By Arun Fulara. Posted on May 20, 2015
Gurvinder Singh's Chauthi Koot premiered at Cannes in the Un Certain Regard section a few days back. The festival blog carried an interesting interview with the filmmaker where he spoke about his inspirations & more. Do check out the site for some really interesting articles and podcasts of their press conferences.
Chathi Koot explores the dilemma of the common man trapped between excesses of the military on one side and terrorists on the other, leading to an atmosphere of suspicion, fear and paranoia.
Below is the interview as it appears on the Cannes blog.
I started by writing the screenplay based on two Punjabi short stories. Simultaneously, I travelled to Punjab with my assistants looking for locations that were to be cast for the film. We visited many houses in the countryside, before finding the appropriate house that is the central character in the film. It’s important for me to have a physical idea of location while writing the screenplay, as then I can have a better imagination of the mise-en-scène. It also hints at the juxtaposition of images and sounds.
The atmosphere at the set is very relaxed and calm. Light is the first element that contributes to the sensations we are trying to put on the screen. It’s important for me to shoot in the right season. We shot Chauthi Koot during the monsoons and the winters. The monsoon brought its own unpredictability to the shoot. Suddenly, one day there was a thunderstorm and it didn’t stop raining for the next few days. The location got flooded and access became difficult. But we kept shooting and used all the elements of the storm, rain and flooding in the film. I am looking for randomness that brings the film closer to life.
In Chauthi Koot, most actors are non-professional. It’s important for me that actors belong to the area where we are shooting. Improvising with them becomes easier. They bring a peculiarity to the use of language, gestures and expressions. I have done away with the idea of characterisation based on psychology or behaviour or the past. I don’t even rehearse with my actors. Once I am convinced of the faces, I put them in the cauldron and ask them to react. It always leaves me surprised in a good way.
Like we have gharanas (a system linking musicians by lineage or apprenticeship, and by adherence to a particular musical style) in Indian music, I feel I belong to the gharana of Ritwik Ghatak and Mani Kaul, the two Indian filmmakers I have imbibed the most. Mani Kaul made me realise that what I perceived as my shortcomings were actually my strengths. He brought me closer to my own self. There have been a lot of other influences on the way, from Robert Bresson to Abbas Kiarostami.
The next film will deal with the subaltern cultural space in Punjab and their ambitions and dreams, though in a humorous and fantastical fashion. It will be seen through the eyes of a protagonist who is an amateur qawwali singer.