiences to participate in a distinct world of experience, whether to excite, amuse, to move or to solicit reflection and engagement, to bear witness and to mobilize.
For us at Sarai, the wager on cinema carries high stakes. It means renewing a pact with a bid to explore experience, to take film technique as a vehicle of the unexpected, making connections that take us aback, working out strategies to navigate media’s capacity to deceive – to sting the audience as much as expose secretive acts – through a forensic analytics, through ethical calibration, but also playfully, ironically. For us, such a wager also places emphasis on process, how things are done, how techniques are used, what evidence is presented, what judgments are made, how publics are engaged, framing the cinema as an act of research. In this series, Sarai will screen films to shift focus, to conjure up unusual images and sounds, novel techniques and subject matter, and will organise discussions with practitioners, researchers and an interested public to renew our investment in the cinema, to capture what it means in our times.
Synopsis of Chauthi Koot (Punjabi/115mins)
Director: Gurvinder Singh
At the peak of the militant movement for a separatist Sikh state in Punjab, two Hindu friends desperate to reach Amritsar, along with a Sikh passenger, force their way into the guard’s cabin of an empty and sealed train. The train rattles along in the darkness and one of them remembers a stressful night when he had lost his way while going to his wife’s village and the events that had befallen the Sikh farmer’s family who helped him get to the village. The head of the family is threatened by militants to kill his pet dog because “Dogs will bark in the night and betray us. And the security forces certainly don’t spare people like you…” Chauthi Koot evokes the atmosphere of suspicion, fear and paranoia of the Punjab in the 1980s and explores the dilemma of the common man trapped between the ruthlessness of the military on one side and the excesses of the militants on the other.
The film has been screened at several national and international film festivals including Un Certain Regard, Cannes 2015. It has won several awards including the Grand Prix, Belgrade Auteur Film Festival, and the National Award for Best Punjabi Film. Trailer is available on this LINK.
Gurvinder Singh studied filmmaking at the Film & Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune, graduating in 2001. He travelled extensively through Punjab between 2002 and 2006, living and wandering with folk itinerants, documenting folk ballads and oral narratives. He continued to make short experimental works and documenting arts/artists for the next few years. He translated and published a book of conversations with film-maker Mani Kaul, titled Uncloven Space. In 2011, he directed his first fiction feature in Punjabi, Anhey Ghorhey Da Daan (Alms for the Blind Horse), which won several awards including three National Awards.
Uma Chakravarti is a feminist historian. She taught at Miranda House, University of Delhi. Her numerous publications include: Rewriting history: The Life and Times of Pandita Ramabai (1998), and Delhi Riots: Three Days in the Life of a Nation (1987, co-authored), among others.
Ravi Vasudevan is Professor at CSDS and co-founder of The Sarai Programme.