A River Runs Through It
Of the many metaphors and stories that flow from river Satluj's tributary, Sarsa, it's the inheritance of loss that stays with writer-filmmaker Jatinder Mauhar. While trying to cross the raging Sarsa in the Battle of Sarsa, Guru Gobind Singh faced betrayal and loss of his family and priceless Sikh documents and texts. "This historical episode is called Parivaar Vichhoda and my film Sarsa chronicles this loss. Set in contemporary times, the film looks at how this flourishing state of five rivers has been corrupted by power and politics," explains Mauhar, who is celebrating the news of Sarsa being selected in the Indian Film Festival of Houston. The festival is celebrating 100 years of the Indian Film industry and 10 new films are being screened there.
This is not the first time that Mauhar is showcasing the real Punjab on reel. His first film, Mitti, that released in 2010, was also a comment on Punjab's deteriorating state of affairs. Co-written with city-based documentary filmmaker, writer and television presenter Daljit Ami, Sarsa has been made to shatter a few glass ceilings. "There are stories, conversations, thought processes that need to be shared with people and what better medium than cinema," reflects Ami.
With Gul Panag marketing the film with passion, Sarsa is already creating waves in the film fraternity. Panag, who is the creative director, is also the lead actor and plays the strong- headed, fiercely independent Beant Kaur, along with her are actors Victor John, Manav Vij, Nishawan Bhullar, Kartar Cheema and Yaad Grewal. Mauhar has roped in indie band Agnee to give the music, with lyrics penned by him and Rohit Kaushik.
Despite romcoms being a big hit these days, Mauhar and Ami have focused on Punjabi society, one that is defined and run by power relations. "There are everyday stories that need to be told. Student unions, gender violence, sexual harassment, sycophants, organised crime and drug addiction ó as artistes, we are using our privilege to observe and comment on all this," share the two. "The youth does not realise its potential. It has the power to make, break and change and those in power know this and exploit it to their benefit. Our film wants to create awareness about this exploitation and manipulation of the youth. We are trying to break the stereotypes," adds Mauhar, who gave up a career in textile engineering to make films. "It is a thinking man's film, something that will fill the void in a creatively bankrupt Punjabi cinema," says Ami. Sarsa will releases later this year.
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