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Summary / Analysis
Times of India
Umber Singh longs for a son. So much so that when he has a daughter for the fourth time around, he takes destiny in his own hands and raises 'her' as a 'boy'.
The film begins in Pakistani side of Punjab before Partition. Sepia tones and a melancholy mood effectively capture the anguish of uprooted Sikh families crossing the border and arriving in India. Like the rest of his tribe, Umber Singh (Irrfan) leaves the ghosts of his past behind and starts to rebuild his life and home. While Umber is struggling to find a sense of belonging in the new land, his wife Mehar (Tisca Chopra), who has three daughters, is worried she will deliver a fourth girl. But Umber, who longs for a son, has already made up his mind to raise his fourth child as a boy - irrespective of its sex.
Surely enough, when his fourth child turns out to be a daughter, Umber raises her as a boy - in a move that is part delusional, part self-resentment and part despair. Not only is Kanwar (Tillotama Shome) made to dress like a boy and adopt manly routines, she is also married off by his father to a naive gypsy girl, Neeli (Rasika Dugal). When the truth unfolds on the wedding night, a cheated Neeli is placated by Umber who offers her his wealth just to keep his family secret intact.
Anup Singh's film, told in a languid fashion (a bit too slow at times), narrates a story which immediately strikes a chord with Indian society that is obsessed with producing sons. It also boldly shows that the Partition may have affected people in a subliminal way, but its wounds run deep. Qissa has a disturbing effect and in that, lies the film's strength. It is also shot beautifully across deserts, snow-capped mountains and lush, green landscape.
Irrfan, Tisca and Tillotama give A-grade performances, making this film imminently watchable. If only the filmmaker had decided to buck the pace up for a bit, the points being made here would have hit home harder.
Our overall critics rating is not an average of the sub score below.
अंतरराष्ट्रीय फिल्मोत्सव में हर किसी की वाहवाही बटोरने और क्रिटिक्स की टॉप रेटिंग हासिल करने के साथ ही अपने नाम अवॉर्ड हासिल कर चुकी है पंजाबी फिल्म 'किस्सा: द टेल ऑफ लोनली गोस्ट'। अगर आप सोच रहे हैं कि इस फिल्म को बनाने में प्रॉडक्शन कंपनी ने मोटा बजट खर्च किया है तो आपकी सोच गलत है। इंडस्ट्री के दो नामी स्टार्स को लेकर बनी इस फिल्म में डायरेक्टर अनूप सिंह ने फिल्म के किसी भी सीन को ओवर बजट नहीं होने दिया। अगर आपने कुछ साल पहले पाकिस्तान में बॉक्स आफिस पर कामयाबी का इतिहास रच चुकी फिल्म 'बोल' देखी है, तो किस्सा के कई सीन्स आपको उस फिल्म की याद दिलाएंगे ।
कहानी : भारत-पाक विभाजन के दौरान अपना सब कुछ गंवा कर एक बार फिर नई जिदंगी की चाह लिए अपनी फैमिली के साथ पंजाब पहुंचे अंबर सिंह (इरफान खान) पर बेस्ड है। अंबर सिंह के पास रब का दिया सबकुछ है, खूबसूरत पत्नी (टिस्का चोपडा) और तीन बेटियां हैं। बेशक अंबर सिंह अपनी बीवी और बेटियों की हर खुशी का पूरा ख्याल रखता है, लेकिन उसे बरसों से एक बेटे का इंतजार है, अंबर की पत्नी जब तीसरी बार प्रेंग्नेंट थी, तभी अंबर उसे लड़का होने की बात कहता है, लेकिन लड़के की बजाए लड़की पैदा होती है। चौथी बार भी लड़की ने ही जन्म लिया, लेकिन इस बार अंबर सिंह अपने दम पर विधि का विधान ही बदलने का फैसला कर लेता है। अंबर इस बार अपने घर में लड़का पैदा होने का जश्न मनाता है और बेटी की परवरिश बिल्कुल लड़के की तरह करता है। उसे ट्रक चलाने से लेकर बंदूक चलाना सीखाता है। अंबर उसका नाम कुंवर सिंह रखता है। अपने इस अनोखे बेटे की आंख का एक आंसू उसे पसंद नहीं। सब कुछ ठीक वैसे ही चल रहा होता है जैसा अंबर चाहता है, तभी न चाहते हुए भी उसे अपने गांव में रहने वाली लड़की नीली (राधिका दुग्गल) के साथ अपने इस खास बेटे कुंवर ( तिलोत्मा सोम) की शादी करने के लिए राजी होना पड़ता है। शादी के बाद पहली ही रात जब नीली को कुंवर की असलियत पता चलती है तो अंबर को अपने सपने टूटते नजर आते हैं।
ऐक्टिंग : अंबर सिंह के किरदार में इरफान खान अभिनय के शिखर पर नजर आते हैं, इरफान की खामोशी और उसकी बोलती आंखें उनके किरदार को जीवंत बनाते हैं। इस फिल्म में कुंवर का किरदार निभाने वाली तिलोत्मा सोम इस फिल्म के बाद रातों रात इंटरनैशनल स्टार बन चुकी हैं। हालांकि इससे पहले सोम मानसून वेडिंग में काम कर चुकी हैं, लेकिन किस्सा ...' में उनका किरदार आप बरसों तक नहीं भुला पाएंगे। फिल्म में टिस्का चोपड़ा, रसिका दुग्गल की ऐक्टिंग भी दमदार है।
डायरेक्शन : अनूप सिंह ने कहानी और किरदारों के साथ पूरा न्याय किया है, हर किरदार को उन्होंने जानदार बनाया है, बेशक फिल्म की गति इंटरवल से पहले बेहद धीमी है, लेकिन यह कहानी की डिमांड लगती है।
संगीत : फिल्म का संगीत माहौल पर फिट है।
क्यों देखें : अगर आप बॉलिवुड मसाला फिल्मों की भीड़ से दूर हटकर कोई अच्छी और लीक से हटकर बनी फिल्म देखना चाहते हैं, तो किस्सा आपको अपसेट नहीं करेगी, यकीनन एंटरटेनमेंट और फैमिली के साथ टाइमपास के लिए मूवी जाने वालों को फिल्म निराश कर सकती है।
Tough gem to swallow
Independence came at a cost. A concrete hierarchal chain of bitterness exists, even today, in partition-affected families, led by old patriarchal heads that bore the brunt of being uprooted from generational homes. The psychological scars cut the deepest, repercussions of which are still felt. Qissa, directed by Anup Singh, gives a disturbing face to one such aftermath.
This Punjabi film doesn't venture into the actual partition; it stops short of showing Sikh Umber Singh's (Irffan) struggle in relocating his young family to Indian Punjab.
We're left to contemplate his ordeal, as he begins to construct a chilling, dysfunctional future for them. He resents his own inability to have a son; we don't know of his unhappiness until he looks, or refuses to look, at his daughters.
They are of little significance to him, as is his wife (Tisca Chopra; remarkable), who is little more than a device to procreate. A glimpse of his face-one of denial and concern-tells us far more than any backstory would.
His fourth daughter is named Kanwar Singh (Shome), and is brought up as a son by him. Things spiral out of control when Kanwar's identity crisis is compounded further by marriage to a naive gypsy girl (Rasika Dugal).
Anup Singh goes where few Indian filmmakers have gone before, forcing us to dive face-first into an uncomfortable 20-year tale of social, moral and ethnic disintegration. We see, with full and abstract force, with authenticity and lifelessness, a gradual descent into madness and self-destruction.
There is a bizarre tilt to the metaphysical in the final act, a portion that is meant to make no sense in order to make sense. This indulgence is unfortunate; Mr. Singh gets carried away in his quest to unsettle us, but his accomplished group of actors almost justifies the strain.
Tillotama Shome stuns in an androgynous avatar, and along with an utterly radiant Rasika Dugal, gives an intuitive performance that will stand the test of time. Their chemistry is far more complex and believable than most mainstream heterosexual on-screen jodis. And then there's the formidable Irrfan Khan. When his 12 year-old 'son' informs him about her first period, his eyes oscillate between dread, realization and delusion. He visibly struggles to accept evolution; the man actually manages to evoke sympathy for his mental condition.
Singh's frugal use of a brooding score, limited to a creepy one-note crescendo, makes for the mood of an existential horror film. You know doom is just around the corner. An exact sense of lighting, combined with minimal production design, contributes to this tone. Transitions are executed without slates, instead recognized by the evolving face of young Kanwar.
On the writing front, it must have been tempting to let her identity remain a secret, or to let her shocked wife melodramatically discover the truth at night. But as soon as Umber holds his fourth child, it becomes clear that the director isn't out to so much as narrate a story as to trap us in its stifling silence.
And he does, like rarely before, until he is trapped by an urge to over philosophize grief into an aimless finale. Nevertheless, Qissa bears a sinking stigmatic framework similar to Pakistani filmmaker Shoaib Mansoor's groundbreaking Bol-perhaps the highest compliment a social drama can be accorded.
Be a strong viewer. Acknowledge this one.
Director Anup Singh’s reference for choosing the actor to play Umber Singh was Balraj Sahni. He wanted an actor who doesn’t deceive and could allow his attempt to show, that’s how he decided on Irrfan.
Having learnt Punjabi for the film, Irrfan would brush up his dialogue on the set. Once, the director saw him humming and asked him the reason. The actor replied that the more he learnt the language, the more he realised the emotion was not in words, but in the music and tonalities. So he was singing the lines in emotion, as if he was composing words to the tune of the emotions of his character.
Anup Singh had been trying for 12 years to get a producer to back Qissa. During his visit to Rotterdam, while he was sipping coffee, the head of a German production company went to him to talk about another project he was developing. Anup says he felt he should talk to her about Qissa and at the end of the narration, she told him she’d produce it.
Tillotama was given the script to choose which part she would play. She felt Kanwar was too tough and her not being a Punjabi would go against her. When she told Anup she’d play Neeli, as she didn’t have time to prepare for Kanwar. The director said he wanted her to play Kanwar and though it was tough, he felt she could do it right.
Rasika Dugal, who plays Neeli, was given the narration on Skype. She wanted to play Neeli, and when the director offered her this role, she wanted to do a little dance as she felt a connection with the character.
During a schedule, Anup, Irrfan, Tillotama Shome and Tisca Chopra suffered injuries, albeit a few days after each other. While shooting on a hill one night, Anup slipped and broke his arm. A few days later, Tillotama, who had taken a break to travel to Mumbai, had an accident and injured her leg. Another few days later, Irrfan injured his arm in an accident. And yet another few days later, Tisca slipped and hurt her back. When they got together for the next schedule, they all looked at each other’s bandages and laughed at the coincidence.
After shooting an important scene of the climax, in which Umber tells Kanwar (Tillotama) to marry him, Anup felt it was not great, but decided to keep quiet as they were racing against time to complete the film. However, later that night, Irrfan went to him and suggested they re-shoot the scene as he felt he could do it better. When they re-shot it a couple of days later, the director was amazed with the way Irrfan took it to another level with his performance.
After the first few days of shooting, the team found such harmony that they’d always look after one another.
While most of the film has been shot near the Wagah Border, they also shot some portions in Atari, Chandigarh and Himachal Pradesh.
The film has won awards at Toronto International Film Festival (2013, Rotterdam International Film Festival, Mumbai International Film Festival and Vesoul Asian Film Festival.
The shooting of Qissa was completed in 2013. But the film released in Germany on July 10, 2014 and in India on February 20, 2015.
Tillotama Shome will be seen as a man in the film. To play the part, she trained in swimming, driving and speaking Punjabi for seven months.
This is the first film to be shot under the Indian-German co-production treaty.
As a result of the Partition of 1947, Umber Singh is forced to leave his homeland. He migrates to Punjab, India. After three daughters, he obsessively wishes for a male heir. When his fourth daughter is born, he decides to wage a fight against destiny, and raiser her as a boy, Kanwar Singh (Tillotama Shome). In time, Kanwar grows up and becomes a truck driver. When Kanwar is married to Neeli (Rasika Dugal), this gives birth to complications. Umber's obsession with wanting a male heir goes to such lengths that at one point he even tries to seduce his daughter-in-law Neeli in the hope that she will give his family an heir. He obviously knows that Kanwar is a girl and cannot impregnate Neeli, so he tries this extreme step.
To stop his father's madness of trying to sleep with his own wife, Kanwar shoots his father. After Umber succumbs to the bullet, Kanwar and Neeli leave their home and go to Kanwar's mother Mehar's family home that is lying empty. Of course Neeli tries her level best to get Kanwar to admit that she is a girl. But Kanwar suffers an identity-crisis. Even the village is up-in-arms against Kanwar and Neeli because they suspect that Kanwar is a boy who had been cross-dressing. Back home Kanwar's mother and two sisters die in a fire. Only the elder sister survives the fire but she has lost her sanity. Kanwar is haunted by his father's ghost. Ultimately Neeli too who cannot handle the complexity of the situation jumps to her death. And the film ends with the ghost of Umber seeking Neeli's forgiveness.